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Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

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  • #16
    Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

    Originally posted by CCVH View Post
    Ah, if it were only so, that I could just sit back without a lesson plan or itinerary, and they would just get everything accomplished all on their own. But regardless of what many of you say online, computer programming is NOT intuitive and there is no way to discover how to do it without SOMEONE teaching. It may be me, or an online tutorial or video. At this point, I learn along with the kids, because I don't know any more than they do about the technical side of things. But without my planning the schedule, the lessons, the itinerary, the outline, the calendar of events.... Whatever you want to call it, I have to keep them on task. Otherwise they will get absorbed in some singular aspect of the challenge, or will build some unrelated LEGO contraption to play with, or just spend the whole meeting gossiping about events at school that day. FLL is all about getting a whole lot accomplished in a very short time (shorter every year as the launch gets pushed back and the qualifiers get moved up). This is NOT an environment for kids to just discover at their own pace without a schedule or plan.
    What' you've described is just good coaching.

    What the OP mentioned was solving the missions for himself, so he'd be prepared to give the team hints about how to do what he did.
    That's not what FLL is about.
    FIRST LEGO League Mentor and Referee/Head Referee since 2011.

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    • #17
      Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

      Originally posted by Little-Acorn View Post
      Uh-oh, I got caught being non-PC. Gee, I should be ashamed, right?

      I'm practicing a lot with Legos, bricks, and rules, and researching where I can - which includes asking questions here. I can't coach a bunch of 4th graders on how to do it, if I have no clue how myself. So I do it quietly, where they can't see, and then during our meetings I turn them loose and just offer an occasional hint, while trying to foresee problems - hints I wouldn't have if I hadn't done a whole lot of homework ropes beforehand.

      I hope that meets with your approval.

      (This post has four times as many I's as the one you complained about. Still want to discuss the "I" count? Or can we get back to Legos and FLL?)
      Compliance with the "Kids do the work" rule is not a PC issue. It's a significant point of coach conduct. What the team members learn and experience is what FLL is all about. Giving the team hints is not consistent with FLL's goals.
      FIRST LEGO League Mentor and Referee/Head Referee since 2011.

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      • #18
        Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

        I do believe there are indeed differences to what an adult should convey with respects to "how to make a bot move forward, example program number one"...versus discussing missions, tactics, specific strategy, etc. And that yes, once the season begins, that can be a blurry line for any given team/adult combo. And that every coach should be OK with doing what they think makes the most sense, without much grief from any PC check.

        It is hard to define in text form out on some essentially anonymous forum site, just what each of us means by "hint" or "teach" or "strategy", or "PC", etc. We all may think we could agree on those terms, but every team is a different context with history and dynamic properties of young kids. When is one person's "teaching fundamentals" of strong mechanical joints, another person's "hint" to making a tower-demolition-attachment? Is it just timing? Is it the context of that specific kid and their place on the FLL or engineering design cycle?


        Hey, we have been to events and even met teams up close, that made us think without any doubt - that a coach or some adult went overboard with providing too much influence and robbed that team's opportunity to discover something on their own. So anytime we get a chance (esp this early in the season) to spout off the worthiness of kids-do-the-work, it happens. But yea I get it, kids will only discover so much if they dig with their hands. If an adult can show them what a shovel is, isn't that still a good thing for the team and FLL in general? I say yes.

        The art is how you present the shovel. Do you mention it by name, or in some vague concept notion. Do you go out and buy a shovel and prop it up against the wall. Do you place it in their hand. Do you show them a few first scoops and how to place your foot just so to really press it down. Do you tell them just where to start digging. Do you dig the hole yourself and show them a shovel afterwards, justifying that what they find at the bottom of the hole is the focus and they should not be bothered with the hole-making process. Silly examples, but you see how this is all a continuous measurement on some spectrum.


        Totally separate topic with many costs I understand, but one where I think the FLL season should start in about April for teams. By the August release they may be ready to have a backhoe ready to dig any needed holes and us adults can stand back and watch. However, the real world requires much more compromise than that.

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        • #19
          Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

          As a new rookie coach, I constantly struggle with this myself. Being a rookie team they need some help figuring things out, but even asking a question can be a hint, but I don't want them to get discouraged and give up. The best way I have found to work this balance is keep asking why things happened, and what other ways could they try. Sometimes that leads them way into the weeds and I have to bring them back (once again, could be perceived as interference or guidance but we meet 1-2 hours a week and I need to time manage for them), other times they really have no clue why something isn't working.

          That said, my kids have done Destination Imagination before and its pretty clear that parents have helped with large parts of those projects even though they too preach the "kids do the work" mantra. You can tell what a 9-10 year old would do versus an adult. This is my first year with FLL, I am interested to see how much of that philosophy is really employed. If it is, my kids will have a fair shot and feel good about what they have done. If it isn't I will feel I let them down by not "providing more hints".

