Encouraging Kids to be Innovative through Robotics




Innovation is one of the biggest driving factors that influences our future.  It has never been more important than now, as the entire world is reimagining how we study, work and live, due to the effect of a pandemic.  While there is a focused approach in how to evaluate and encourage our kids in the curriculum subjects, it can be challenging to provide opportunities for kids to practice critical thinking and problem solving skills which leads to an “innovation”.

To encourage kids to innovate, in 1992, FIRST(For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) started robotics competitions for kids based on LEGOs and robotics.  Today, the FIRST robotics programs reach over 400,000 school kids annually.  These competitions are not only fun to participate in, but also help kids grow their critical thinking, communication and creativity skills.  Each year, the competition provides a specific “challenge” based on a theme, that kids have to research upon and build an innovative solution that addresses the challenge.  This year the challenge was “how to encourage communities to be more active?”

This year, the S2STEM Robotics team was formed with Arjun Ramasamy, Ameya Masuraha, Nirajan Ghanekar, Sohan Saleem and Sahil Saleem.  The team was made up of kids’ ages between 9 and 14.  The team brainstormed multiple ideas to come up with an innovative solution that addresses the challenge of encouraging communities to be more active.  After researching on 5 possible solutions, the team decided on building a unique board game called “Pyrafit” that kids and adults can play to stay active.  

“Pyrafit” is a 3D pyramid board-game with multiple levels/steps that can be played by 2 to 4 players.  The goal of the players is to get their game piece to the top of the pyramid.  To move their game piece, players take turns to draw a card which has an exercise listed. If the player successfully completes the exercise on the card, they can move their game piece forward.   The game cards are categorized into Regular, Special and Challenge Cards.  Special Cards can make the player move forward and backward in the game.  Challenge cards allow a player to do a 1-on-1 challenge with another player.

To create this board-game the team researched various exercises/activities that people can do to stay fit.  In addition to the extensive online research, they consulted with subject matter experts, a Physical Therapist, a Gym Instructor and an award winning table-top game designer .  The team finalized on 60 exercises that adults/kids can do and categorized them into easy, moderate and difficult.  They then made cards for each exercise and integrated them into the board-game.  The game was  play tested by various age kids including Elementary and Middle School boys and girls.

The team participated in the Mid-Atlantic Robotics Competition held across PA-East region and qualified in the regionals with a Robot Game score of 405, which was among the top 5 scores out of the 90 teams.  In the regional championship event, the team won the coveted “Global Innovation Award” nomination from the PA-East Region.  With this nomination, the team got an opportunity to be part of the 100 teams across the globe that qualified to compete in the Global Innovation Awards Competition.

S2STEM Robotics Team form in Aug/Sep each year, and the season ends Jan/Feb.  S2STEM, located at 1363 Naamans Creek Rd, Opp Booths’ Corner,  also offers Robotics Summer Camp.  You can find more information on their programs at www.s2stem.com or reach them at 610-255-2525.

FIRST LEGO League is a joint trademark of FIRST (www.firstinspires.org) and LEGO Education, neither of which is overseeing, involved with, or responsible for this activity, product or service.