Monday, December 13, 2010

State Championship surprise!

I've posted a couple of times about the progress of our First Lego League team.  This is my first year coaching, and our family's second year being involved.

Being on a First Lego League team is often intense, time consuming, and emotionally draining.  It certainly has its rewards, though. The learning experiences it provides would be difficult to find elsewhere and I'm glad my kids have such opportunities to participate.  Of course, a little recognition makes all that hard work and effort worth it even more.

After a practice tournament and winning the Championship Award at our qualifying tournament, our team, the X-Bots, attended the State Championship tournament this past weekend.  There were 46 other teams, who earned their spot by being a high scorer at their own qualifying tournament, in the tournament.  We knew the competition would be tough.

Our robot didn't perform as expected, but we ended up in 14th place for the robot game anyhow. Not bad, but the kids were a little disappointed since practice runs at the table resulted in higher points.  A program that consistently ran at the practice table would fail during game time.  Surprise number one for the day.

The three interview areas - core values (teamwork), project presentation, and the technical interview - seemed to go ok.  I really didn't have a good feel for how they compared, though.  We'd find out after lunch, when they announce "callbacks" for the top teams.  The callback time came and went with no word.  The kids were a bit disappointed.  Then, after about 30 minutes past the callback time, we received notice that our team was indeed called back for not one, but two interviews.  Furthermore, in one area they were up for two different awards.  Surprise number two for the day.

The second interviews took place in front of a crowded room of judges.  The kids did great.  I was very proud of them.  With being a top scorer in three areas, I was pretty confident that they would receive at least one subcategory trophy.

The awards ceremony finally came. Our team sat with anticipation.  Award after award was called, but the X-Bots was not named.  All of the callback areas, where they had the highest chance,an came and went. The kids shoulders drooped a bit.  It was a tough competition.  The team did well, but it looked like it wasn't enough to earn a top score in any single category.  Surprise number three for the day.

I could see the defeat and the kids started not paying much attention to the announcer.  There were only two awards left.  Next up, the award for the Finalist (Runner-Up/Second Place) was called.. X-Bots!  There was a lag before any of the kids responded.  They were shocked!  Surprise number four, and a nice one at that.
The day was filled with up and down surprises, but certainly had a happy ending.  As a tournament Finalist, we are next in line to attend the World Festival should the other team not be able to go.  That would be the grand-daddy of surprises for the X-Bots.

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