These local teens came in 4th in the world at BrainSTEM Learning’s global robotics competition

A team of local students placed in the top four in the world in a global robotics competition called “FIRST Tech Challenge” in Houston, run by BrainSTEM Learning. But it’s how they’re using robotics to help others that’s even more impressive.

Ozge Uzman, Tejas Mitra, Avyukt Iyer, Pranav Bandi, Odin Hsu and Max Adams make up the team that designed and built the robot, leaning on the knowledge of robotics professionals in the area.

“We went to the Pittsburgh robotics network, and we were able to interview over 18 different companies about different manufacturing styles,” said Pranav Bandi, a rising 10th-grader at North Allegheny High School.

These middle and high school students from schools around the region spent 9 to 15 hours a week preparing for the international FIRST Tech Challenge competition in April. They came in the top four in the world championship among 75,000 kids from 53 countries — something they never expected.


“We didn’t, especially being a rookie team this year because we climbed a ton of learning curves like learning how to program, learning how to design and build,” said Avyukt Iyer, a rising sophomore at North Allegheny High School. “So just putting in all those hours I think really paid off.”

The team was judged not just on their robot, but on their outreach in the community. They mentored younger kids, teaching them LEGO robotics and coding; running competitions; volunteering at West View HUB and library, and fundraising to support it all.

“Some people might not have the resources to do it as we might have, and so being able to show other people what you can do with robotics, the impact it can have on all those people, is really that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Tejas Mitra a senior at Sewickley Academy.

The students are learning that robots not only are fun, but have really important real-life applications. They went to Child’s Way Daycare Center to teach robotics to medically fragile children, but quickly learned their disabilities prevented them from participating. So they used their robotics knowledge to design games the kids could do, adapted to their special needs, allowing them to push big buttons to move the needle, turn a crank if that’s easier, or just wave their hand.

Photos courtesy of KDKA.

Ozge Ada Uzman, a rising ninth grader at Shady Side Academy, demonstrates while she explains: “The last interface that we have here, we designed it particularly for a child who had gross motor impairment in the elbow and shoulder. And so this has the least amount of resistance. What it basically is, there are distance sensors here that the student can use to kind of hover their hand.”

The students are now working on getting a patent for their designs. It’s just the beginning of their exploration of how robotics can go far beyond picking up cones and actually impact lives.

“I believe with robotics and artificial intelligence, amazing things can happen with the biomedical field and other different fields that can really impact people’s lives,” Mitra said.

The students have a new initiative working with a non-profit in India to develop curriculum to teach robotics and form a team there. If you’d like to learn more and help the team with their community projects, you can visit their website at

And you can click here to learn how your kids can get involved in FIRST robotics at all levels.