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HUDSON -- A team of young engineers made up of four students from Hudson Montessori School and one from East Woods Elementary school are hoping to bring a world title victory home to Hudson from a global competition in Knoxville, Tenn. from May 24 to 27 a little help from their friends.
The team, Balsa Salsas, is led by team manager Raji Alladi and is made up of Montessori sixth graders Aditi Sanghavi, Shilpa Gopal and Justin Vaden. Aanya Patel, a fourth grader who attends Montessori, and Riya Hegde, a fourth grader from East Woods Elementary, round out the team.
The team is competing in Destination Imagination after winning both regional and state competitions in the science, technology, engineering and math event. The team will next compete against other winning teams from 15 countries for the chance to be named best in the world.
"This is an expensive endeavor with registration fees alone costing almost $5,000," according to Dr. Vish Hegde, whose daughter, Riya, is on the team.
In order to help raise funds the team has begun a Go Fund Me Page located at www.gofundme.com/balsasalsa.
The competition itself is STEM related, Hegde said. The team must build a structure out of balsa wood that has very little weight, create a ratio as to how much is held, and present a play as aspect of the project.
"It's interesting," Hegde said. "The kids have to create their own prop and their own story. It's a lot of independent individual learning."
Hegde said the team is competing with middle schoolers across the country and world.
The students are given a budget and stay within it while borrowing tools preparing for the competition, Hegde said.
Riya, 10, is excited about the upcoming world competition.
"I can't believe we are going to Globals and it's amazing to see that our efforts are finally paying off," Riya said. "I can't wait to go to Globals and meet students from more than 15 different countries and it's an honor to be representing Hudson and the state of Ohio there."
Riya's mom, Dr. Niki Hegde, is sharing in the excitement of her husband and daughter.
"Destination Imagination has been a great educational experience for all of the kids on this team. They are looking forward to competing against the best in the world," according to Niki. "This is a once in a lifetime experience that they will never forget. The kids are especially excited to get a chance to participate in workshops sponsored by NASA, Oracle, MIT, and Zero Robotics."
First Trip To Finals
This is the first time the team has reached the world finals and the entire team is thrilled, according to Alladi, who has been team manager for about five years.
"This team has pretty much been together since kindergarten, and it's pretty exciting for them," Alladi said.
The team picked the structural engineering project from seven possible challenges, Alladi said. Research and trial and error has gone into the project learning, she added.
The team also has to pick an issue which affects two or more world countries and perform a skit about it as part of a presentation portion, she said.
"This year they picked animal poaching as their issue," according to Alladi. "The skit means fully-fledged costumes and props."
The structure will be tested by the team during the performance.
The Hudson team may face 75 to 80 teams, Alladi said.
"The team has a goal to finish in the top half of the competition," Alladi said.
However, without the funds the students cannot compete, Alladi said.
There have been some donations, but the majority of the money is being collected by team and family members.
"It's very expensive," Alladi added.
However the funding issue has not dampened the team's competitive drive as the time gets closer to the world competition.
As one of two 12-year-olds on the team, Justin Vaden is one of the senior members of the group.
"I like the competition because it helps enhance teamwork," Justin said. "Your whole team has to work together to bring everything together for the competition."
Justin said he feels confident that his team can win.
Shilpa Gopal is the other 12-year-old senior member of the team.
"It's really fun," Shilpa said.
The team is still in the testing phase with the structure and design, Shilpa said. The structure will be graded on the weight held ratio of the design. The weight held ratio is how much the structure holds divided by how much the structure weighs, Shilpa added.
Aditi Sanghavi, 11, also touted the fun she has working on the project.
"It's fun working with my friends and learning new things and to work things out with your imagination," she said.
Aditi is proud of the cause her team chose.
"I think that the animals should live and they shouldn't die so people can get money," she said as her voice filled with emotion.
Aditi said she loves animals so much, she will not even eat one.
"I am a vegetarian," she said, her voice again filling with emotion.
Aanya Patel, 9, is the youngest member of the team and thinks the competition and cause is "very cool," she said.
"I've had a lot of fun over the last few years while I've been doing this," Aanya said. "And I like to build because my dad and uncle are engineers also, so I really like to build things with my dad and uncle."
Aanya said the team could also face "instant challenges" which they would not be aware of.
"Usually you only have three minutes to complete it," she said.
That makes Aanya a little nervous, she said.