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Sam Atefi – International Robotics Winner Who Raised $100,000 for his School’s Robotic Lab

Meet Sam (pronounced Sahm). He’s a hard working student that directs his talents at many activities including sports and band. But, his real passion is robotics. His team, GNCE, has been involved in robotics for 7 years – starting with FLL (First Lego League) in the 6th – 8th grades and then moving up to FTC (First Tech Challenge) in the 9th – 12th grades. Sam and his team, where he is a co-captain, have qualified for the World Championships three times and won one of the top 5 awards in his junior year (out of more than 6000 teams globally). He also gives back to his local robotics community by mentoring younger teams and organizing summer camps. But, Sam’s biggest accomplishment has been helping to raise $100,000 to build a robotics lab in his school which he and his team helped design.

Check out Sam’s Major AccomplishmentsAwardsClassesInterview Questions

Hometown: Weston, MA
School: Weston High School
Grad Year: 2024
GPA: 3.6 UW
Standardized Tests: 1400 SAT
AP / IB / College Classes: 7

Winner of the Inspire Award at the FTC World Championship

Co-Founder of the Girls Up Robotics Summer Camp

Mentoring 6 Middle School Lego Robotics Teams

Drum Major & Co-President of Band

Major Accomplishments

Winner of the Divisional Inspire Award at FTC World Robotic Championship – In 2023, Sam and his team competed at the FTC World Robotic Championship in Houston, Texas. There they were judged on the performance & design of their robot as well as their level of outreach which translates to how much did they give back to the robotics community. They won the top award for their division which places them in the top 5 robotics teams in the world.

Co-Founder, Girl Up Robotics Summer Camp – Sam and his FTC robotics team organized a 2-week summer camp to help introduce middle school students to robotics. The primary objective was to encourage more gender equality in their local robotics community.

Mentor for 6 Middle School Lego Robotics Teams – Over the course of his high school robotics experience, Sam mentored six middle school, FLL (lego) robotics teams. As part of this, he advised them on robot design, mission strategy, and how to work together as a team.

Drum Major / Co-President of Band – As drum major, Sam helps to organize his band especially his area – the Wind Ensemble.

National Awards

  • Winner – 2023 FTC World Championship – Franklin Division Inspire Award
  • Qualifier – 2022 FTC World Championship
  • Winner – 2022 Maryland Tech Invitational (MTI) – Keep It Simple and Straightforward Award
  • Qualifier – 2020 FLL World Championship

State / Multi-state Awards

  • Winner – 2023 Massachusetts FTC Robotics State Championship – Inspire Award
  • Winning Alliance Captain – 2022 Massachusetts FTC Robotics State Championship
  • Winner – 2022 Massachusetts FTC Robotics State Championship – Think Award
  • 3rd place – 2021 Massachusetts FTC Robotics State Championship – Control Award
  • 3rd place – 2020 Massachusetts FLL Robotics State Championship – Champions Award

School / City / County Awards

  • 2023 Robostorm 7.2 Inspire Award Winner
  • 2023 Robostorm 8.2 Winning Alliance Captain
  • 2023 Robostorm 7.2 Finalist Alliance Captain
  • 2023 Robostorm 8.2 Think Award
  • 2023 Robostorm 7.2 Energy Efficiency Award by Schneider Electric
  • 2022 RoboStorm 6.2 Winning Alliance 1st Team Selected
  • Winner – 2022 RoboStorm 6.2 FTC Robotics Meet – Think Award
  • 2nd place – 2022 RoboStorm 6.2 FTC Robotics Meet – Design Award
  • Winner – 2021 Massachusetts FTC Robotics Qualifying Meet – Think Award
  • Winner – 2021 Mandarin Intermediate I Letter of Commendation
  • Winner – 2021 Graphic Design I Letter of Commendation


9th Grade

  • Honors World History
  • Honors Geometry
  • Honors Physics
  • Mandarin: Intermediate I
  • Graphic Design I
  • Concert Band
  • Jazz Ensemble 1

