Triangle High School Students Win TYE Global Contest For Drug-Detecting Device

The winning Drug Detectives team from L-R: Sahil Patel, Abhi Thakur, Tej Patel, Sam Buchireddygari

According to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), date rape drugs such as Rohypnol often have no smell or taste when added to a drink or food. If a drink is spiked with this type of drug, it may change the drink’s color, but such changes can be hard to detect when the setting and/or drinks are dark. 

Thankfully, four Triangle high school students might have found a new solution to this problem with their winning pitch for “Drug Detectives,” a portable, compact and versatile product that can easily and efficiently detect potential tampering in drinks. 

The team of four students from Green Level High School in Cary— Sahil Patel, Abhinav Thakur, Tej Patel and Sam Buchireddygari—won the title at the TiE Young Entrepreneurs (TYE) Global Pitch Competition in San Diego this past June. They beat out 25 other teams from regions across the world. 

TiE—The IndUS Entrepreneurs program—is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting entrepreneurship through mentoring, networking, education, funding and incubation. It is especially prominent in the Indian and Indian-American communities. TYE is a branch of TiE that’s specifically dedicated to inspiring, challenging and empowering high school students to become the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders. 

The “Drug Detectives” went on to represent the TiE Carolinas chapter at the global competition after winning the regional competition against five other NC high school teams.

For the nine months leading up to the global contest, the winning team participated alongside their TYE cohorts in entrepreneurship courses, developed professional and business skills and received mentorship to develop their final product called “Drug Detectives.” They created and pitched a testing strip and straw that can be stirred in drinks that could detect any possible drugs. 

Graphic for Drug Detectives from TiE Carolinas win
The TYE Program

Working under the mentorship of industry leaders, the high school-age participants validate their ideas by building prototypes and developing market strategies and financial plans. Toward the end of the program, the teams compete at the regional level for cash awards, and each regional winner goes on to compete at the global competition for additional cash awards. 

The program is led by its core volunteer team: Gautam Aggarwal (TiE Carolinas President), Mehul Shah (Executive board member), Khush Dhaliwal (Executive Director) and Sanjay Acharya (Executive board member).

Other than the money, the students felt that they gained more in experience, validation and skill development. 

“I personally went into TiE just wanting to get an experience for making a business and entrepreneurial knowledge,” Abhinav said. “But coming out of it with a global win has definitely been something that’s still been on my mind and I’m really proud of it.”

They also gained and loved the opportunity to meet hundreds of other students, hearing ideas and stories from around the world. 

“Even if you don’t make it to regionals or finals,” Sahil said, “you still get to network with a bunch of people and build new friendships and relationships.”

Added Tej, “We actually got to know [the teams] and became friends with them, rather than just acting like they’re competition. That made everything a little less stressful because we actually knew everyone in the room.”

Hemal Surti, executive board member and program co-chair for the TYE Carolinas chapter, started as a mentor for the TYE high school program eight years ago. He explained that when he accepted the offer to help run the program, he felt that it was his way of giving back to the community to help students grow into potential business leaders.

“Even if our teams don’t win, it’s the way we see students transform in these eight months,” Hemal said.

Hemal encourages any student, whether they are interested in business entrepreneurship or not, to apply for the program. 

“[The program] gives you a different set of ideas and mindsets and you learn to look at and define problems differently,” Hemal said. “Even if you are not interested in pursuing the business as your career, it absolutely helps you think logically and differently about how to solve problems.”

That view is very much shared by the Drug Detectives team.

Sam said, “Even if you’re not into seeking entrepreneurship, like me initially, you’ll find the right group of people and the right problem to solve and it’ll motivate you and you feel like you can just do it.”

To learn more about the TYE high school global program, check out their website here. And if you’d like to register for next year, use this link.

About Kaitlyn Dang 12 Articles
Kaitlyn is a reporter covering tech startups and entrepreneurs. Before starting at GrepBeat, she graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in media and journalism in May 2023. She has written for The Daily Tar Heel. In her spare time, she likes going to concerts and going on nature walks.