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Tough time choosing project problem

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  • Tough time choosing project problem

    Has anyone else experienced their teams having a particularly tough time choosing a project problem this year? This year's team seems to have struggled more than most.

    Upon reflection, I think there are two contributing factors, both related to the limited focus of this year's theme.

    First, the relatively narrow scope of the project. The kids also feel like in that narrow field, they are being asked to find and solve specific issues that NASA hasn't solved. That's been tough for them.

    Secondly, the lack of connection to the project. Sure, the kids find a lot of things about space interesting, but the problems don't have a direct correlation to them. In previous years, when the themes are somewhat broader, they choose topics of relevance to them -- a "Senior Solutions" problem that relates to one of their grandparents, a "Natural Disaster" local to the region, a "Hydrodynamics" issue that relates to an issue one of them was facing, etc. This year, none of them have gone into space, nor plan to. The closest they came to getting collectively excited about a problem was an idea that hair was particularly problematic in microgravity (they all have hair, and many of them have long hair!)... until researching it more and deciding that it actually wasn't all that problematic.

    I'm just curious is this matches the experience of anyone else.

  • #2
    The team I coach finally settled on a solution about a week ago, and we are now only three weeks out from our regional, but this isn't all that different from previous years. They started the season making a list of possible topics that were all over the board. They quickly selected one highly-technical topic to research and stuck with it for weeks even though it seemed to us coaches like there wasn't anything new they could find in an area that had the real-life solutions all pretty well mapped out and involved scientific knowledge that was beyond them. However, one team member found what initially seemed like a fringe idea that turned out to be an active area of research that hasn't yet been scaled to the size needed for traveling in space. Since then they've interacted with researchers who are sending experiments to the ISS and the team's solution is a scaled-up system that could support a crew of space travelers. We coaches are now excited by what seems like a really cool project solution.

    So, I'd say that there may be alternatives to what you might think NASA has already solved. As for connecting with the project, for our group some of the connection came from things they learned that seemed gross or distasteful but sparked their interest. Also, the challenges of limited space in a vehicle and the need to recycle nearly everything leave some room for creative solutions. That's on the physical side of things. I think there's even more room for creativity on the social angle.

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    • #3
      Also, don't get too worked up on if your team's solution is completely executable. Look over the rubric and make sure you hit all of the requirements.

      Research
      Problem Identification *- Clear definition of the problem being studied
      Sources of Information - Quality and variety of data/evidence and sources cited
      Problem Analysis - Depth to which the problem was studied and analyzed by the team, including extent of analysis of existing solutions

      Innovative Solution
      Team Solution* - Clear explanation of the proposed solution and description of how it solves the problem
      Innovation - Degree to which the team's solution makes life better by improving existing options, developing a new application of existing ideas, or solving the problem in a completely new way.
      Solution - Development Systematic process used to select, develop, evaluate, test, and improve the solution (Implementation could include cost, ease of manufacturing, etc.)

      Presentation
      Sharing* - Degree to which the team shared their Project before the tournament with others who might benefit from the team's efforts
      Creativity - Imagination used to develop and deliver the presentation
      Presentation Effectiveness - Message delivery and organization of the presentation

      Obviously, if your team has an idea that is completely impossible, like using a quadcopter to collect space junk, they may run into problems with the Solution line. But as long as they had a good process to select, develop, evaluate, test and improve the solution as they proceed through the season, they will do fine. And if a judge should ask the team if they asked anyone if quadcopters will work in space, they should say that either they asked some expert and they told them yes or no, or they would say they don't know, or whatever. Even if the answer is, yeah, we asked Buzz Aldrin and he told us that quadcopters wouldn't work in space, your team will get a lot of credit for doing the research. Now, obviously, a solution that is so far off from physics reality such as this may cast some doubt in the judges' minds as to whether they did any research, but if you have documented and included in your presentation all of the research that you did, but never came across anything suggesting that it couldn't work, you should do ok. Maybe you include all of the ideas that your team suggested and talk about your elimination process and how you narrowed down your solution.

      See what I mean? Follow the rubric, don't worry too much about the details of your solution, and you'll do fine.
      Norfolk, Virginia, USA
      FLL Coach and Regional Tournament Head judge since 2014

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      • #4
        Originally posted by rjbell4 View Post
        ... The kids also feel like in that narrow field, they are being asked to find and solve specific issues that NASA hasn't solved. That's been tough for them...
        Every year, teams can solve a problem that has already been solved with a new and better solution. This better solution typically requires some form of innovation.

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