10th Grade

  • English 10 Honors
  • AP World History
  • Honors Algebra II
  • Computer Science
  • Honors Biology
  • Mandarin: Intermediate II
  • Wind Ensemble
  • Jazz Ensemble 2

11th Grade

  • Honors American Literature
  • AP U.S. History
  • Honors Precalculus
  • AP Statistics
  • Honors Chemistry
  • Mandarin: Intermediate III Honors
  • Wind Ensemble
  • Jazz Ensemble 3

12th Grade

  • AP Calculus AB
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP Computer Science
  • AP Psychology Honors
  • Advanced Engineering
  • Wind Ensemble
  • Dramatic Literature

Clubs and Extracurricular Activities

  • GNCE Robotics – Co-Captain/Head of Outreach
  • Weston Middle School Robotics Club – Club Leader/Mentor
  • GNCE/Girl Up 5-8th grade Summer Robotics Camp – Co-Founder
  • Weston High Wind Ensemble/Trumpet – Drum Major/Band Co-President
  • Weston High Ski Racing – Varsity/ JV Captain
  • Weston High Tennis – Varsity
  • Dr. Farzaneh and Associates – Administrative Assistant


Video Games, Tennis, Skiing, Reading, Random Coding/Engineering projects

Some Interview Questions with Sam

Q – Many of your proudest accomplishments are in team activities like robotics and band.  What made you choose these instead of things that focus on individual achievement?

A – I chose these achievements because they had the most significant impact on people. I discovered that working with a group allows you to reach more individuals, making group accomplishments more impactful than anything I have done on my own.

Q – You and your team competed at the FTC World Robotics Championship twice and won one of the top 5 awards in your junior year.  In FTC, there are two main things that determine who wins – how your robot does in the robot game and outreach in your community to help grow robotics.  Which of these did your team spend the most time on and what was your strategy to be the best ?

A – Our team has spent a considerable amount of time on outreach efforts, as it is the cumulative product of our work over the past 5 years. To be a top-performing FTC team, you often need both a strong robot and effective outreach. Our robot strategy focuses on building a reliable, consistent, and adaptable robot that can collaborate with various robot types. In FTC, having a compatible robot increases our match-winning potential, consequently elevating our win-to-loss ratio. For outreach, our strategy involves crafting a compelling story that judges can empathize with while assisting as many people as possible.

Q – Your team designed a robotics lab at your school and raised over $100,000 to build the lab.  I’m sure this helped you win last year.  Is it possible to win at the World championship without something like this?

A – Winning at worlds is possible without a large outreach event if you have a compelling story and effectively reach people. Although challenging, it is achievable without such an event. However, having a notable outreach event captures judges’ attention and significantly helps your chances.

Q – You are a super accomplished person, but everyone has regrets.  What do you regret about your 4 years in high school?

A – One regret from high school is not taking full advantage of the opportunities teachers provided. Some of my lower grades resulted from not utilizing available resources or participating in opportunities to improve my grades. If given the chance again, I would attend office hours more frequently and complete all possible extra credit assignments.

Q – You helped lead a summer camp whose goal was to get more girls interested in robotics.  You’re a guy, what made you do this?

A – I did this because it was brought to my attention that there was an inherent problem in robotics where girls are often overshadowed and turned off from doing robotics. I felt that it was my responsibility to help right this wrong, so more people would have the opportunity to participate in robotics and get as much out of it as I did.

Q – You’re the co-captain of a world champion robotics team. This is a huge part of your identity. But is there something hidden in your profile that might go unnoticed that you think better explains who you really are?

A – Something often overlooked about me is my participation in high school sports. While not excelling in any particular sport, I consistently give 100% effort in every activity I attempt. This commitment often earns me the respect of teammates, coaches, and teachers who appreciate someone dedicated to giving their best, even if not naturally talented, over someone with innate ability but no effort.

If anyone else has questions for Sam, please leave them in the comments.