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Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

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  • #16
    Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

    Originally posted by LegoMAMA View Post
    I can devote an hour a week to planning, no more (although I spent FAR more than that). I have a job and other responsibilities to attend to, and for FIRST to provide a neat, ready-to-go book of suggestions on how to run a meeting would make coaching easier and make me more likely to come back as a volunteer.
    The materials Tim mentioned are really helpful to a new team and may be the kind of guidance you are looking for. I don't remember how I came across it, but it's possible FLL is not doing enough work to promote this to new teams.

    I do have a fair amount of experience coaching, but I definitely don't spend an hour a week planning (reading message boards doesn't count as planning!). I've spent some time coordinating field trips and scheduling meetings. My wife handled producing t-shirts and making packets for parents to help them understand what the tournament is all about. Other than that, the kids drive what happens. I come to a meeting with ideas about what they should work on, but they get to decide. I might say, "you got a lot of new information from the Naturalist, so today might be a good day to get that information into your project presentation," but I don't set an agenda and they figure out what to do. I did spend more time preparing earlier in my career, but I found that I was trying too hard to teach things (vs. kids figuring it out on their own with my guidance), and the kids would get to judging sessions and be unable to explain what something did or why they did it. That's really the value of FLL done well. The kids are learning through problem solving vs. following a lesson plan with a test at the end.

    FLL is definitely a competition. It was very helpful that we knew previous FLL coaches who told us to not expect to do well as a new team. It's OK and part of the process. We didn't expect to win anything, and it was a huge thing when our rookies won the head-to-head timewaster since it was so unexpected. They still talk about this 5 years later.

    I'll echo Dean's sentiments about the uniqueness of FLL compared to programs like DI. I've had some crying, but it was due to a perfectionist kid and a team that thought one bad robot run ruined their chances to advance (actually, it was arguing with each other in Core Values judging that ruined their chances!). My wife and I coached multiple teams in previous years, and this year we decided we could only do one but would support parents if they wanted to coach their own team. We were a little surprised that parents who had kids in the program previously took us up on this and we have about the same number of kids involved. Those parents saw the value of FLL for their kids and took it on for themselves.

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    • #17
      Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

      Originally posted by timdavid View Post
      Yes, that would have been helpful had I known about it.

      Originally posted by mkirkwood View Post
      I do have a fair amount of experience coaching, but I definitely don't spend an hour a week planning.
      Understood, but I specifically volunteered as an assistant coach. I did not expect to be responsible for the amount of planning required (Obviously, this needed to be a conversation between me and the head coach). If I were the head coach, I'd take on the bulk of planning responsibility and delegate to any assistants, if I were lucky enough to have them.

      Originally posted by mkirkwood View Post
      ...Other than that, the kids drive what happens. I come to a meeting with ideas about what they should work on, but they get to decide. I might say, "you got a lot of new information from the Naturalist, so today might be a good day to get that information into your project presentation," but I don't set an agenda and they figure out what to do..
      Curious what grade level you are dealing with? We had a lot of trouble just getting and holding the kids' focus. We had kids from ages 9-11, and the biggest challenge was to keep them from throwing legos across the floor, hiding under the tables while we were working with other kids, rolling across the floor with the wheeled chairs, etc. I had in mind to get their attention and hold it with exciting content...but I wasn't that excited about it myself. They didn't have the focus needed to do the kind of decision making you're talking about. After trying to get them to take ownership of the meetings a couple of times, it ultimately ended up being adult-driven. I don't know that elementary age kids have the maturity to do it. I may be wrong- but at the very least it takes a better coach than me to get that out of them. Sorry to use the Scouts analogy again- but Scouts don't run their own meetings until middle school age or later. Elementary age meetings are adult-run. From 6th grade onward, the scouts run their own meetings, with guidance from adults and is helped out a lot by the presence of older high-school kids.

