Carmel middle school robotics team to compete at top level


By Samantha Kupiainen

The Carmel-based First Lego League Robotics team Tech-Nically will soon face off against top competition from across the U.S. and beyond after winning the state tournament Jan. 20 at Westfield High School.

First Lego League is a robotics program that introduces students to science, technology, engineering and math through hands-on learning and problem solving.

Tech-Nically is a six-person team of Creekside Middle School students guided by parents, Nirav Shah and Priyesh Kheradia, who double as coaches. Shah has a background in computer engineering, while Kheradia is skilled in finance and computer science.

Team members are Vriddhi Doshi, Vineet Kheradia, Prachi Pandya, Ojaswini Tomar, Dhairya Shah and Shivansh Singh.

“Unlike other robotics programs that focus only on robot design and coding, what I liked about First Lego League is that it is a well-rounded program focusing on discovery with a view to developing innovative ideas that will go to help people in their everyday lives while practicing the principles of inclusion and teamwork,” Kheradia said.

Tech-Nically’s LEGO League season started in August 2023. The team kicks off the season by watching an intro video to learn the new theme, which this year was Masterpiece, meaning all the obstacles on the mat are something related to masterpieces.

“Based on that, we go into designing a robot that we believe would be the right design for the obstacles that we have on the mat,” Shah said. “Then we start programming the robot to those obstacles. We get 2 minutes and 30 seconds during the robot competition. Then there is a research and innovation component.”

This year, the team decided that its “masterpiece” would be a piece of art that would be enjoyable and accessible to visually impaired folks. The team was largely inspired by a visit they took to Bosma Enterprises, a company that provides rehabilitation for visually impaired people.

“They set their heart on helping visually impaired people enjoy art masterpieces, such as Rain’s Rustle by Leonid Afremov, The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci and other art pieces by adding tactile elements to the painting and enhancing it with sound, mist, smell and other stimuli,” Kheradia said. “The team has also filed for a provisional patent on their innovative idea.”

As for Tech-Nically’s road to winning the state competition, the team had to first go through the qualifying competition in Kokomo in November 2023, followed by the semistate competition in Evansville.

“In the state competition, there is a component of three robot runs,” Shah said. “The run that has the highest score is counted as your robot score, and there is a 30-to-40-minute competition in front of the judges where the kids talk about your research and innovation project. Finally, they talk about the core values of FIRST, which includes, teamwork, professionalism, respect, diversity.”

Tech-Nically is set to compete in the world championship in Houston, Texas, in April, and to prepare, the team is meeting twice a week for two hours. Naturally, that will increase as the world championship inches closer.

The team was recently recognized by the Carmel City Council for winning the state tournament.

“The kids were given pins from the City Council, and they were mentioned and the coaches had the chance to give a little bit of insight into what the competition is all about,” Kheradia said.