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 Martell Elementary School second grader Keyaan Khan talks with Benzene Bots team members Danielle Boyer, team captain Sanket Nayak and Pranay Gupta in 2018 during a Benzene Buddies meeting.

Martell Elementary School second grader Keyaan Khan talks with Benzene Bots team members Danielle Boyer, team captain Sanket Nayak and Pranay Gupta in 2018 during a Benzene Buddies meeting.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Governor honors two Troy teens

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published August 21, 2019

 Amogh Gowda receives the Volunteer Champion Award from Gift of Life Michigan at a gala in April.

Amogh Gowda receives the Volunteer Champion Award from Gift of Life Michigan at a gala in April.

Photo provided by Amogh Gowda


TROY — Danielle Boyer’s parents supported her when she decided to take a gap year after graduating from Troy High School in 2018.

She stayed busy.

So much so that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Community Service Commission gave her, as one of 43 winners across the state in all categories, the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award.

Amogh Gowda, of Troy, also received the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award.

“The winners are individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations that were selected for their commitment to volunteerism, service or philanthropy,” states a press release from the commission.

“Our state is lucky to have such outstanding Michiganders who work hard every single day to build a home for opportunity for everyone,” Whitmer said in a press release. “Whether it’s uplifting our neighborhoods or bringing communities together when tragedy strikes, they do this work even when nobody’s looking because they know that every contribution makes a huge impact. I’m proud to present the Governor’s Service Awards to this year’s recipients as recognition of their sacrifice and dedication throughout our state.”

The Governor’s Service Awards winners will be honored during a special ceremony hosted by the Michigan Community Service Commission at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Detroit Opera House.

C & G Newspapers first spoke with Boyer, now 19, before she graduated in 2018 about the group she spearheaded, the Benzene Buddies. She and her Team 4384 Benzene Bots, of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Competition, mentored Martell Elementary School students in robotics. She also created and facilitated a number of outreach programs designed to get younger students interested in science, technology, engineering and math.

“Her amazing efforts have led to the creation of Benzene Buddies — a weekly after-school program that has implemented programming lessons and robotics field trips, as well as many other programs to engage her community,” states the press release from the commission. “She also started a weekly newsletter and wrote at-home coding lesson plans for parents to allow them to be a part of the learning process. One of her most rewarding and notable accomplishments, however, has been Every Kid Gets a Robot — where she invented an educational robot that is affordable for children.”

Mentee Dakshesh Daruri, 16, president of the Team 4384 Benzene Bots from International Academy East, nominated Boyer for the award.

This past school year, Boyer mentored 35 robotics teams. She recently started an organization called The STEAM Connection and a blog. “We create diverse, accessible and affordable STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math)  educational materials for young kids.”

She also self-published five STEAM children’s books that emphasize diversity and designed a robot for $18.95 in her robot workshop at InVanse Technologies, which her father owns and operates. “It’s a very rewarding experience to get kids interested in robotics,” she said.

Boyer ran a booth at the recent Detroit Maker Faire and is a frequent volunteer and coordinator at FIRST competitions.

“I love volunteering and to see them happy with their robots,” she said. “It’s so cool.”

She plans to study mechanical engineering and robotics at Wayne State University this fall.


Teacher waited for kidney
Gowda, 17, became interested in organ donation when a teacher at Baker Middle School was awaiting a kidney transplant.

“I came to understand 120,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for an organ,” he said.

Gowda founded, a campaign for organ donation-related outreach activities.

“He interviewed experts in the field and learned the best ways to strengthen his campaign,” states a press release from the commission. “Amogh earned the Gift of Life-Michigan certified volunteer certification to bolster his credentials, and he now speaks at venues and volunteers at community events to empower youth and promote the fact that one organ donor can save up to eight lives. He also started the Gift8Lives Club at Troy High School to educate his peers about the issue. In addition to his advocacy and education efforts, Amogh is also a dedicated researcher. He has served as a volunteer researcher for the Henry Ford Health System and the Karmanos Cancer Institute. His volunteer efforts are truly saving lives.”

“The main thing is awareness,” Gowda said. To that end, he’s spoken to driver education classes and a summer school health class at Troy High School.

While Gowda said he is thrilled that his teacher got her kidney, “it’s important to remember there are many more just like her.”

Kim Zasa, a Gift of Life coordinator, nominated him for the award.

“It’s a lot of work, for sure,” Gowda said of his research work in prostate cancer for the Karmanos Cancer Institute. He plans to pursue a career in medicine when he graduates next year.

Of organ donation, he said, “With very little effort you can impact eight people, give them the gift of life. Being an organ donor is so important.”