We had our season kick-off meeting. I was not prepared, I was getting the board setup just before the meeting and had not even read the mission challenges. It was truly going to be in team hands, 10 7th grade girls. We met for two hours and achieved in one meeting what took three last year. Having an experienced Division II team mitigated my lack of prep. It was actually very rewarding being extremely hands off and girl-led. I actually got very excited to hear them use terms like reset points, wall squaring, line following and all the advanced topics they have learned over the years.
Since the purpose of my blog is the share our experience with other teams, here is a breakdown of our meeting.
Scheduling the Meeting
The meeting was scheduled last Sunday using doodle.com. Doodle allows you to determine meeting availability and reduces the hassle of sorting through emails. It’s a free tool. As you can see, scheduling ten people in the NOVA area is almost impossible. Turns out Friday night will be our team meeting.
For mission education, we watched the mission video as a team. After the video, we went to the table and each team member gave an overview about a mission and then the team discussed how to approach the mission. This way everyone participated and everyone learned about the missions. Having the girls teach each other is a great way for them to learn the missions.
Tip: Pictured below you will notice two things, a dot sticker with the mission points and a post-it note with the attachment concept. The point stickers stay on the table throughout the season. Also, using the post-it notes at the table is very hands-on and collaborative. It works much better than having them fill out worksheet.
The first part of our strategy was to set team goals. They set the goals of going to States and Worlds. Given their experience and track record, these are realistic goals but I did emphasis having fun and learning life skills is my goal. I also wanted them to understand that the past is not always a predictor of the future.
In conjunction with the life skills goal, I set a goal for the team to learn Agile. Our team will be using the agile development method, including setting up two week sprints. We will use JIRA as our online project management tool. What was funny is a couple of parents started laughing because they use Agile and JIRA at work. At Upper Quadrant, we are using it to develop StartingPoints. I think it will be great for a mature FLL team.
My team is an experienced and mature Division II team. I am only experimenting with teaching them agile because I think they are ready. I would not recommend this approach for rookie Division I teams. When my teams were 5th and 6th graders, I used a container of marbles. Each marble represented a week and the number of marbles was based on the number of weeks left before the tournament. Each week we took out a marble. This was a my kid friendly project management tool. It worked, they could easily visualize how much time was left.
For research, they want to use the presentation style from previous years. Their robot strategy is to build a robot similar to last years but reduce the number of attachments by building stuff on the robot.
Our team’s mission strategy uses board zones, pictured below. The board is divided into three zones based on how the girls wanted to organize their runs. Each zone is assigned a sub-team. Utilizing a strategy the girls developed two seasons ago, they will be using the green line as a starting point. We called this concept Reset Point but I have renamed it to starting point. They will write a sub-program that will drive straight until it detects the green line, then turn and wall square, creating a starting point for the yellow and green zone runs. I will be adding this concept to the Robotics Badge Learning System. Tip: visit www.techbrick.com for great free mission resources, like the table image below. If you use their resources, share a picture and send a thank you email. I love techbrick and their contribution to FLL.
With a 10 person team, not everyone can work on everything. We divide into sub-teams, two teams of three and one team of four. To form sub-teams, I setup a whiteboard and pulled up the meeting availability doodle. Using the doodle and board zones, the girls formed sub-teams completely own their own. In previous years, each girl would rank their mission preference and then I would use meeting availability to form sub-teams. We found doing it based on zones is much easier. One thing I learned by allowing them to form sub-teams is that people will work to be with their close friends. This is not bad but I hate the idea of cliques. For my team, I want everyone to be included. Everyone builds builds, everyone programs, everyone does research, everyone has fun.
We will have team meeting that everyone attends on Fridays. At the team meetings, we work on research and technical collaboration. The sub-teams meet separately and will work on their runs. It creates more meetings for me but is highly effective. Because of this approach and the badge learning system, my girls are very advanced programmers.
Every year I make a bet with my girls team. Last year, the girls got to paint my toe nails. This year if the qualify for the state tournament, I will dye my hair pink for the state tournament. I refused to get a tattoo, piercing or dress like a women – some of their other suggestions. We ended our meeting with some fun, watching youtube videos.
Robotics Badge Learning System
To develop FIRST skills, I use a Robotics Badge learning system. To learn about the badge system, check out the blog post Boy Scout and Girl Scout Methods.
Simplify your volunteer life!
I am leading the development of StartingPoints.com, a web application to simplify planning, organizing and sharing for community groups. It will be free and will be very focused on helping FLL teams. Signup to be part of the private preview at www.startingpoints.com. Click sign-up and then complete the “notify me” section. When it is ready, I will send you an invitation code.