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      • #18
        Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

        Originally posted by LegoMAMA View Post


        Curious what grade level you are dealing with? We had a lot of trouble just getting and holding the kids' focus. We had kids from ages 9-11, and the biggest challenge was to keep them from throwing legos across the floor, hiding under the tables while we were working with other kids, rolling across the floor with the wheeled chairs, etc. I had in mind to get their attention and hold it with exciting content...but I wasn't that excited about it myself. They didn't have the focus needed to do the kind of decision making you're talking about. After trying to get them to take ownership of the meetings a couple of times, it ultimately ended up being adult-driven. I don't know that elementary age kids have the maturity to do it. I may be wrong- but at the very least it takes a better coach than me to get that out of them. Sorry to use the Scouts analogy again- but Scouts don't run their own meetings until middle school age or later. Elementary age meetings are adult-run. From 6th grade onward, the scouts run their own meetings, with guidance from adults and is helped out a lot by the presence of older high-school kids.
        How many robots do you have? How many team members per robot and computer? We had an issue with the team losing focus (but they are middle schoolers so they were texting/gaming on phones, not acting out) when we had 6 kids and 2 robots/computers. It worked so much better with 2:1 ratio, and if we do FLL again next year we'll have one robot (at least a dummy) and computer per person. My team consists of fairly typical smart distracted kids, and it was hard for them to stay focussed when they didn't have a concrete activity to do. Even with the 2:1 ratio, one person in the pair invariably takes over, and the other either assists or chats with the lose ends of the other pairs. The team will learn better and be much more invested if each one can take on a task and has the resources to work on it uninterrupted.

        Also, my experience with FLL (just this year) and with Scout troops is that the tone of the meetings is set very early in the year. If the first couple of meetings end up being free for all goof fests it is hard to rein the kids back into a more serious mode. With a rookie team I would definitely start with the first month of meetings being adult led and let the team take control as they settle into a rhythm.

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        • #19
          Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

          When I first started coaching I thought young kids have no attention span. I was coaching twenty 8 and 9 year olds. The only way I could get them to do anything was make it a game. If they were playing with all the different sized wheels (which kids don't?) I would design a game where we ran drag races with different sized wheels to find which went fastest. Now, since we had drag racers, I'd have them put a light sensor on the front and drive forward until they see a black line. Now, since we can drive to a line I would have them drive a fixed distance and record the rotation sensor values which we used to figure out how big the wheels are. Now that we know how big the wheels are we write a my block that we can use to drive the robot some number of inches. Oops! They are getting rowdy so its time for another game.

          Later I learned that age has almost nothing to do with maturity and that it really comes down to experience. All first year teams are rambunctious and directionless. Somehow that magically changes over the summer and they are a completely different team the second time around. Maybe they needed a taste of humility, or maybe they just didn't understand what FLL was all about when they first signed up, but by their second year most teams are ready to work. Sure, they still goof around, but it isn't the chaos of first year. By their third year most FLL kids are ready to coach their own teams, and forth year FLL kids are ready to be operating partners. The growth curve is steep.
          Last edited by Dean Hystad; 01-13-2017, 05:19 PM.

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          • #20
            Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

            Having a robot and computer for each kid is a great way to guarantee that they will never work together and get very little out of FLL. Two kid teams is the smallest I allow. I prefer 3 or 4 kids work together on tasks.

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            • #21
              Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

              Just my opinion:
              It all depends on the personal characteristics of the individuals, but (only reflecting my experience) ages 9-11 is on the low end of capable of getting what FLL is about. More typically, teams that accomplish a lot in FLL are in the 12-14 age bracket and have two or three years of experience.
              FIRST LEGO League Mentor and Referee/Head Referee since 2011.

              Comment


              • #22
                Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

                This was my wife's & my 7th year of coaching; our teams have always been 5th & 6th graders. For the last 2 years we've had a 4th grade "club" (they're not registered, they only do the robot game, and they don't go to a regional qualification tournament) to bridge the gap between our school's FLL Jr. program (which ends at 3rd grade) and FLL. I don't think 4th & 5th graders are too young for FLL, although there are certainly some kids that get more out of it than others.

                We've had different meeting schedules through the years but have pretty much settled on 1 1/2 hours after school 2 days a week (mandatory) and 5 optional-but-strongly-encouraged hours (with lunch break & running around time included) every other Saturday. We find that we tend to get more done on the weekends because of the bigger time block. The kids don't stay focused 100% of the time, but I can't focus for 5 hours at a time either. We have an unfair advantage in that respect -- my wife is a 5th grade teacher at the school, has been teaching for a long time, and knows how to handle kids. Over the 7 years we've had teams that worked very well together and accomplished a lot. We've had teams (like this year) that just never came together; a combination of the kids' chemistry and who knows what else.

