The energy at a robotics tournament is almost unexplainable. It is truly electric. At first glance, a new observer may see a bunch of shy and serious kids busily scurrying around while working on various tasks for their teams. Some are repairing parts on the robots, some are going through inspections or helping set up the game field, while others are strategizing with members of other teams. Many of them are dressed in some type of costume. A first timer may think, wow this is different, as they enter this unique little world. And then the competitions begin and as the robots, that the kids work so hard to build, achieve the most difficult task, the crowd roars louder and with more enthusiasm than you even see at a high school basketball game. And when your kid, actual or mentee, learned to build and code and problem solve to create those cheers... you're hooked.
This is exactly what happened to Kalai Sankar when she first encountered this world. She was immediately FIRST's biggest fan. She then took her computer science degree and her passion for teaching Indian dance to children and combined those talents with her new love of robotics. She started off as a coach for one team and her passion soon grew to what is now the Shiva Robotics Academy, which is housed in a 3400 square foot facility in Jacksonville, Florida. They offer numerous camps and outreach programs with the simple mission of introducing robotics to as many students as possible.
This is the academy's fourth year attending ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. It's one of Kalai's favorite events as she feels it is well run and gives her students the opportunity to learn more about robotics and see all of the levels of FIRST at one great event.
Witnessing Kalai's love for FIRST Robotics is truly inspiring. To learn more about programs that the academy offers, visit their website.