First Lego League (FLL) coach. I went from clueless in 2010, the Body Forward Challenge, to taking teams to the VA/DC Championships in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, my 5th grade girls shocked everyone, including me, with a winning run of 505 that won the robot game championship. As an advocate for First Lego League and STEM, I started this blog to provide a starting point for new FLL coaches.
2010 – Body Forward
My first year, my co-coach and I had no idea what we were doing but tried to hide that fact from the team. We took a very hands-off approach and let the mixed team of 5th grade boys and girls make every mistake. We learned a lot and had fun, but the experience was not the greatest for the kids. A few of the kids came back for 2011, but a majority pursued other interests. The three important lessons learned: 1) NXT Robots are not consistent 2) kids need structure and 3) the team’s attitude and robot game scores are connected.
2011 – Food Factor
Realizing what I did not know and that there must be a better way, I bought James Trobaugh’s book, Winning Designs!: Lego Mindstorm NXT Desgin Patterns for Fun and Competition. I highlighted, made notes and tabbed the important pages. My co-coach and I started figuring out how to teach the boys the concepts in the book without crossing the line and doing the work. It worked – the boys’ team had the highest score at the regional tournament and nailed core values to qualify for the VA/DC Championship. They had a good robot and core values showing but still struggled with Technical and Project. At the VA/DC Championship, light sensors hit them hard in the face. As a team, we learned not to be so specific on the light values, use less than or greater than 50%, not 33%. Even with calibration, the line detection was not working and the robot performance was sub-optimal, my consulting word for it failed.
2012 – Senior Solutions
I had no intention of coaching two teams, but that’s what happened in 2012. We let the Code Crackers team talk us into another year with the understanding we would just provide the adult administrative stuff and they would run their own meetings. Big mistake. The boys were moving into 7th grade, middle school in NOVA, and left their focus behind in elementary school. Coaching the team would not have been a challenge except for the fact I committed to coaching my daughter’s team, the Capital Girls Too. Insanity, coaching two FLL teams and being Boy Scout Scoutmaster and Girl Scout Troop Leader at the same time. I had no free time.
The Code Crackers won core values at their regional tournament, did great in technical judging but were lacking in project and robot game scores.
The Capital Girls Too won project at the regional and did well in all other aspects to get an invitation to the VA/DC Championship. The robot was inconsistent on the longer runs, it even destroyed the flexibility mission component. Between the regional tournament and the VA/DC Championship, they worked on line following and getting to the green line on the mission board. This little adjustment dramatically changed the consistency of the robot. At the VA/DC Championship, they were in the running for project, choked in technical and shocked everyone with a 505 point run. When I say choked in technical, I mean choked. The judges split and had multiple lines of question happening at the same time. The person who wrote the programs in question, my daughter, did not know which judge to focus on because she was pulled in different directions and clammed up. The person who was starting the robot in the judging session was not one or our regular robot starters and couldn’t start the runs the judge was asking to see. The rest of the team went silent. We call this session the blood bath. The important lessons from that trip to the state championship: cross-train for technical and sometimes luck counts. That robot never did as well in practice as it did that day, everything just fell into place for that one run.
2013 – Nature’s Fury
For the 2013, I had two teams again. The Code Crackers, all 8th grade boys, and the Capital Girls, all 6th grade girls. Both teams had memorable seasons. The Code Cracker were 2nd Place Champions at their regional tournament and qualified for the VA/DC Championship. At the Championship, they had the highest table score, the only issue their high score occurred their practice round. The Capital Girls where Champions at their regional tournament and qualified for the VA/DC Championship. They were awarded Innovated Solution for their research project.
2014 – World Class
For the World Class season, I have one team. The Capital Teens – formerly Capital Girls Too and the Capital Girls. All 10 girls are back and are now in the 7th grade. We are no longer the Capital Girls because that is an Oak Hill ES tradition. Follow my blog to experience our season.