                We tend to run 7 or 8 kid teams, and we run 2 teams each year (although we have had 3). We have 12 computers that the team purchased (they weren't very expensive; you don't need very much of a computer to run EV3) with grant money from my employer, and we've accumulated 6 EV3 robots over the years to split between the teams. It's important for the kids to keep busy, but there are other things to do besides programming.

                We charge a $75 activity fee to cover tee shirts & some of the costs, but we don't worry about families that have trouble paying that. We've found that some parents take FLL more seriously when they have to pay for it, even though what we collect doesn't cover our costs. If you're running the team out of your home you're more limited in the funding you can get, but if you're associated with a school, church, or other non-profit there's LOTS of money out there. I get money every year from my employer because I volunteer; I've worked for multiple companies that do that. We got $1,000 from Walmart one year, because I happened to see something on their website & on a "what the heck, why not?" whim spent 20 minutes filling out a grant application. We've gotten donations from parents that run their own company & can use a little tax break. We've received money from our FRC team, although the mentoring help they provide is more valuable.

                There is a lot of help for coaches on the FIRST web site. There are phone-in sessions for coaches throughout the season, and they record them for later listening. There's the new coach stuff already referenced. The coaches' manual has a lot of good information. And there are pointers on the resources page to many other things. It just takes a little looking around, and there are a lot of people on these forums that are more than happy to answer questions & give you pointers to resources.

                It's been said already by several people on this thread, but I'll say it again -- if you think FLL is a robotics competition, you're not in the right place. Take a look at the awards given at a tournament. There are 12; only Robot Performance is based totally on the robot game scores. There are really only 3 others that have anything to do with the robot, and even those have as much or more to do with process & teamwork than they do with the robot, programming, and strategy. ALL 12 of the awards have a teamwork & Core Values component.

                It's unfortunate that your team had problems with the posters. Having said that, we've had kids that don't *want* to work on the robot, and are very happy to do Project work. That's not really any different than the FRC team I help mentor; we have kids there that never touch the robot, and spend all their time on outreach, fundraising, logistics, awards preparation & presentation, business plans, the team web site, etc.

                Our teams have never been very "successful" at tournaments. But we've only had 2 years that at least one of our teams didn't make the Regional Championship, and one year all 3 teams qualified. We've won a couple of trophies at the Regional tournament, but the shine doesn't really last long. We have been very good at getting press coverage, and the kids always get a kick out of reading about themselves in the newspaper. We feel we've had a very successful program, and we've had a lot of parents tell us that FLL has made a difference for their kid. To me that making a difference -- in whatever aspect -- is far more important than tournament success.

                I've been involved with technology my whole 35+ year career, mostly as a programmer or systems administrator. I've never seen a super-techie that can't communicate -- written and verbal -- be as successful as those that can. The presentation those kids make -- in whatever form -- is an important part of what they need to learn. I've never seen a successful programmer or engineer that can't work with others; the teamwork kids learn in FLL is going to be far more important to them than the programming & building a robot will be.

                I've only one thing to say about your unfair competition issue. As my dad kept telling me, life isn't fair. I don't want to turn out a bunch of cynics, but it's important for kids to learn that things don't always go their way, and that sometimes the odds are stacked against them. They need to learn how to grow from the experience anyway, and FLL can be a good vehicle for that.

                Sorry for the long post, but hopefully there's a nugget or two in here that helps. As you can probably tell, I'm sold on the program. FLL -- and FIRST as a whole -- certainly isn't perfect; far from it. But FLL is a good program with a lot of opportunities for kids to grow. if you decide not to continue, there are other programs out there that might meet your needs better. But you may find that the 2nd year of FLL works out a lot better than the first year.
                Kansas City Region Head Ref 2014-present
                KC Region coaches and teams can ask FLL robot game rules questions at [email protected]

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                • #23
                  Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

                  Originally posted by someonewhobikes View Post
                  This was my wife's & my 7th year of coaching; ...
                  There's a lot of good nuggets in there. Nicely put.
                  FIRST LEGO League Mentor and Referee/Head Referee since 2011.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

