NVIDIA’s High School Intern Builds Robots With Jetson TX1

by Nicole Castro

Most high school students save their summers for vacations, trips to the beach and generally steering clear from school.

Not so for Prat Prem Sankar. He spent last summer exploring deep learning, cultivating mentors and building humanoid robots with our Jetson TX1 embedded computing platform.

At 16, Prat was NVIDIA’s youngest intern in recent memory. His hobby in robotics began over five years ago, when his father bought him a Lego Mindstorms NXT set, a programmable version of the toy.

“I was so excited that it existed. I started making all kinds of contraptions,” says Prat. “I was only 11 years old, but I already knew I wanted to be a robotics engineer.”

Deeply Into Deep Learning

Prat began his senior year at Westmont High School in Campbell, Calif., this fall and continues to build robots with his FIRST robotics team, the Arrowbotics. As the vice president of engineering, he’s helped the Arrowbotics excel in competitions. Earlier this year, they built an obstacle-tackling robot that made it to the quarterfinals in the Silicon Valley Regional FIRST Robotics Competition.

But Prat wants to discover more about the latest technology in robotics. His interest in NVIDIA grew after attending this year’s GPU Technology Conference, the world’s largest event for GPU developers, where he sat in on a special tutorial on deep learning. “That was the first time I saw the possibilities of what deep learning could be used for,” explains Prat. “It was the kind of technology I wanted to see in robotics. I knew right away I had to be part of the company.”

Two months later, Prat joined NVIDIA as a summer intern and got his chance to discover the potential of deep learning by building three robots with Jetson TX1s. He programmed each by showing them thousands of images from the internet, so his robots can not only distinguish between different types of fruits but also follow commands associated with that fruit.

Jetson humanoid robots

The Student Becomes a Teacher

Exploring image recognition in robotics wasn’t the only exciting thing about Prat’s internship. The highlight of his summer was presenting one of his newly built robots to 60 FIRST students — including his younger brother — who came to visit NVIDIA’s Santa Clara campus.

“It was incredible getting to share my experiences in deep learning, and meeting students who like the same things that I do,” says Prat. “I’m hoping that presenting the robot I built here at NVIDIA will inspire more students to take on robotics, and show them it’s possible for anyone to create their own robot.”

Putting Robotics FIRST

NVIDIA was named recently a gold-level supplier of the FIRST Robotics Competition. It’s part of our effort to inspire more young students like Prat to become science and technology innovators.

In addition to sponsorships, we’re providing our teams unlimited access to a variety of online training resources, including deep learning and open computer vision modules as well as NVIDIA Jetson TX1 developer kits for their robot builds. We’re also hosting a series of FIRST events where teams can meet with employees and get hands-on with our technology.

Learn more about NVIDIA’s participation in FIRST.

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