It started with an innocent email this past May. “Information meeting for FIRST LEGO League.” As a parent, I was intrigued. Anything that develops interest in design, science, engineering and team work in my two middle-school-aged children must be a good thing.
The FIRST LEGO League is a robotics program for kids interested in problem solving, robotics and engineering. But it’s more than building Legos, it’s about learning to work together to develop solutions. Learning how to research, locate experts, conduct interviews, and deliver a formal presentation to a panel of judges.
This year’s challenge is called Nature’s Fury. More than 200,000 children ages nine to 14 from over 70 countries will explore the storms, earthquakes, waves and more, that can conspire against us in the form of natural disasters.
Teams will learn what can be done when these intense natural events occur in places where people live, work and play. They must design robots for recovery and rebuilding missions, as well as do research into how communities can better prepare or recover from these environmental events.
I am no engineer. I am not a programmer. I do not understand most scientific principles, and math is definitely not one of my special talents. And, worst of all, I never played with Legos as a child.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. All you need is a willingness to learn, the ability to focus kids, a bit of creativity, and a lot of patience,” the more seasoned coaches assured me at the meeting.
And so begins my journey as a FIRST LEGO League coach. Step one was to determine team size, get everyone registered and request a team number. The next step was to confirm meeting dates and times.
This week I picked up my five boxes containing the pieces and parts to build the robot, the hundreds of Legos required to build the 10 separate missions for this year’s robot game, the software, the playing field mat, and most importantly, the handbook for coaches.
I’ll have five eager kids—Sam, Jack, Logan, Katelyn and Madigan—arriving at the house in one week, and I still have to finish building the playing field, understand the general rules of this year’s challenge, and outline how we as a team will manage the next three months.
I’m curious about how everyone will work together as each child brings a very strong personality – from take-charge Katelyn to the easy-mannered, quiet Logan. Madigan and her calm personality will keep everyone sharing ideas without hurting feelings, Jack is the true Jack of all trades, and Sam brings with him the ability to think outside the box, with some unconventional (yet highly practical) ideas.
This blog series will share with you the journey of Tech Crew, Team #10961, as we progress through all that’s required for this year’s challenge. Our competition is scheduled for early December. Wish us luck. And let the games begin.