Two Maharashtra Brothers to Contend in US Tech Challenge

By Arun Kumar

Washington, April 20 (IANS) Ahnand and Karuna Vethanayagam, two young Indian brothers from Maharashtra, are coming to the US to contend in the Bay Area's largest team-design science competition, the Tech Challenge, presented by Cisco.

The home-schooled duo - also known as the Red Hot Chillies - will join nearly 1,200 students from New York, San Diego and the Bay Area, among other regions, in this year's challenge to clean up Trash Island: The Great Pacific Gyre.

The whirling vortex is trapping human-produced trash, mostly plastic bits, and is ruining marine habitats and poisoning plants and animals -as well as humans, according to the Tech Museum, a hands-on science and technology institution.

"We thought it would be fun and invigorating to attempt to do something difficult like solving the problem of the Pacific Gyre," Ahnand, 13, was quoted as saying in a Museum news release.

"We only later realised that it was an enormous problem. We've put a lot of thought into the design (of our solution) and are quite confident that it will work well."

Ahnand and Karuna considered competing in the challenge following a museum visit last July.

The boys' mother, who also doubles as their teacher, issued her own challenge: come up with an innovative solution and the pair could make the trip back to America to pit their solution against others'.

For the boys, the thought of going up against hundreds of other students isn't daunting at all - despite their lack of science competition experience.

In fact, they humbly argue quite the contrary: "We have never competed in science competitions in India," says Karuna, 11.

"But we've taken part in and won awards in several spelling bees, and if we win the (Tech Challenge) competition in any of the categories, we would be encouraged and would consider returning next year."

The Tech Challenge, a signature programme of the Tech Museum, introduces and reinforces the scientific process with a hands-on team project geared to solve a real-world problem.

Adding to the excitement of the April 30 event are the kitschy, tongue-in-cheek team names and costumes and their singsong chants and precisely choreographed dance routines.

Combined with family, team mentors and spectators, more than 4,000 people are expected to cheer on the nearly 270 teams throughout the day. An awards ceremony recognising "Best Overall Solution" to "Most Spectacular Failure" follows the event.


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