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Roving Helper

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  • Roving Helper

    This weekend I judged at the St Paul Minnesota EDL tournament. This is a FLL tournament for kids that do robotics in St. Paul Extended Day program (Why the L? League?). Essentially after school robot classes. While checking my assignment (Design judge this time instead of Programming, Hooray!) I noticed a couple of very senior volunteers were listed as "Roving Helper", not a volunteer position I've see listed before. A Roving Helper is exactly what it sounds like. Their job is to wander around the pit areas and help any team that asks for support. What a fantastic idea, especially for a tournament like this one where almost all the kids are rookies. Afterward I spent some time talking to one of the Roving Helpers and learned they spent most of the day tracking down teams getting zero points on the competition table and helping them get one or two missions to run reliably.

    This is the GREATEST IDEA EVER!!! I think it is also one of the best volunteer roles ever too, so I whined and pouted and complained and irritated the tournament director until she relented and made me a Roving Helper at the Minneapolis Public Schools tournament next weekend. Finally my LEGO and complaining skills are starting to pay off.

    I hope this Roving Helper role works well. From what I heard it was a huge hit with teams on Saturday and I ended up helping a few teams find the helpers at the end of the day so they could express their gratitude. I hope I live up to the high standards that were set and that this becomes a regular volunteer role at every tournament. I also hope this is an idea that is widely copied.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Dean Hystad View Post
    . I also hope this is an idea that is widely copied.
    What a great idea. Those kids were fortunate to have you around. I bet they left the day feeling like they conquered the world. It would be great if this were copied.


    • #3
      Be sure to tell us some stories about how well it goes. How many teams took you up on their offer? How many roving helpers and how many teams at the tournament (and what level is the tournament)? How were you identified so the kids knew how to find you? Do you work alone or with a partner? What were the "qualifications" of the assigned rovers? Do you think the rover assistance is only for the robot game, or are there things they could offer in the way of help for the judged events?

      Last year I was head judge at one event and we had two brand new teams that sadly failed to score a point all day on the tables. The refs and event coordinator talked to the coaches about talking to other teams for help, but I don't know if the coaches actually did that. A roving helper there could have been helpful for sure. They will have to be careful to know when to stop short of telling the team exactly how to solve something, because that stopping point is different for every team. But I think it is definitely workable.

      I can see where this would really be a neat idea and I will propose this to our state coordinators.
      Norfolk, Virginia, USA
      FLL Coach and Regional Tournament Head judge since 2014


      • #4
        Last weekend the two roving helpers were a LEGO certified trainer and a 20 year FLL coach/mentor/ref. I don't know who I'm working with on Saturday. Someone equally experienced I imagine. We have a lot of volunteers that have been involved in FLL almost since the beginning.

        I think last Saturday was the first event with Roving Helpers, It was a special tournament for St Paul public schools with around 60 teams. The Minneapolis public school tournament next Saturday will be about the same size and I think it will have two roving helpers. I'll be wearing my red shirt that identifies me a s a judge. I think I'll also have a funny hat with lights to make me easy to spot..

        Roving helpers only helped with the robot game. At these tournaments judges are already performing the role of helper. In the past I've taught teams how to write a my block or helped them refine their attachments or game strategy. The main difference between being a design judge and a Roving Helper is that on Saturday my schedule is more flexible and I don't have to fill out evaluation forms.

        I think Saturday will be the last appearance of Roving Helpers this season. I doubt anyone will play that roll at the state tournaments. I hope Roving Helpers reappear at next season's qualifier tournaments.
        Last edited by Dean Hystad; 01-22-2019, 12:34 PM.


        • #5
          Teams that are in need of help from a Roving Helper at an event are those that are really struggling, which you'd probably only find at qualifier events. It probably wouldn't and shouldn't be needed in any district/regional/state events. If the goal is to help them score SOMETHING on the table, then you're probably not worried about advancement at that point, so I think suggesting strategy, coding, and mechanical help are all appropriate. The point is helping them have a good experience, so help as much as needed.


          • #6
            The Minneapolis public schools tournament will have 76 teams making it the biggest tournament in Minnesota. It is treated like five small tournaments all held at the same time. I judged at this tournament last year and it fills the building to capacity. Teams are split into five divisions and each division has their own judging groups. There will be a project award for each division, design award for each division, etc. When I started FLL we didn't have half as many teams in the entire state!

            I'll be working with two other Roving Helpers. Together we have about 60 years of FLL experience and probably coached or mentored teams numbering in the hundreds.
            Last edited by Dean Hystad; 01-23-2019, 03:26 PM.