Sreekar Mantena is the first Unicorn to win the FIRST Dean’s List Award.
Sreekar Mantena ‘18 won the Dean’s List Award at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) World Championship, held in Houston, Texas, in April. Mantena is the first NCSSM student, and only the third from the state of North Carolina, to ever win this award.
Mantena was one of 10 student recipients of the honor, awarded at a ceremony during the competition in Houston. Award recipients are chosen for their leadership, entrepreneurship, technical expertise, creativity, and effectiveness in increasing STEM awareness within their schools and communities.
This award is sponsored by the founder of FIRST, inventor Dean Kamen, and his family, to recognize the leadership and dedication of FIRST’s most outstanding students. The ten students chosen for the award are selected from more than 83,000 students on 3,336 teams from 25 countries competing during the 2017 season.
Mantena has been part of FIRST for more than six years, having started his journey as a successful programmer on a team in middle school. During the NC State Championships, a judge commented, “This is the best code and programming I have seen in the last 10 years of judging.” Mantena has reached World Championships four times as a teammate, and as a mentor, and has conducted programs at local libraries, schools, and in underrepresented communities to share and spread the STEM message.
Mantena has been instrumental in mentoring rookies on his team and bringing his talents in vision processing and advanced path planning. He shared his expertise in LabView with over 70 FRC members when he presented at NC FRC peer-to-peer workshops. Mantena also launched MIT/Zero Robotics clubs in two local high schools. Providing a positive learning environment and encouraging kids into STEM in engaging ways is as important as winning competitions, Mantena says. He is excited to continue sharing his passion and inspiring younger generations in STEM.
The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. FIRST Robotics Competition combines sports excitement with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams are challenged to fundraise, design a brand, exercise teamwork, and build and program robots to perform tasks against competitors.