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First Lego League Families


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Hello Hive,


We had an opportunity to visit a FLL competition . . .


Who are our Hive FLL Families?


We're considering putting in a team for 2010; we have the gear but I wonder how the kids learn the ins and outs of the challenges.


Have you had learning success playing the FLL competitions? I'd like to hear some real-life experiences about FLL.


Warmly, Tricia

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Well, I'm sorry but I'm probably not much help. My older son participated in the programming when he was about 11 or 12, and my younger son is participating now. I try not to really be involved if I can help it! We've been lucky to have engineers working with the kids so I haven't had to really get involved.


I believe there are various websites where you can peruse the set up for this year. The focus is on transportation this year. Theme changes yearly. The last time my younger son participated, he was in a First LL and they worked on nanotechnology that year.


If you have a parent willing to get involved who has programming or engineering knowledge, that's probably the ideal. I'm sure that others can read through the materials and make it through the programming, but I think it might take longer and need a lot more prep time on their part.


There are You Tube videos of kids running their courses, etc., as well, that you might find helpful. Participation of any local math/science teachers, college professors, etc., might be helpful to you.


The best advice I can offer from what I've seen over the years as a spectator is start early, meet often and for meaningful amounts of time, and practice, practice, practice! Constant encouragement for the kids to work as a team and recognize each others talents and allow those to be used for the benefit of the team is also important.


Have fun!

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We did it last year after a year of JFLL.... This year we're off because we were traveling for a month at the beginning of the season, but generally we enjoyed it and we might do it again next year.


For starters I'd say you need to realize that it takes a LOT of time. More than a lot. Last year our team met 3 hours a week (one evening a week) starting in August, and still couldn't get as much done as they wanted -- although that year the State Competition was in November... I think they're more often in January or February, which would have helped tremendously. That was also without counting any of the research work, which was done almost entirely outside meeting times.... If you did the research project during meeting times we could have gone to six hours a week and still come up short. If you have September to January though, I think three or four hours a week could do it, with some extra time for research outside the meetings.


If I were starting a new team, I think what I'd do right now is start identifying possible members and get them to come to FLL events to see what they're in for. That might rule out a few that won't enjoy that sort of competition.... Then whoever is still interested could start meeting even now to learn how to program. It's actually very straightforward as programming goes, but there are issues that experience can iron out -- like whether powering a motor for a set number of seconds is more or less reliable than powering it for a set number of revolutions, what kinds of designs are more or less stable or easier to maneuver... things like that.


I like the Mayan Adventure book for beginners. It has plenty of hints, so you have the option to let them go at it entirely on their own, or give them some starting points to work with, and it gets them using the sensors. Once you're through that, you could either make up some challenges for them, or you could see if you can find a team that would lend you a previous year's setup and instructions so you could see how that goes. Then come next September you'll be all set to start on the new challenge without also having to learn the basics (and with any luck you'll already have some good team dynamics in place, so you won't have to work through the uncomfortable first bits under pressure).


General hints.... I think four to six kids would be an ideal team size, especially if they have different strengths. There isn't a lot of building - in fact there's really hardly any building and no "free" building - and unfortunately you get a lot of people who think "oh my kid likes Legos" and don't hear "it's really about the programming, not the building". You'll do better, both in terms of scoring well and having a happy team, if you have a team with programming skills rather than a team of kids who just "like Legos". And it's ideal for ALL the kids to have programming skills by the time you get the official challenge. It makes it easier to brainstorm when you're all speaking the same language.


Also, while it's officially aimed at 9-14 year olds, it would be a rare nine-year-old that's not going to find it all pretty overwhelming. The deadlines can be very short and the workload pretty heavy, and then just the intensity of the competition day. Ours was a full day from 8am to 5pm in a very crowded convention center, with somewhere to be about every 45 minutes - so very little downtime. By 3pm or so all the kids, even the oldest ones, were really strung out and either tense or goofy... and there were still two hours to go. So if I were out to make a perfect team (LOL) I'd aim for probably at least 11 or 12 year olds, and preferably some really calm and collected ones.


Anyway - hope this helps!!

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This is my fourth year coaching FLL and I honestly can't say enough about the learning opportunities FIRST has opened up to us. I love the fact that the program integrates science, math, engineering, writing, public speaking....and core values. I have seen such amazing growth in my team. Like most things you get out of it what you put in, so it can be a lot of work...but well worth it if you ask me and it can be a great fit for homeschooling families.


If there is anything I can do to help you get started or if you have any questions, please ask.




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As I write this entry, my sons are downstairs working on trying to get the robot to complete all its missions in 2:30 minutes. This is our second year of this program. There is so much to learn. It is called sports for the mind. It truly is a challenge.


Here are some suggestions to help gear up your team:


1. Go to the FIRST Lego League website at http://www.firstlegoleague.org. Look up past missions. Look and see what were the old missions are.


2. Go on youtube and type in the various missions names like Climate Connections or Smart Moves or Power Puzzle. You will see a good number of competitions on there. It is a wealth of knowledge. I particularly love Lego Guards, they are a homeschool group.


3. Learn how to use the sensors for the NXT. That will help a lot in your competitions. The basic NXT comes with basic information, but if you want elaborate stuff for the competition. I would look for any books written by Kelly or if anyone can train your team that would be awesome.


FLL is an outstanding way to utilize every aspect of a child's education. My children have to take notes, research and write papers, apply math, logic, etc.


My sons are truly enjoy the challenges that face them. It definitely has its ups and downs. You can go to my blog at http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/testimony'>http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/testimony and see our team pictures.





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You hivers are something else, in all the good ways.


I'm nervous about taking the plunge, but we bought the NXT II for Christmas and a loaded laptop, so I guess we're going for it.


I think we have enough bright kids in our community that we could give this a go. Now, for a coach. Just praying for a coach. I'm confident that my brain can't get there, but who knows??


Thanks so much!


[still checking out the links from above!]



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Just wanted to jump in here - we are a fourth year team & have enjoyed FLL. We have two technical coaches who are software engineers by profession. Another mom & I work on the research coaching.


You have gotten a lot of good information here - the resources people have pointed you to are excellent. The one thing I would re-emphasize is that to have a successful, competitive team it takes TIME. Our team meets for 3 hours on Friday pm and 3 hours on Saturday morning & it is not enough!


One thing that startles a lot of teams is the necessity for research. There is a large research program that figures heavily into team awards and each team member must participate. Often, the research is done independently and then the team comes back together to discuss what was learned and to put it all together. The kids must self-motivate in order for this to happen - coaches and parents must hold the kids accountable (you can tell what area I've been involved in:tongue_smilie:).


It is a great learning opportunity - next year my son may move on to a FIRST team in our area - and the scholarships available as a result of that program are fantastic!

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