                    Originally posted by LegoMAMA View Post
                    Curious what grade level you are dealing with? We had a lot of trouble just getting and holding the kids' focus. We had kids from ages 9-11, and the biggest challenge was to keep them from throwing legos across the floor, hiding under the tables while we were working with other kids, rolling across the floor with the wheeled chairs, etc. I had in mind to get their attention and hold it with exciting content...but I wasn't that excited about it myself. They didn't have the focus needed to do the kind of decision making you're talking about. After trying to get them to take ownership of the meetings a couple of times, it ultimately ended up being adult-driven. I don't know that elementary age kids have the maturity to do it. I may be wrong- but at the very least it takes a better coach than me to get that out of them. Sorry to use the Scouts analogy again- but Scouts don't run their own meetings until middle school age or later. Elementary age meetings are adult-run. From 6th grade onward, the scouts run their own meetings, with guidance from adults and is helped out a lot by the presence of older high-school kids.
                    My team this year is 11-12 yr olds (6th grade). We have had 10-11 (5th grade) in the past. Your practice sounds exactly like mine yesterday! The biggest challenge is with kids who don't know what to do, so they screw around. It drives me nuts because they rummage through the kits and build little figurines or whirly gadgets with the LEGO, but it does keep them near the table and I figure they are learning something while playing. We had a great flash of concentration yesterday when one kid had a clear plan for navigating the robot to the gecko wall. He took over and had the other kids help with setup as he wrote and tested the program. Working on the project was pretty tough with these kids this year because they didn't understand what it was all about. I had to be more prescriptive about what to do because they wouldn't figure it out on their own. Now that they've been through one judging session they are more able to decide what to work on without much guidance. Using goals has also been helpful. At the beginning of the year they decided they wanted to go to State. I told them it's rare for a rookie team to do that, but it's a fine goal. When they degenerated into chaos I could ask, "how is what you are doing now helping you get to State?" That would usually reorient them for a while. It doesn't always work out, but I can sometimes find smaller tasks that I can suggest that will keep everybody busy. They had problems with an attachment mechanism at their tournament, and there was a pretty easy fix. I made a model of the current mechanism (3 Technics parts) and asked an idle kid if he could figure out a way to fix the problem they had. He really thought he needed the robot to fix the problem, but he eventually figured out a solution that kept him occupied and he made the change to the robot when the other kids had a pause.

                    The Scout experience I've had is that the meetings switch to kid-led in Boy Scouts, starting in 5th grade (our troop works on a calendar year so they can get the new kids started ASAP before they are lost to middle- and high school activities). However, it is really run by much older kids. The younger ones need a high school kid and/or adult to keep them in line, but it gets easier quickly as they figure out how Scouts works. So, I agree with your thoughts. I don't show up to a practice with an agenda like I would as a Cub Scout leader, but I still need to provide a lot of direction with newer teams.

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                    • #25
                      Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

                      All very good to know. Thanks for the informative post. One other thing I picked up from your comments I'd like to address:

                      Originally posted by someonewhobikes View Post
                      It's been said already by several people on this thread, but I'll say it again -- if you think FLL is a robotics competition, you're not in the right place. Take a look at the awards given at a tournament. There are 12; only Robot Performance is based totally on the robot game scores. There are really only 3 others that have anything to do with the robot, and even those have as much or more to do with process & teamwork than they do with the robot, programming, and strategy. ALL 12 of the awards have a teamwork & Core Values component.

                      It's unfortunate that your team had problems with the posters. Having said that, we've had kids that don't *want* to work on the robot, and are very happy to do Project work. That's not really any different than the FRC team I help mentor; we have kids there that never touch the robot, and spend all their time on outreach, fundraising, logistics, awards preparation & presentation, business plans, the team web site, etc.
                      I understand dividing up kids with different skill sets... *however* I know that both kids and adults join this activity based on it being sold as a STEM learning opportunity. Okay, maybe it's not 100% robot programming and it incorporates other good learning activities, got it. But I know if I sent my kid to practice and found out all he/she did was make posters for my $100 activity fee, I would be very upset. We tried very hard to include every kid in every part of the program. Those that only wanted to do the robot, also did the posters. Those that only wanted to do posters, also did the robot. This is important, because most of the girls were strongly attracted to the poster making part of this activity, and the boys to the robot activity. It would be unfair to divide it up like that; unfair to the parents and unfair to the kids. Maybe the posters were added as a way to get girls interested in the program? I don't know. Kids get plenty of poster making in school (BELIEVE me- we've already made several this year). A better option would be to get rid of the posters and instead have the kids give a presentation (poster optional) on how they solved the robot problems. There are exceptions of course but even in school girls will generally be drawn to artistic activities and boys to the mechanical activities. That's fine, but girls in particular need more exposure and hands-on with STEM materials exactly because they aren't naturally drawn to it, and because adults may subconsciously divide boys and girls along those lines anyway. If they decide at the end of the season that robots aren't their thing, they can pick from literally hundreds of other after-school activities that include exactly the same poster-making sort of things. In fact I found that when we encouraged the girls to try the programming, they picked it up quickly and got a lot of satisfaction watching the robot perform as programmed. These girls may not get another opportunity to touch a robot or do programming, so I think they deserve a chance to try. Who knows- maybe some of them will go into STEM fields as a result?