          PS: An earlier start would be great, we started a week or 2 before the challenge missions came out so we did some basics on building and programming, but I plan to work on more teaching of concepts in the off-season assuming the kids want to come back, which leads me back to the concern stated above.

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          • #20
            Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

            Main difference I notice when comparing judging at a FLL tournament and judging at DI is that I seldom see kids crying in the hallways at a FLL tournament.

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            • #21
              Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

              Originally posted by pnpgator View Post
              This is my first year with FLL, I am interested to see how much of that philosophy is really employed. If it is, my kids will have a fair shot and feel good about what they have done. If it isn't I will feel I let them down by not "providing more hints".
              "The kids do the work" is taken very seriously. Since coaches aren't allowed to talk with the judges, even when the coach is in the room, it's very easy to pose questions like "So, tell me how you developed your strategy?" or "How did you decide which missions to do", or "How does your team make decisions?" or "That's very clever, how did you invent that mechanism?". If the team replies "Our coach said.." or "My mom built that", it's pretty clear who did the work.

              Yes, there are teams who don't fully comply with the philosophy. That is their loss. This activity isn't about scoring points with a robot.
              Last edited by Tom Mosher; 10-02-2015, 02:15 PM.
              FIRST LEGO League Mentor and Referee/Head Referee since 2011.

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              • #22
                Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

                Originally posted by pnpgator View Post
                As a new rookie coach, I constantly struggle with this myself. Being a rookie team they need some help figuring things out, but even asking a question can be a hint, but I don't want them to get discouraged and give up. The best way I have found to work this balance is keep asking why things happened, and what other ways could they try. Sometimes that leads them way into the weeds and I have to bring them back (once again, could be perceived as interference or guidance but we meet 1-2 hours a week and I need to time manage for them), other times they really have no clue why something isn't working.
                This is my fourth year coaching and I struggle with finding that balance too. Sometimes there are engineering problems (I'm an engineer in my non-coaching life) that I just sooooo obvious to me that it's painful for me to not point them out. Usually I solve that by pointing out where the issue is occurring but not what's actually going on. Like, if the robot's wheels are slipping which is causing a turn to be inaccurate, I'll have them run the program again and ask them specifically watch that certain point. I also ask a lot of questions, "Is that the only way to do that?", "What would be another way to think about that?", "How else could you do that?", "Do we have to do it that way?", "Does the robot always have to start in that direction?". Sometimes a kid will get frustrated or feel silly and give me the "Attack the Mayor with hummus" answer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference that the kids never get...the completely outrageous answer). But that makes everyone smile and releases some tension and usually that will lighten the mood enough that someone thinks up a solution the issue we're facing.
                --
                Fort Worth Robotics - North Texas Region Team #455
                Technical coach, baker of the cookies, keeper of the time, transporter of the travel field walls, finder of the spare parts, maker of the pop culture references that only the other tall people understand.

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                • #23
                  Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

                  Originally posted by Tom Mosher View Post
                  "The kids do the work" is taken very seriously. Since coaches aren't allowed to talk with the judges, even when the coach is in the room, it's very easy to pose questions like "So, tell me how you developed your strategy?" or "How did you decide which missions to do", or "How does your team make decisions?" or "That's very clever, how did you invent that mechanism?". If the team replies "Our coach said.." or "My mom built that", it's pretty clear who did the work.
                  I need some advice regarding "The kids do the work". When it's a matter of a coach or other adult being eager to offer a solution, or, say, an older kid jumping in with advice for a team of younger kids, I'd certainly point out that they need to do their own work.

                  But what about interactions between kids of about the same age? We have two teams at our middle school, each with 6-7 kids. Both teams are a mixed bunch of 6th, 7th and 8th graders -- mainly they're separate simply because we have more kids than can be on one team and we're fortunate enough to have enough coaches to make this work. One team was working on a rack-and-pinion mechanism and was having trouble with it binding. A kid from the other team was walking by and noticed the trouble and was eager to jump in and show them how she had solved a similar problem. Is this OK? If the judges are asking questions at the tournament and the answer is 'My classmate showed me how to do this, but she's actually on a different FLL team', how would that be viewed by the judges?

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                  • #24
                    Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

                    Originally posted by CraigP View Post
                    But what about interactions between kids of about the same age?
                    ...
                    One team was working on a rack-and-pinion mechanism and was having trouble with it binding. A kid from the other team was walking by and noticed the trouble and was eager to jump in and show them how she had solved a similar problem. Is this OK? If the judges are asking questions at the tournament and the answer is 'My classmate showed me how to do this, but she's actually on a different FLL team', how would that be viewed by the judges?
                    I don't see anything at all wrong with that - it sounds like good GP to me. otoh my wife and I are in our 6th year of coaching and we've always had multiple teams meeting and working together. So it sounds normal to me. otooh we may have been doing it wrong all these years.
                    Kansas City Region Head Ref 2014-present
                    KC Region coaches and teams can ask FLL robot game rules questions at kcfllref@gmail.com

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

                      Originally posted by CraigP View Post
                      I need some advice regarding "The kids do the work". When it's a matter of a coach or other adult being eager to offer a solution, or, say, an older kid jumping in with advice for a team of younger kids, I'd certainly point out that they need to do their own work.

