TAMPA, Fla. — Ever since she was a little kid, Leela Prakash has been curious about everything around her.

It’s that curiosity that drove her to immersing herself in the world of robotics.

“I’d pull apart my pens and put them back together just to see how it would work,” said Prakash, a sophomore at Tampa Preparatory School.

What You Need To Know

  • A sophomore and eighth grader at Tampa Preparatory School have won a grant that goes toward their new robotics club at Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary School

  • The Prakash sisters, the recipients of the grant, are in their robotics club at Tampa Prep and wanted to teach younger kids about robots and coding

  • The grant is worth about $3,000

“I feel like it’s really cool to know, like the inner workings of everything,” Prakash said.

And in this technological world, robots give her that opportunity. She joined the school’s robotics team when she was in eighth grade. With a love for science and building things out of Lego, it felt like a no brainer.

“I love how everything is incorporated and how every person has their own part on the team,” she said. “It’s a lot of practice to get it accurate.”

The competition involves a simple game using complex ideas.

In Leela’s case, her team at Tampa Prep builds a robot and competes against other teams to try to get these triangular balls into the goal.

Currently, her team has the seventh best robot in the state.

“Before eighth grade,” Prakash said, “I didn’t even know this was a possibility and now, I’m on like one of the higher teams and it’s great.”

It’s why she and her sister, Sonia, wanted to start a program for younger kids to learn about coding and robotics and get them introduced to the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, better known as STEM.

“This honestly made a big impact on my life that I wanted to give this opportunity to more kids,” Prakash said.

But programs like this don’t come cheap, especially for a high school sophomore and her eighth-grade sister.

“The program itself is around like $3,000,” Prakash said.

So, with the help of her parents and teachers, Leela was able to apply for a grant from the company that makes a lot of these products: Vex.

Just a few months later, she found out the Prakash sisters are one of nine recipients of this grant. That was in September and now she and Sonia are coaching a handful of students at Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary.

“I was so excited because I felt like it was really the start of the entire program,” Prakash said. “It’s really fun,” Sonia Prakash said, “like once you’ve made a robot to see them drive, because they all got so excited.”

The parts to build this robot, the field it plays on, and the blocks they used to score points came from that grant money the Prakash sisters earned.

“Seeing them like succeed on their own and be able to do all of this and grow so much with just like these little things is amazing to see,” Leela Prakash said.

She hopes this program will grow and more kids will learn about the opportunities that are possible with determination and a bit of curiosity.

The grant helped pay for the team’s registration fees along with the equipment they use in competitions and practice.

At the beginning of the month, Leela and Sonia’s students competed in their first robotics tournament in Orlando and wound up coming in fourth place out of over 20 teams.