UCS Success Profile - Devendra Tambat
UCS Success Profile - Devendra Tambat
Posted on 12/26/2018
Picture of product with Devendra

“Move over Lego, there’s a new DIY robotics kit maker in town, and he’s only in high school.

Blocko is a customizable 3D-printed robot that can be used with the Arduino or Lego platform. Its inventor, Chroma Robotics’ Devendra Tambat, told Tom’s Hardware that he wanted to offer the market a cheaper alternative to Lego Mindstorms.

--- The 21 Coolest Things We Saw at Maker Faire 2018

Entrepreneurship. Risk Taking. Problem Solving. Innovation.

Skills that businesses say are critical for the future workforce. Consequently, skills that are nurtured and developed in Utica Community School classrooms.

Meet Devendra Tambat:

Being a 17-year-old student at the Utica Academy for International Studies, Devendra has been creating things his entire life.

With his 3D printer, knowledge in CAD design, and three years of Foreign Language experiences in Japanese, he has become a self-starting entrepreneur who recently visited a major Japanese toy manufacturer—unannounced—to pitch his concepts.

The result was the start of a relationship that may result in the manufacturer using his ideas to build an American market.

How did your projects evolve?

With all things good, failure leads to success. After spending an entire school year learning CAD and sitting through Crevolution meetings picking up on what was thought, I launched my first product on Kickstarter. It failed miserably. Trying to figure out what I could have done better, I showed it off at Maker Faire Detroit.  People loved it, but the main issue was the robot being big, bulky, and costly at $60. Taking this into account, I slimmed it down, rebuilt it, and relaunched it on Kickstarter—this time being successfully funded.

Devandra and model robotThe best thing about this whole process is seeing where my inventions have gone. From Luxemburg, Norway, Sweden, all the way to China, people from all over the world have purchased my robots. Since the Kickstarter and consequent sales after did well, I was able to travel to Maker Faire Japan.

What is a Maker Faire?

It’s a huge festival where people come together to share the random inventions they’ve made. The projects don’t even have to have a purpose. While at Maker Faire Tokyo, I became friends with someone who made a literal heating oven by themselves. There is literally everything there.

While in Japan, you pitched your concepts to a major manufacturer, and they expressed interest?

I stayed there for a week. For the first two days I went to Maker Faire Tokyo and got a bunch of information from everyone on their projects. Seeing the variation and differences in thought and innovation amazed me, so much so that I began a partnership with one of the companies I met, PCN. Some of their motherboards and microcontrollers are only sold in Japan, so I wanted to see about importing them to the US. After that I visited a myriad of other companies such as Sony, Toshiba, and Mitsubishi, their ventures into robotics and such are so cool, at least to me.

How did this come together?

Because of NDAs and the such I can’t say what specific company I’m working with now, but I ended up going to a major Japanese conglomerates headquarters to pitch my idea. Upon entering I went up to the receptionist and said I wanted to meet their Vice President, who at the time, I had no idea was their vice president. She then told me to write down my company’s name, address, and phone number and that she’ll call him down. While on the phone with him she asked if he had a meeting planned with me, his immediate response was no. Obviously I didn’t have a meeting with him and came in unannounced, but I still began to panic wondering if I’d be kicked out by security. Thankfully however, he did infect come down after a grueling 20-minute wait. After bowing to him I immediately asked him if he spoke English, immediately he said, in Japanese, “not at all”

Having three years of experience in Japanese, I was scared to try and have a business meeting without speaking any English what so ever. Thankfully however, Mrs.Sullivan (Sensei) prepared me well beyond expectations and I was able to talk to him in only Japanese for about an hour and a half. After the meeting ended I got his business card and he told me that he liked my idea and that their company was looking for companies to invest in, preferably American ones. Thus as we concluded a partnership was formed. 

What started you on this path?

I strongly dislike when people do things only for money. What makes me happy is seeing other people happy. Because of that, anything I create has that goal attached to it. For example, one of the robots I made is called Nugget. It’s just a simple head that spins on three wheels. I’ve let it roam the school hallways before and seeing the joy nugget brings to not only my friends, but the staff as well is what fills me with joy.

Seeing that my creations can brighten someone’s day is what’s started me on this path, and I’m very certain it’s what’ll let me continue to do anything that I do. 

What part of your UCS background allowed you to take risks and this initiative?

I like doing things I struggle with, so naturally I’m a big risk taker. I think that is exemplified by the International Baccalaureate program, specifically how one of our learner profiles is risk taking. But I think the UCS district teaches the idea of risk taking as well.

What do you plan to do next year?

I really want to go the University of Michigan. Their programs in Japanese and their Ross business school as well as professors such as Jennifer Robertson directly corelate to who I am today. I hope to use these programs as a stepping stone to create things that’ll not only help the campus out tremendously but the greater world as a whole.

You can find Devendra’s robots and creations on his website www.ChromaRobotics.com