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SCHS Teens Gain Experience at FIRST Tech Challenge

A team of Santa Clara High School students gained a wealth of experience at the FIRST Tech Challenge regional competition on March 12 in Newark, Calif. While Deja Vu Robotics fell short of winning the competition, the group of ten students and two parent-coaches say they’ll apply what they learned this year to next year’s event.

“We did well and we learned a lot, and we think we can do even better next year,” said team member Martyna Sobczyk.

The team was made up of Sobczyk, Connor Houle, Dani Ticau, Tanisha Jain, Saamya Yadav, Ananth Kini, Toby Seng, Ruchi Alavilli, Soham Kulkarni, and Om Kulkarni and team parent-coaches Phil Houle and Ujjwala Kulkarni. All the students are ninth-graders at Santa Clara High School.


To get to the regional competition, Deja Vu Robotics teamed with Kuriosity Robotics from Palo Alto. The two teams won first place honors for best robot and best team at the local competition in Mountain View on Feb. 5.

Deja Vu Robotics also received the Inspire Award at the local competition, given to the team that displayed the best community outreach, journal, robot design and professionalism.

“For the local competition, we had to use a regular drawer slide as an arm mechanism for our robot because shipping delays prevented us from getting a part we needed in time,” said Sobczyk. “The judges said they liked our robot design, and they were impressed by the way that we adapted to the situation.”

Deja Vu Robotics was sponsored by Knowde, an online marketplace for ingredients, polymers and chemistry.

“Knowde is pleased to support programs that promote STEM education,” said Wojciech Krupa, Chief Technical Officer of Knowde. “FIRST Tech Challenge teaches young people to think like engineers and collaborate in a team environment. These skills will help develop the next generation of engineers that can contribute to the success of companies like ours.”

The FIRST Tech Challenge is a national competition where students compete in an alliance format against other teams. They use a variety of levels of Java-based programming to design, build and program robots and power them using android technology.

Teams are made up of up to 15 team members in grades 7-12. All the teams are guided by adult coaches and mentors. Each team is judged on robot design, team dynamics and community outreach. The teams are interviewed by the tournament judges and required to make a team presentation. Participating students are eligible to apply for college scholarships offered by FIRST.


FIRST is the world’s leading youth-serving nonprofit advancing STEM education. FIRST inspires young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.

About Knowde

Knowde is the leading online marketplace for producers and buyers of ingredients, polymers and chemistry. The marketplace allows buyers to search, compare, sample, quote and purchase products from every producer on earth, all in one place.

With more than 100,000 products and thousands of producer storefronts — more than any distributor, marketplace or middleman organization in the history of the industry — Knowde is the largest marketplace of its kind.

Knowde is backed by top tier investors including Coatue, Sequoia Capital, Refactor Capital, Bee Partners, Cantos Ventures, Sound Ventures, TQ Ventures, K5 Global, Mantis VC, Knollwood, 8VC, and FJ Labs. For more information, visit



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