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                      • #26
                        Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

                        Originally posted by someonewhobikes View Post
                        I've only one thing to say about your unfair competition issue. As my dad kept telling me, life isn't fair. I don't want to turn out a bunch of cynics, but it's important for kids to learn that things don't always go their way, and that sometimes the odds are stacked against them. They need to learn how to grow from the experience anyway, and FLL can be a good vehicle for that.
                        I'll add that my kids have never been bothered by competing against clearly superior teams. They like to watch them and try to figure out how they do so well. What does upset them is when they perceive excessive coach involvement. Tiny kids from an elementary school with a very complex robot that wins the performance award looks suspicious to them. I point out that they don't know how that team worked and that the judges look carefully for excessive coach involvement, so Gracious Professionalism says that we give them the benefit of the doubt. I trust the judging process to handle coach involvement appropriately and our team doesn't need to worry about it.

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                        • #27
                          Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

                          In the past I almost never had cause to worry about too much coach involvement. Usually the opposite was true and I had several conversations with new coaches letting them know we've never shot a coach for "stepping over the line". When kids only know about 3 programming blocks it is time to intervene. A couple years ago I started getting visits from the head judge asking me to give some teams a good long look and report back what I found. In most cases there was not excessive coach involvement. There might be some really excited coaches, and maybe a few that should work on their impulse control, but it is pretty easy to figure out if the team built and programmed the robot. I'm not saying your experience will be the same, but I think there is a lot less coach programming and building than is perceived.

                          My kids love difficult competition. When my girls did FLL we got a report showing where every team ranked in a tournament. They looked at the top few spots in every category as the next team to crush beneath their heal. Crush in that Midwest kind of way where you work hard, win, shake hands, say "Great Job!" and never mention it again. But you know that you won against someone who was really good, and that is a good feeling. Even when you don't win, doing well against really good teams, fighting the good fight, that can feel pretty good too.

                          I am so corny I should have ears. Oh, wait, I do!

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                          • #28
                            Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

                            Originally posted by mkirkwood View Post
                            I trust the judging process to handle coach involvement appropriately and our team doesn't need to worry about it.
                            It takes an educated and experienced and motivated judge panel to detect teams that really did the work vs. teams that did some of the work and were extremely well coached in how to answer questions from the judges.

                            It rather depends on how you define what "the work" is. Did they make the posters and learn how to operate the robot? Sure. Maybe that's what some teams think "the work" is. Is all of the programming done by one team member working at home whose parent is highly-motivated and never read the Core Values? It happens. It's really in the hands of the coaches how the kids learn what "the work" includes. At a tournament, we can't see what happened with the team during their practices.

                            I'm sure I've refereed events where the coaches invented the robot's strategy, designed all of the mechanisms, and told the team how to write the programs. I think it is all too common - especially among the high-performing rookie teams of 9-and-10 year olds. Yes, we have to give them benefit-of-the-doubt, because maybe those kids really are brilliant. But sometimes there's a lot of doubt.

                            If you've got 60 championship teams and only one WF invitation to hand out, I'd really like to be extremely confident - with no doubt - that the team who gets the invite really did all their own work, and the coach only provided logistics, instruction, guidance, inspiration, and a sufficient quantity of cookies.

                            If FLL really was a robot contest (which I don't think it is), I would like to see the robot judging or call-back process include something like a demonstration of the team's debugging skills. Present the team with a standard robot that has been trivially sabotaged with one mechanical and one programming error. Show them a video of how it should work accomplishing a simple task. Give them 10 minutes to fix it, while the coach sits in a sound-proof-booth.
                            FIRST LEGO League Mentor and Referee/Head Referee since 2011.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

                              Hey LegoMAMA!

