A STEM wish comes true at Robotics Competition
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
For most of his life, 5-year-old Ronav Chauhan of Tempe has had a passion for building things and learning how they work. He wants to grow up to be an engineer, like his parents.
He recently built a vacuum cleaner — and it actually works.
But for most of Ronav’s life, his parents, Divya and Vineet, have yearned for something else: that their boy survives childhood cancer.
Friday at Grand Canyon University, Ronav got to realize part of his dream thanks to Make-A-Wish Foundation Arizona. Ronav got to be a VIP guest at the FIRST Robotics Competition 2017 Arizona Regional.
For a few precious hours in GCU Arena, the boy who wants to grow up be an engineer was front and center at an event that is all about engineering.
He got to watch robot-versus-robot battles, meet some high school whiz kids who built them and try his hand at building mini-bots and playing with a circuit board.
He got to see high-spirited teams of students clad in T-shirts of every color and to hear incredibly loud cheers from teammates who energetically urged on their colleagues.
“This is his wish, to be an engineer,” said Jennifer Rosvall, Make-A-Wish Foundation Arizona manager. “His wish is coming true.”
Ronav has spent most of his life battling acute very high risk lymphoblastic leukemia, his mother said. He received treatments for 3½ years at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Even though he had his last treatment in November, he doesn’t know the difference because he still goes in for monthly testing, she added.
Several months ago, Ronav and his parents learned about a robotics team from Chandler called Degrees of Freedom — one of 42 teams in the competition.
“He was so excited when he heard about it,” Divya said.
Degrees of Freedom and Binary Bots, also from Chandler, are sponsored by the nonprofit Si Se Puede Foundation, which supports under-funded schools.
Make-A-Wish Foundation contacted Si Se Puede, and they set the plan in motion for Ronav to connect with Degrees of Freedom team members at the competition — and to have one of the best days of his life.
Ronav’s parents met at the Harcourt Butler Technological Institute in India and are software engineers for American Airlines.
From an early age, Ronav, who attends preschool in the Summit School in Ahwatukee, has been fascinated by motors and bursting with questions, such as why blenders blend, Divya said. He was obsessed with vacuum cleaners, she said, and one day built his own.
In a quiet alcove in the arena, Amanda Hughens, GCU’s K-12 STEM outreach manager, a chief organizer of an event that drew more than 3,000 people to GCU, set up electronics components for Ronav to play with.
One of Hughens’ roles is to spread love of STEM to students of all ages. It was a thrill for her to see so many high school students who excel at math and science get so much attention from their friends.
“They’re being cheered on like athletes,” Hughens said.
Ronav, with a little help from his father, successfully put together a circuit board that featured a spinning red device. He smiled with pleasure as he held it up for Hughens to see.
“It’s such an honor,” Hughens said, “to see such joy in a little boy who loves engineering more than anything else.”
For a slideshow of the event, click here.
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected]