Tuesday, November 9, 2010

First Lego League, a learning experience for all!

This is the second year that my kids have participated in First Lego League, but the first that I've been involved  as a coach.  Last year, we jumped on an opportunity to be a part of a last-minute team, funded by a grant.  Someone else coordinated. Someone else coached.  My part was to make sure they got to the meetings and help.  Because of our late start with a team of mostly rookies, it was mainly a conquer and divide to get things done.  Our goal was for the kids to have something to present at the competition.  Not only did the team meet that goal, but they went on to the State Championship and took Runner-Up for Creative Presentation.  Not bad for some strangers thrown together at the last minute.

This year we had more time to plan.  The original team decided to split and form two teams, and grow each.  There were some logistic issues with almost an hour between some of the families, the primary reason for the split.  It left us with three members on my kids' team.  We held an interest meeting through 4-H (the original team formed a 4-H club) for those who might want to join the existing teams.  It was a great response that resulted in four teams total, with a total of 10 kids on our team.

Ten kids.  Ten middle school kids.  Ten kids is the maximum allowed for a FLL team.  Now I know why. It has had its challenges.  Among the 10 kids, there are three sibling groups, a variety of personalities, and a five year age gap.  There have been varying levels of expectations among the adults, which always makes things interesting for a coach, especially a coach that really hadn't planned on being a coach.  That was the role I landed in, and it has been quite the learning experience.

This past Saturday we had a practice tournament.  There were 54 teams, some of them with quite a bit of experience.  The tournament is run just like a real qualifying tournament, but it doesn't count as one.  The kids learned a ton.  I learned a ton.  And we all had fun.
Goofing around while cheering on our team on the floor
Taking a break in the pit area
Line dancing while the judges calculate the scores
A tense moment during the robot game
This Saturday is our real qualifying tournament for the State Championship. I think the team has a great chance of advancing to the next level. Even if they don't, I will know that everyone learned. Everyone had fun.  Everyone did his or her best.  And that is all that matters.


pebblekeeper said...

This is my first year as a coach for a rookie team of 10 kids mostly 8 -9 with my son who is 12 with learning disabilities and a 13 yr old who can come once a week for 45 minutes. The biggest unknown area we have - is the project. Coming up with a simple solution. DOes it really matter what their solution is? We have moms that want to wow the judges and solve the problems of the world. I say KISS. This week we are going to work with meeting in the middle - with the answer being how much the kids can write down about it. What did you do to come up with a solution? Feel free to email - pebblekeeper@gmail.com - Angie

Heidi said...

Hi Angie,

I tend to agree with KISS. Also keep in mind that the solution needs to come from the kids and at their level. The FLL competition is so much more than wowing the judges with a solution. It is about how the kids worked through it, how they adapted, how they problem solved, etc.

I'm emailing you...