                              First and foremost, please allow me to commiserate with you. My wife and I are first year rookie coaches as well. I share many of your frustrations and was at a breaking point prior to our first competition. I swore I would never coach an FLL team again. I'll return to this point in a subsequent post, but first I would like to address many of the points that have been raised in this thread from another rookie’s perspective:

                              Originally posted by LegoMAMA View Post
                              Limited opportunity to program: ... This meant that only 1/3 of the time were kids able to work with the robot, which is the ENTIRE reason to be there.
                              The idea that programming robots “is the entire reason to be there” is, in my opinion, the core problem that I expect most rookie coaches will face and I blame First for this. First (understandably) leads with robotics. It is the First Lego League. As in Lego robotics. It is understandable that those of us who are new to the program expect this to be first and foremost about robots. That simply is not the case.

                              It's a competition. Yet the oft quoted GP1 ("If you joined FIRST® LEGO® League with a main goal of ‘winning a robotics competition,’ you’re in the wrong place!") is a huge non-sequitur that exacerbates the problem.

                              So FLL is a robotics competition that's not about winning a robotics competition. This disconnect sets the stage for further frustrations caused by expectations that are not aligned with the program.
                              Being analytical to a fault I did significant research before agreeing to coach a team. Perhaps I am unusually dense, but the Coaches guide did not adequately convey the true nature of FLL to me. In my case I expanded my research by reading forums and talking to current and former coaches. Only through those conversations did I begin to get a real sense of what the program was all about. Even so, I had to become actively involved with coaching and have follow on conversations with a veteran coach before it really began to sink in.

                              I believe First can and should do a better job of articulating what FLL really is.

                              Originally posted by someonewhobikes View Post
                              I'll say it again -- if you think FLL is a robotics competition, you're not in the right place. Take a look at the awards given at a tournament.
                              This is the crux of the problem - you should not have to read the detailed rules and look at what awards are given in order to understand the focus of a program. The focus should be clearly articulated up front. The message for adults (mentors, coaches, and parents) should be different than the message for kids. This is a program designed to stimulate excitement about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, to encourage creative thinking, to demonstrate that learning can be downright FUN! For kids the message should be more along the lines of this is a cool way to learn a little about programming, building robots, and solving real problems just like real scientists do. There may be those who got that message immediately upon visiting the First website. I didn't.

                              I encourage posters on this forum to stop quoting GP1 - I believe it does a disservice to those of us who are new to this program. Why is this a competition if winning doesn't matter?

                              Originally posted by Dean Hystad View Post
                              Never for a second think that FLL isn't about winning. What we learn is more important than what we win, but winning is still good. It is obvious that FIRST and FLL are very pro-competition. Teams are encouraged to play as hard as they can to win while following the rules and treating other teams with respect. Without the robot game and tournaments there would be 20 teams in FLL worldwide. That there are over 28,000 teams shows that the competition/learning mix works. FLL is trying to get the benefits of competition (fun, passion, excitement) without the nasty side effects (cheating, anger, violence). For the most part they pull this off pretty well. I look at it more as FLL is trying to reshape competition into something better. I judge Destination Imagination and FLL. I almost never see kids crying in the halls at a FLL tournament and I almost never see kids jumping and screaming in with excitement at a DI tournament. I always see at least one total meltdown at a DI tournament. Maybe robots are good at teaching us how to deal with disappointment.
                              This, this, this!!! This is what we newbies should be hearing every time a question about winning comes up. Winning is great. Growing (a.k.a. learning) is better. If you can manage to achieve both, good for you!

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

                                Originally posted by LegoMAMA View Post
                                Core Value and Project posters: I hated, hated, hated this part and so did my son.
                                I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it is precisely because you "hated, hated, hated" this that your son did so as well. And if you are just creating a poster in order to satisfy a judging criteria in order to get a trophy I can understand your frustration. We created our posters just before competition. By then we had a season's worth of experience to draw on. Our team of introverted underachieving 6th grade nerd boys LOVED creating the poster. It was a time to reflect back on all the fun we had through the season. "Oh man, do you remember when we did that, it was so cool!"

