FIRST LEGO League Week 12: The Competition

It began like any December Sunday in Minnesota – below zero temperatures and a winter storm warning. The car was loaded with all the parts and pieces, charts, laptops, batteries and snacks to get the Tech Crew through the next nine hours. Competition day had arrived after 12 weeks of building, programming and researching. 

While the team was unloading the car in the wind and snow, trying not to slip on the ice, I was wondering how we got lucky enough to have chosen this particular day from the dozen or so dates available to us for regional competition. 

Regardless, team T-shirts on, game face and attitudes in place, we were ready to face whatever the day delivered. At least this was what I fervently hoped.

The team selected a motto – Powered by Brains. It worked, because when all the scores were finalized, the Tech Crew walked away with the judges’ technical Robot Design Award. To say we were shocked is an understatement. 

It’s probably one of the proudest moments I’ve experienced, watching this group of sixth graders jump up, run to the stage and accept the award, and then watching them congratulate other teams who also participated in competition. Positive sportsmanship.   

Overall, we placed fourth out of the 16 teams that competed in our bracket – missing the opportunity to advance to state competition by two spots. 

The above photo of the Tech Crew was taken at the competition. From left to right there’s: 

Sam the creative thinker. He had some crazy ideas, and although we would laugh at them, the group did modify and use some of those ideas throughout the game. 

Logan the implementer. The team came up with a lot of “unique” programming ideas throughout the season. And no matter how crazy or difficult the request, Logan had the ability to break the request down into programming parts so the team could at least attempt it.

Jack the buckle-down guy. When the team would lose focus, I’d look at Jack and he would instantly tell everyone, “Folks, we need to buckle down and get to work. Focus!”

Katelyn the researcher. The never-say-no kind of gal who had zero worry about grabbing a phone and leaving messages for anybody she and Madigan thought would be helpful to our research. Because of that, the team had meetings with the mayor and fire chief of our selected community.

Madigan the light bulb. The team was frustrated. No matter what we did, that robot could not push the lever in such a way to raise the house for a particular mission. We were ready to give up when a quiet voice asked, “Why can’t we pull rather than push the lever?” Light bulbs and smiles… a solution was found.

More on the Tech Crew:

I had no experience in design, programming, or leading a FIRST team. It didn’t matter. I had the desire to try. And to keep trying when things got tough, because they did. But things always got resolved. We just kept plugging along. 

I watched these kids transition from a group of individuals to a cohesive team. Throughout the season and during competition I watched them battle nerves, manage disappointment and celebrate with kindness. It was very inspiring. 

And that’s why you should take the time to get involved. Mentor, coach, or volunteer at regional games. Whatever you can offer is appreciated and needed.

It was an incredible journey, an amazing day, and now, thankfully, the season is a wrap. 

Until next year.

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