Last year we had an amazing season with the Taco Force team. A great group of families. I learned so much personally as a teacher and coach, and professionally of how to incorporate STEM science projects, how to ask more questions than I answer, and how to give pieces of skill building exercises, yet still allow for creativity and production to remain in the hands of the boys. We declined a second year with the Taco Force, as we thought we would be transferred, and Nathan was looking to group up with an older set of boys if we did stay in town.
We tried all Spring and Summer to gather a group of 6 boys, but none were able to in our tiny town. I had filled out the Scholarship Application with ORTOP just in case, but told our leader that I still didn’t have kids.
In September, we received an email asking if the boys would like to join the Driftwood Library Team, the RoboSharks. and we said yes! However, as the families started to gather, we had about 15-20 potential kids. Only 10 are allowed on each team, so we split into Driftwood 1 and Driftwood 2. Team members are only allowed to perform on one team, so we found it best to move to another location, rather than to share the small spaces and slivers of time at the Library.
We took a week off for Darren’s Lung Appointments and my Grandmother’s Funeral, and another week off for illness of the Team members, got a late start, and basically had a rookie team – we didn’t get our kit til mid October, and had to borrow a computer, as my old Mac didn’t like to play quickly with the software – and with all that said –
WE HAD A BLAST! We ended up with 9 team members and 3 mentor families. The kids designed and built a robot from scratch. We did not have access to the internet in the space we used, so all of our materials had to be brought in from the library and mentors. They did their own research at home, and then came together as a group to talk about it.
Our only difficulty with the team was the decision making between 9 individual kids. I think it was hard on the parents too. We had to vote on just about every tiny detail, and just about every time, the votes were split 4-5. I saw a lot of growth from a few of the team members during this process. Shy team mates learned to use their voice. Strong Opinions learned to quiet and share ideas.
I was glad to have had one year of Rookie Teams under my belt as I watched it play out. First Lego League and ORTOP gives us a solid 8 week plan of meeting goals to achieve. I would come to meeting with these goals in mind, and a few exercises to get them directed, then waited, as they worked it out. I would have wished for more time with the team mates before September and October to do more activities outside of our meetings. Last year, even though it was a Rookie Team, I had met the kids in town, at different gatherings, and had a familiarity with the parents. This year, not so much. I think if the kids knew each other, they might have developed friendships and trust a little bit more. However, with the training I received from ORTOP, and the goals in mind, I could see it all folding in together, step by step, in a great FLL direction!
The team got the Robot built a week before Quarter Finals. They had programmed various prototypes of robots during the 8 weeks, and I wish I had kept track of how many robots they had built! So – when it came time to program the missions, we had 2 practice meetings before Tournament! They still did really well. At our Quarter Finals, there was one team with an extra mission, pushing out 20 points ahead, and then a pack of 5 teams hanging out in the 112-117 pt area. Our top score was 112! The 20 teams that gathered all did really well with the missions, but it was fun to see our scores on the higher side.
What we learn is more important than what we win. That is one of the Core Values of First Lego League. Watching the learning that went on with these kids since September, makes the whole semester worth it. Watching their joy at the tournament – made me tear up a few times. Hearing comments from the kids to the judges, the judges to the kids, and then the written comments – man, I almost gave in to tears quite a few times! They were excited, they worked hard, they did the work, they came together as a team – and it showed.
The boys ended up getting close with quite a few older boys in town, and that was one of our personal goals. The Taco Force team was at Quarter Finals this year with us, and it was SOOOO much fun to cheer each other on, they did awesome – the Lincoln City Droids this year!! Woot! The boys that we tried to talk into driving to Lincoln City formed a team in Waldport, south of us, and they won a trophy for Core Values at their Quarter Finals the day after us. I haven’t heard from the Driftwood Library #1 team, but they won Robot Design last year, and I’m sure they did great this year as well. I am thankful to our friend Rita, that has started all of these seeds in a tiny little town, and for Cathy, from ORTOP, who has so patiently directed us and trained us, and provided scholarships for us! I am most thankful to the parents – who trusted me, and FLL, to guide their children through an amazing STEM program that also lets the kids play with Legos a bit.
We are going to be setting dates in the calendar and at the library to at least have a once a month practice throughout the winter – growing the building and using sensor skills. If you are in Lincoln County – send a comment or an e-mail to hook up!
One followup I’d like to make – last year we all left the tournament a bit defeated. The kids had worked so hard, and then the tournament seemed to be a magnifying glass of everything we didn’t have the skills built yet for, or didn’t have time to complete. The scores were so low, the comments so harsh, the judges so sober. The opening and closing ceremony so quiet and quick, the challenge area so cold and quiet.
NOT THIS YEAR! They changed the Judging Rubric from numbers to words, like Beginning, to “really got it” or something like that. So, you could get scores as a beginner, and not necessarily as a 0. The judges were all so excited that we were there, and really pulled questions and answers out of the kids. They gave such kind comments during the 5 minute interviews. All of the teams seemed to really get along while enjoying the Air and Space Museum and Playground. The teams sort of pulled together to do fun things while there. The parents were super chatty, and the MC was Hilarious. Having the mentors from the museum gave 10-20 seniors who were really excited – volunteered to make sure that we all enjoyed our time in their museum and that the kids would learn while walking around. The Challenge Judge so kind to my learning curve as a newish coach – and was so encouraging to the kids as well. I drove 5 of the team mates up, and they were so excited on the ride home for how amazing the tournament went. Our Judging Rubric sheets were just so encouraging, the judges made a comment that would directly reflect just about everyone on the team individually, and for me as the coach. I left with a heart swelled with joy and enthusiasm. I look forward to being a part of FLL until Jon hits 15, and then as a volunteer at QT’s for sure.
Thanks for listening to my one long post, instead of 8 short ones like last year!
I posted the Photo Album just before this post from Flikr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/46892134@N08/sets/72157628335313811/