                                This is where the "it's not about winning" subtlety comes in. We most definitely wanted to win. We wanted the best darn Core Values poster in the state (though I think we fell short of that goal! ). But we did it because it was fun. It was fun to remember what we had done all season. I think the guys on the team thought it was fun to take what was a novel, fun or "ah ha!" moment for us and imagine that they might be able to recreate that experience for someone else.

                                My wife and I are extremely competitive and intentionally or not, for better or for worse, we instilled that in our team. But my wife and I were drawn to the program because of the core values component. We completely agree with the values presented. Competition is great, but never at the expense of anyone else.

                                Originally posted by LegoMAMA View Post
                                Time commitment: … Mine wanted to have two THREE HOUR practices per week.
                                3 hours for a school day meeting is probably too long, 6 hours per week is about right. This is a big commitment. It's not for everyone. I don't know what the area you live in is like but I can tell you that here parents don't bat an eye at a 6 hour per week commitment for elementary school kids. Many of the parents we know have committed their kids to far more than that through various clubs and activities, notably competitive sports. You certainly aren't the only one to have concerns about the amount of time required, but I find it odd that people balk at 6 hours per week for an activity specifically targeted at personal growth, values, and STEM learning, but don't hesitate to commit to soccer that meets multiple times per week with all day game days on the weekend. Travel leagues take even more time.

                                The same is true for time commitments from coaches. Not everyone is willing or able to put in the time necessary to coach a team. If you fall into that category, then don't coach. Be a parent volunteer. Give what time you can and encourage someone else who has the time and desire.

                                Here again I find many posts on this board to be counterproductive for rookie coaches. Comments to the effect of "I don't put in any time, the kids do everything" are not helpful. I sincerely doubt this is true. I expect what has happened is that many posters here have coached enough that coaching is second nature - they don't think about what they are doing. And they likely have seasoned veterans on their team that don't need to learn core values, that know how to program, and that have been to competitions before. Starting from scratch is HARD - it takes a lot of work. I've worked with kids for years. My wife was a teacher for 20+ years and has "shown me the ropes" over the past 10+ years.
                                Together my wife and I have frequently managed hours long events with over a hundred kids by ourselves (it can be done, but it takes skill!). But I still found coaching an FLL team to be extremely difficult. I expect subsequent years would be less difficult, but I can't imagine what it must be like for someone who has little or no experience leading a group of kids to start with an FLL team. I think the only help for this is to seek out someone with experience leading kids, like a teacher or church kid’s coordinator. Find a mentor. I believe it's too much for most people to figure out on their own.

                                Originally posted by LegoMAMA View Post
                                Price: Each kid paid $100 to join the team.
                                $100 to join the team is dirt cheap! I'd be surprised if you could find any other organized activity cheaper. Even scout dues are typically not cheap, and then there is the inevitable fund raiser. Competitive sports? The uniform alone will approach $100 in our area.

                                We initially estimated the annual cost for running our team at around $700, that covers registration, challenge set, tournament fees, and shirts. There's not much room to reduce that. In fact, we went over-budget on the shirts. We also underestimated the cost of supplies for posters, the projects, and various activities.

                                In addition to that there is also a very significant startup cost for robot kits, table, laptop, etc. In our case the cost came to over $2000. That includes two robot kits. Some teams could get by with one. Personally, I'd like to have one kit for every two or three kids. While that cost is a "one time" cost, even if you amortize it over 4 years it drives our annual cost up to almost $1000 per year. $100 per kid on a 10 member team would barely cover the costs.
                                And those onetime charges? These are toys pushed to the extremes by kids - they won't last forever. There will be replacement costs even for established teams. Frugal teams could drive the annual cost down, but the average $800 per year cost quoted earlier in this thread sounds about right to me, and perhaps even a bit on the optimistic side.

                                If the cost is too high for your team, do fund raisers, seek out sponsors. Where there's a will, there's a way.

                                Originally posted by LegoMAMA View Post
                                I think I'd rather put that aside to buy my son his own robotics kit.
                                Originally posted by mkirkwood View Post
                                … in my experience, very few Mindstorms kits get used outside of FLL.
                                This is my experience as well. Sounds like a great idea on the surface, but in practice the novelty wears off quickly and without focus (such as that provided by a "competition") complex toys often end up gathering dust under a bed.

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