                      But what about interactions between kids of about the same age? We have two teams at our middle school, each with 6-7 kids. Both teams are a mixed bunch of 6th, 7th and 8th graders -- mainly they're separate simply because we have more kids than can be on one team and we're fortunate enough to have enough coaches to make this work. One team was working on a rack-and-pinion mechanism and was having trouble with it binding. A kid from the other team was walking by and noticed the trouble and was eager to jump in and show them how she had solved a similar problem. Is this OK? If the judges are asking questions at the tournament and the answer is 'My classmate showed me how to do this, but she's actually on a different FLL team', how would that be viewed by the judges?
                      Who cares? If you have kids helping each other out in a respectful and genial way sit back and enjoy it. As long as everyone is involved an nobody is forcing their design or decisions on others it is a good thing.

                      When I judge a team I am looking at hundreds of different items. Who helped with a problem with a gear rack is only one and has almost no effect on your evaluation. Now if somebody else picked your wheels, and you got your attachment design from a book and that particular solution was copied from a youtube video and on and on until it becomes obvious that there is very little you in your robot, that is a different matter.

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                      • #26
                        Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

                        Originally posted by gt0163c View Post
                        This is my fourth year coaching and I struggle with finding that balance too. Sometimes there are engineering problems (I'm an engineer in my non-coaching life) that I just sooooo obvious to me that it's painful for me to not point them out. Usually I solve that by pointing out where the issue is occurring but not what's actually going on. Like, if the robot's wheels are slipping which is causing a turn to be inaccurate, I'll have them run the program again and ask them specifically watch that certain point. I also ask a lot of questions, "Is that the only way to do that?", "What would be another way to think about that?", "How else could you do that?", "Do we have to do it that way?", "Does the robot always have to start in that direction?". Sometimes a kid will get frustrated or feel silly and give me the "Attack the Mayor with hummus" answer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference that the kids never get...the completely outrageous answer). But that makes everyone smile and releases some tension and usually that will lighten the mood enough that someone thinks up a solution the issue we're facing.
                        I help the team with problems all the time, providing strategies on how to isolate and diagnose what is going on.

                        For example, in Senior Solution the lads had a mission that lifted the execrcise machine, bowled, picked up groceries and medicine. Running the mission from base it began to fail while picking up the groceries. Since the program was nicely divided up into my blocks (findLine, drive2machine, doExercise, bowling, shelf, medicine) I suggested they test each part of the mission independently. Everything worked as expected. Next I suggested they start at the end of the mission and test backward, first performing the shelf and medicine blocks together, then adding bowling and so on. Working this way the mission began to fail when they added on the drive2machine block. Still struggling I suggested they pause between each my block and wait for a button press. It was then that one of the lads noticed the robot wasn't stopping at the expected location after the drive2machine block. drive2machine used line following and for an unrelated task they had changed the line follower so it tracked the right edge of the line instead of the left. The problem wasn't immediately apparent because the doExercise and bowling tasks were well designed and very fault tolerant. The shelf and medicine tasks were less robust and changing their starting conditions lead to failure.

                        I do this all the time when working with teams, so much so that my girls grew wary of asking for help knowing that I would respond "Looks like we need to design an experiment." I think my daughter has finally forgiven me because the cycle of observation, hypothesis, procedure, execution, analysis and conclusion that she is using in her "Introduction to Engineering" course is old hat. She was introduced to engineering 10 years ago.
                        Last edited by Dean Hystad; 10-03-2015, 12:32 PM.

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                        • #27
                          Re: Field Setup: "Loosely place these things in Base..."

                          Originally posted by CraigP View Post
                          I need some advice regarding "The kids do the work". When it's a matter of a coach or other adult being eager to offer a solution, or, say, an older kid jumping in with advice for a team of younger kids, I'd certainly point out that they need to do their own work.

                          But what about interactions between kids of about the same age? We have two teams at our middle school, each with 6-7 kids. Both teams are a mixed bunch of 6th, 7th and 8th graders -- mainly they're separate simply because we have more kids than can be on one team and we're fortunate enough to have enough coaches to make this work. One team was working on a rack-and-pinion mechanism and was having trouble with it binding. A kid from the other team was walking by and noticed the trouble and was eager to jump in and show them how she had solved a similar problem. Is this OK? If the judges are asking questions at the tournament and the answer is 'My classmate showed me how to do this, but she's actually on a different FLL team', how would that be viewed by the judges?
                          Kids helping other kids is a terrific thing.

                          Teaching the team members how to think and solve problems, that is part of the coach's role also.

                          Solving the problems for them, that's where the trouble lies.
                          Last edited by Tom Mosher; 10-05-2015, 03:10 PM.
                          FIRST LEGO League Mentor and Referee/Head Referee since 2011.

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