Tuesday, January 27, 2015

First Lego League/ What Is It Really Like?

Your child LOVES Lego bricks and building. Is First Lego League right for them? Are they ready to jump into robotics?

Madeline and I have now completed our first season (me as coach, her as team member). Like any awesome program, it requires a serious commitment. Preparation is essential. 'Winging it' is not an option. Season details are released in late August and qualifier competitions begin in early December.

As a homeschool team, we elected to meet once weekly for two hours. School teams often meet more frequently because the kids are already at school. Our team members reside in different areas of Dallas and have different homeschooling schedules, so meeting more than once a week wasn't feasible for us.

What I did not predict was the intensity and how challenged the kids would be. Or how incredible the kids felt as they began seeing the robot complete missions!

Plus, who doesn't love robots? EV3 First Lego League Competition Bot
EV3 Competition Robot - Monkey Bot 1

No doubt the robots are cool! Not only did Madeline's team have to come up with a solution to solve each mission module, the team had to choose a game strategy.

Choose missions far away or close to base? Attempt multiple missions in one programming block or a single mission? Change out specialty attachments or design an attachment to do multiple tasks?

After critically thinking about point values, students start to work programming and designing attachments. It's all about math - angles and decimal values! And lots of trial and error to fine tune programs.

With only 2:30 (two minutes, thirty seconds) to run programs and earn points, the pressure is on!

First Lego League Qualifier Robot Game 2014 - via
Getting ready for the robot game.

First Lego League Robot Game 2014 - View from the Stands via
View from the stands.
Each team competes in three robot games and is ranked according to their top score.

FLL Qualifier 2014 - Robot Game Standings via
At Super Qualifier, we were in the top 10 through 2 rounds of the robot game.
We finished a proud 11th with a score of 150 points.

First Lego League Qualifier 2014 - via
Cheering from the stands!

Teams present their game strategy, robot/attachment design, and programming for judging.

Each season, a themed community challenge/problem is issued. Teams research the topic thoroughly and develop an innovative solution. But that's only the first part.

The second part is sharing your solution! Teams create a presentation to showcase their solution - then share with both their local community (prior to competition) and the judges (at competition).


First Lego League Core Values Trophy 2014 - via
Raising the trophy as the Core Values Winner at qualifier.

The motto of FLL is to have fun! That also means being a good sport. Teams are encouraged to share information, make friends, and act as professional colleagues.

What you learn is more important that what you win. It's a positive, supportive environment!

Teamwork is key. During Core Values judging, teams show how they work together. Respect, cooperation, and gracious professionalism are evaluated.

In addition to the closed doors judging session, judges assess how teams interact with one another in the pit (area where teams wait between rounds) and in other public areas.

Pins at First Lego League Qualifier - via
This Batman-uniformed team was super nice and qualified for regionals. Way to go!

Pins for other teams - First Lego League Qualifier 2014 - via
Having something to trade, like pins, is a great icebreaker.

Building with other teams - First Lego League Qualifier 2014 - via
Games/Lego bricks help the team pass time between rounds + they can play with other teams.

Our first year experience was overwhelmingly positive! There is a huge learning curve and we were lucky to have the guidance of a fifth year team. We met at a small scrimmage and they were so kind to take us under their wing ;)

Though we didn't qualify for regionals, two of the teams we scrimmaged with did qualify. We are thrilled for them and plan to cheer them on during their robot game. In Dallas, the regional championship is February 14th at Parish Episcopal.

Interested in participating next season? Check the US First website to see where your local FLL regional championship will be held for a sneak peek. The robot game is open to the public. Judging sessions are closed door, only team members are admitted.

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