Friday, November 19, 2010

On our way to the State Championship!

Last week, I talked a bit about our learning experience with First Lego League and the great group of middle schoolers I'm coaching this year.  At the time of that post, our team of 10 had just attended a practice tournament.  At the FLL tournaments, there are numerous trophies handed out.  FLL wants the tournaments to be very encouraging and there are numerous subcategory awards, as well as recognition for the top teams overall. Essentially, just under half of the teams come home with one trophy or another. While the team did great at the practice tournament, they did not come home with a trophy and were a little disappointed.  When I looked a the final scoring, I could see how fabulous they did.  They actually outranked overall many of the teams that did come home with a trophy.  Some of those teams ranked high and one category, and were recognized for it, but when you looked at the other categories they weren't as strong.  Our team was pretty steady across the board and ranked in the top 25% overall.  It was a great showing, but not enough to get a trophy in any particular area.  I explained this to the team, but sometimes kids just need to see something tangible as recognition.

This past Saturday was our Qualifying Tournament - the real deal.  I really wanted the kids to focus on having fun and simply celebrating their accomplishments as a team.  As a result, we had a celebration pizza party the night before and they all arrived at the tournament simply happy to be there.
The team's table display explaining the research project.

A visit from the Dean of Engineering

My daughter being interviewed by the university's newspaper

A practice run of the robot's program in between challenges.

Getting some fresh air on a break in the university's botanical garden.

A tense moment after the robot was dropped just before a challenge.

My son (left) and teammate during a robot challenge.

Line dancing while the final scores are tabulated.

The kids went in confident, but I think lacking a trophy from the weekend before didn't make them overly optimistic.  I, on the other hand, was quite confident they'd be in the top five teams and advance to the State Championship, though I'll admit to some self-doubt looming in the back of my mind.  This was a smaller tournament and I saw were they ranked against some of the other teams in the practice tournament, but you never know how the others improved over the week or other teams coming in that weren't at the practice.  However, even I was surprised at the final outcome.

First Place Presentation Performance

First Place Robot Performance


 First Place Championship Award!!!

Now we're on to the State Championship in December.  Regardless of what happens there, I'm so happy that this group of middle schoolers was able to embrace the essence of First Lego League: to have fun, to learn, and to extend profressional graciousness to the other teams.  Of course, a little recognition with some shiny trophies is nice too.


Anonymous said...

Bravo! Our QT isn't until Dec. 11th. I go back and forth from realizing how much the young kids have done - and seeing how much everyone else is doing. :) They can't meet very often - which is discouraging to me. I'm on the edge of wondering how much to tell them what to do - and have them do it on their own, but they are 8 and 9 year olds and give me blank stares. :) I've sent out an email begging the oldest member to come over for a day, he comes once a week for about an hour now. :) I think once they see the tournament it will all click. :) They are really awesome! CONGRATS on the outstanding QT Results! Those boards are amazing!

Heidi said...

Thanks! It sounds like your team is doing great! Ages 8-9 is a very young team! I think the judges will take their ages into consideration. Our ages ranged from 9 or 10 - 14, pretty evenly. Do you plan to do it again next year? If you do and will keep the team together, this will be a fabulous learning year for them. FLL is one of those things that you just need to experience to get the big picture of what is is all about.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Heidi! We have a practice round now confirmed for the 2nd in town, that gives us an earlier go to date which is good. I really want to let the kids do this to their ability - I am praying that the moms back off a little. :)

Anonymous said...

Ok. I'm excited! I just got an email from one of our moms, she finally convinced the older girls to join our team (they come each week anyway) and they will work on the project boards. WOOOO HOOOOO. So we have 9 team members - Yeah!

Heidi said...

That IS exciting! It certainly helps to have a few older kids on the team. If you can convince them to lead the younger ones a bit in the teamwork area, that is even better. Email me if you'd like some suggestions on prepping for the teamwork portion.