FIRST LEGO League Week 7: A Very Special Team

Natures Fury logo

This blog series shares the journey of Tech Crew, a FIRST LEGO League team competing in this year’s challenge, Nature’s Fury.

We are three meetings away from competition. Three. And the team is in its first stage of panic mode. Missions sometimes work (or not), the project is almost done (or not) and the reality that this group of scrappy, inquisitive sixth graders will compete against many other teams that have more resources and experience has become like a big, black cloud threatening to rain on our perfectly planned parade.

But in fact, I’m confident that the programming and mechanical design will work very well during The Game aspect of this competition. And The Project component is just about complete, with the team having to present their solution to a couple of experts as well as practice how they want to deliver it to the project judges. A bit more practice is needed for Core Values judging – showing others the team can work together when given an unknown task to address within a very short time period.

There’s the logistics of it. But in this post, I want to focus not on the challenge itself, but on the children, and what they’ve gotten from the experience.

Why did Jack, Katelyn, Logan, Madigan, and Sam become involved with this year’s challenge? What did they want to get out of the program, and is it shaping their career goals and aspirations? What’s been the most frustrating part of the challenge? The most fun? I sat down with the kids to ask.

According to Sam, Jack and Logan programming a robot to do exactly what they want is simply ‘cool.’ Using Joey the robot to wreak havoc over Lego buildings is a bonus.

Katelyn loved the project research, presentation, and t-shirt design, while Madigan said the team provides an opportunity get away from her little brother and spend time with a good friend. Madigan, who hadn’t worked with Legos prior to joining the team, appreciates the new experience. Everyone agreed that spending a couple of hours every Sunday away from chores is a bonus.

And career aspirations? This may be a bit too far ahead for a group of sixth graders, but some generalities emerged. Katelyn still wants to be a marine biologist. Sam and Logan want to pursue something in the technology field. Jack loves sports, but thinks that likely won’t be his ticket to financial freedom and has decided to learn about other opportunities, including engineering. Madigan wants to pursue her passion with all things related to animals and is thinking animal biologist.

What’s been the most frustrating and the most fun? The two seem to be linked, perhaps because with great effort comes great reward. Programming and missions have been incredibly frustrating for the kids (when the Joey doesn’t perform as programmed, groaning and wildly tossing objects in the air). But this was often combined with ecstatic high fives and loud cheers when things finally got worked out.

As for frustration around The Project, it’s been getting ‘experts’ to return emails and phone calls.

I’m not that worried, because these kids continue to amaze me in everything they’ve set out to accomplish for this year’s challenge. My goal as a coach in the remaining weeks is to help the team understand it’s okay to be worried – but to not lose sight of what they’ve accomplished.

So pop open those umbrellas, folks. Because no rain is going to ruin this parade. Whatever or however it happens, this group of sixth graders can walk away with heads held high and the knowledge they did indeed give it their absolute best.

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