Sid Suratia found an interesting scholarship opportunity that proved to be life changing for the aspiring aerospace engineer. 

Monday, 04 December 2023

Siddharth "Sid" Suratia never thought throwing a football would help him pay for college, but on Saturday, December 2 – just one day after his 20th birthday - he found himself on the field of the Big Ten Football Championship Game with a chance to win $100,000 as a finalist in the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway.

The Georgia Tech undergraduate student was one of 15 finalists selected to compete in the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway to see who can throw the most footballs into a replica can in 30 seconds. 

“I remember telling myself, ‘there are only three things that exist in this moment: me, the football, and the target,’” said Suratia.

The rest is history.

 

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Sid Suratia competes for $100k in tuition money

Sid Suratia (left), and Darcy Wonsick (far right) from Temple get ready for the big showdown. Credit: Dr Pepper

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Sid Suratia competes for $100k in tuition money

Sid Suratia (right) and his Georgia Tech roommate Arin Khanna (left) take a selfie before going on the field. 

Practice Makes Perfect

In true engineering form, he did his research to best simulate what the competition atmosphere would be like to make sure he was prepared. He reached out to prior winners to get their insights, designed his own target out of plywood (which his dad later perfected), used Spotify to play loud crowd noises as he developed his throwing rhythm, and lots and lots of practice.

“I found out I was a finalist right before Thanksgiving break, so the whole break I was focused on practicing. I would practice two to three hours every day and kept practicing until the final competition day,” he said.

Back home in St. Louis, his high school let him borrow 20 footballs to practice and perfect his form. When he returned to Atlanta, the equipment managers at Georgia Tech Athletics loaned him a handful of footballs to practice with as well. All the preparation paid off.

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Sid Suratia competes for $100k in tuition money

Sid Suratia designed this target at Georgia Tech to help him practice for the big event. 

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Sid Suratia competes for $100k in tuition money

Understanding aerodynamics comes in handy as Sid Suratia throws football after football into the Dr Pepper can. Credit: Dr Pepper

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Sid Suratia competes for $100k in tuition money

Sid Suratia was laser-focused to win $100,000 for his college tuition. Credit: Dr Pepper

(Belated) Birthday Present from Dr Pepper

“Dr Pepper did a great job making the weekend an experience for all (three) of the finalists. Everything we needed was provided for us every day. We had great events all weekend long and we got to meet the Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti, as well as executives from Fox Sports and Dr Pepper,” said Suratia.

Wearing the re football jersey made Suratia and the other two finalists feel like local celebrities as they stood out from the sea of blues, blacks, and golds representative of the University of Michigan and University of Iowa football fans.

“I did not know how famous the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway was and the scale of it. I met so many people who just wanted to wish me luck and were excited to greet me ahead of the Big Ten Football Championship Game,” said Suratia.

After passing through the preliminary contest, Suratia called his parents with the exciting news. He was now that much closer to winning the $100,000 prize. Little did he know, his parents decided to surprise him and drove three hours from St. Louis to Indianapolis to see him for his birthday and bought tickets to the game to see him compete live.

The two finalists had 30 seconds to throw 30 footballs from five yards away into a replica can with a 2-foot diameter target. The most footballs in wins.

“I remember walking out on the field and then walking back into the tunnel. I don’t really remember what happened in between,” laughed Suratia.

The part he doesn’t remember is that he successfully threw 15 footballs into the target, narrowly beating runner-up, Darcy Wonsick who received $20,000 towards her dental school tuition.

Stunned, Suratia accepted his giant check and thanked the Dr Pepper company while millions of viewers watched.

“It still doesn’t feel real. I think it will take a few days for it to set in, but anytime I see the Dr Pepper logo or drink a Dr Pepper I will always think of this trip and how I received one of the best birthday gifts.”

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“It still doesn’t feel real. I think it will take a few days for it to set in, but anytime I see the Dr Pepper logo or drink a Dr Pepper I will always think of this trip and how I received one of the best birthday gifts.”

Sid Suratia

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Sid Suratia competes for $100k in tuition money

The three finalists Jade Ward (left), Sid Suratia, and Darcy Wonsick (right) pose before heading into the preliminary rounds of the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway. 

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Sid Suratia competes for $100k in tuition money

Sid Suratia (left) with his parents, Naimesh Suratia (middle) and Bhishma Suratia (right) who surprised him at the big game. 

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Sid Suratia competes for $100k in tuition money

Sid Suratia proudly holding his giant $100k check and wondering how he will get it through TSA. Credit Dr Pepper

Paying for College (and Beyond)

“As an out-of-state student, having my tuition paid for is a huge burden lifted off me and my family and now allows me to consider pursuing an MBA or even a law degree,” said Suratia.

He is currently working as an undergraduate researcher in the Aerospace Systems Design Lab (ASDL) with Research Engineer Cedric Justin on a NASA project developing operating cost models on next generation electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. He hopes to continue with research and wants to help make machines that make the world a better place.

When he’s not conducting research, Suratia supports the Georgia Tech Campus Recreation Center's Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech (ORGT) as a bikepacking instructor-in-training and enjoys running and photography, promoting his love of exploring nature.

Now that he's back on campus, he's determined to carry the momentum of his recent triumph into his final exams and finish the semester strong as he waits for his giant check to make its way through the mail. 

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Sid Suratia and Family

Sid Suratia's parents (left two) and sister Anushka Suratia (right) were all smiles at the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway. 

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