From India’s Villages to Winning at NASA Rover Challenge 2023 | The story

This blog is inspired from Shri Anil Pradhan’s Article on Linkedin. Chick here to read the original article.

In a remarkable display of determination and resilience, a team of six talented students from different parts of India accomplished a feat that seemed impossible. The Young Tinker team overcame numerous challenges and obstacles to not only participate in the prestigious NASA Rover Challenge 2023 but also bring home a category award. This is the inspiring story of their journey, highlighting their passion, hard work, and the unwavering support they received along the way.

The Young Tinker team embarked on their ambitious dream in 2015, unaware of the path that would lead them to the international stage. With members hailing from schools, marginalized communities in Odisha and orphanages, the team consisted of Om, Basu, Akankshya, Akshara, Siddhanth, and Akarsh. After a rigorous selection process, they were chosen and began their journey towards creating a rover to compete in the NASA Rover Challenge.

Young Tinker team after 2 excursion at NASA Marshall Space and Flight Centre, Hunstville.
Young Tinker Team
Team Ideation and Design Thinking
Team at manufacturing unit

Overcoming Challenges and Finding Support: The team underwent extensive online training sessions, covering various aspects such as team building, design thinking, prototyping, and leadership. However, manufacturing the rover proved to be a significant challenge, as they lacked access to advanced facilities and materials in Bhubaneswar. With only three months to complete the rover, the team had to improvise, tinker with local resources, and work together to overcome this obstacle.

Funding and Corporate Support: Through social media campaigns, the students managed to raise funds to support their endeavor. However, the lack of US visas and airfare threatened to derail their plans. Fortunately, a stroke of luck intervened, and the team secured their visa interview appointment at the US Embassy in Hyderabad. This unexpected turn of events allowed them to interact with corporates who joined their revolution, providing crucial support. The team expresses their gratitude to all their corporate partners who sponsored their journey.

Young Tinker posing with the Saturn V at NASA MSFC, Alabama

A Journey Filled with Challenges: As the team prepared for their maiden flight to the USA, their rover was still stuck in transit in New Delhi. Despite the setback, they pressed on, knowing that every step of their journey was a victory in itself. Landing in Chicago with mixed emotions, the team found tremendous support from the Odia and Indian community, making their experience in the USA memorable. They even had the opportunity to speak at TEDxNaperville, where their stories inspired many and earned them a standing ovation.

Race Against Time: Upon arriving at NASA in Alabama for the competition, the team faced the daunting sight of impressive rovers from universities worldwide. However, with their own rover still in transit, doubts started to creep in. With the help of FedEx, they miraculously received their consignment just in time, although the rover required immediate repairs. Collaborating with NASA engineers, the team successfully fixed the issues, showcasing their problem-solving skills and resilience.

Triumph and Recognition: After overcoming numerous challenges, the Young Tinker team finally had the chance to race their rover. With hearts pounding, they pushed through the course, facing obstacles, and ultimately completing the race. Although they didn’t secure a top-three spot, their dedication was rewarded when they were announced as the recipients of the Category Award for Social Media. This recognition highlights their exceptional communication and educational efforts.
Young Tinker team posing after their talk at TEDxNaperville
NASA's Scientists & Engineers ideating with Young Tinker Team to fix the Rover
Rover mould manufacturing (pre-FRP Stage)

This blog post also celebrates the accomplishments of Rishikesh, the former team lead of Young Tinker, who went on to inspire a team of 16 students to compete in the college division of NASA HERC. Furthermore, the post congratulates two Young Tinker alumni, Sidhhanth Ghosh and Akshara Vemuri, for securing seats in renowned universities, Purdue University and Georgia Institute of Technology, respectively. These achievements highlight the lasting impact of the Young Tinker Pedagogy in nurturing future innovators and entrepreneurs.

The Young Tinker team’s journey from dreaming of participating in the NASA Rover Challenge to receiving a category award is a testament to their passion, determination, and unwavering spirit. Despite facing numerous challenges and setbacks, they never gave up, leveraging their skills and the support of mentors and corporates to make their dreams a reality. Their remarkable achievement serves as an inspiration to aspiring young minds across India and the world, proving that with dedication and perseverance, anything is possible.

The Young Tinker team’s story is a reminder that it’s not just the destination that matters but also the journey and the lessons learned along the way. Their experience showcases the power of teamwork, resourcefulness, and the ability to overcome adversity. It serves as a reminder that dreams can be realized, and even the most unlikely heroes can make a profound impact on the world.

Through their participation in the NASA Rover Challenge, the Young Tinker team has not only left an indelible mark on the international stage but also ignited a spark in the hearts of many young minds, inspiring them to pursue their dreams fearlessly and embrace the power of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The Young Tinker team’s accomplishment at the NASA Rover Challenge 2023 is just the beginning of their journey, and we can only imagine the incredible achievements they will continue to accomplish in the future. Their story serves as a reminder to all of us to dream big, work hard, and never give up on our aspirations.

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