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If you were starting a team to compete academically...?

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Dh and I are going to be coaching a FIRST LEGO League team again this year. We will not be joining the local homeschool team and working with them for various reasons. So we have the opportunity to start over from scratch.


So, we plan to make some major changes to the structure of the team. The primary change will be that it is no longer going to be exclusive to homeschool students. With that in mind, and since we will have some kids on this team that are returning from our team last year, what type of expectations would you want to have in place for behavior and participation?


Last year there were ISSUES. The HS group that we were a part of kept the kids coming to large group meetings for a solid month before breaking up the teams. Other issues were that the boys who participated didn't do equal amounts of work. Several were more like saboteurs. The boys on the team last year will be given the chance to join this team, with the possible exception of one who is 12. He would pull the whole group up to the upper age division, which might not be a bad thing... there seemed to be less cheating in that age group.


So, if you have coached an academic group, what advice do you have for starting over with this group.

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When you say the academic group are you talking about the research project part?


I do have some suggestions of how you can do that. We won for our research project last year. I just wanted to know what direction you were looking for in the program.


Just to tell you, I had so many issues with my team. Every year I have some sort of issue. I feel like crying if I told you what happened with our team this past year. Sigh.


Let me know.





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I've seen problems in every group in which we've ever been involved. Working as a group is always going to involve problems, however, and that's true in organized school settings as much as in Lego League.


I think the best way to handle those is to talk about them with the group, to tell them (again and again) what is being asked of them, what is expected, what is acceptable and not acceptable (without singling out individuals or hurting feelings, hopefully). Only constant reminders are going to keep everyone focused and on track.


I'm not sure what you're referencing with regard to "breaking up the teams". We've always been told that they want everyone to participate in every aspect of the team: i.e., all are to participate in programming, running the board, research and presentation of the project, etc.


Do you perhaps mean breaking up the children into the different age groups, of Junior First and FLL? If so, I see no reason for the different age groups to ever meet together as their goals are quite different for the year. If you're not starting in the summer or very beginning of the school year to get ready for Lego League, a month is an especially huge portion of time to waste....


I'd send out a letter of expectations to any interested in joining the group and ask them to sign a committment to the goals of the group for the year. I'd ask both the parents AND the participants to read and sign. I'd also provide strongly worded information to the parents about keeping hands off and directing only, allowing the students to do the actual work of the team.... And I'd start early!

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I am thinking of starting my own group as well. I know nothing.


I had thought I would email the parents of the kids who I would want on the team. I want an all girl team. I will seek diversity else where. I am very picky about who I will select; I am lucky because I know quite a few kids from various activities.

I plan on meeting in the summer a couple of times for three hour segments to "play" with the robot. Then during the challenge to meet weekly in the beginning for two hours, and then the last two to three weeks meet twice a week for two hours.


What are your plans for meeting?

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My friend broke the team up. THey would have team meetings where decisions were made and then during the week, she'd meet with 2-4 kids to work on what ever part of the project was to be worked on that week. She said it kept things manageable that way. I don't see how you can have every person involved in every step. My DS7 loves programming but isn't so much into building the robots. I think it would be important for him to know how the robot was made, why certain decisions were made as for as stability, speed, torque etc but he'd be OK w/out 100% hands-on with the building.

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Unless your state competition is prohibiting it or something, you can have a 12 yo. We had two 14 yos on our FLL team this year. The age limit is 14 yo in the U.S and Canada (and 16 elsewhere.) They can't turn 15 before registration for the year begins, I believe. The next level would be 14-18 yos, so I'm not sure you'd want anyone younger than 12 in that anyway.


I don't know what you mean about large group and teams. Was there more than one team? I would think they would just meet individually every week. Or if you mean breaking up into sub-teams, we did that during parts of meetings, but not until quite a few meetings/weeks in. The first few meetings are about learning about the challenge, doing teamwork challenges to learn to work together, and brainstorming and picking topics. I agree with pp about the team working together as much as possible. At our state event, the judges could ask any team member about any area, and they needed to know what was going on. They asked my shy dd about programming, which is not her area of expertise, but she could answer, because they spent time as a team discussing it.


My kiddos are on a team run by a homeschool mom. It is incredibly organized. We meet in her home. I can't imagine her allowing a saboteur to even remain on the team. It seems like that would be incredibly discouraging to the others. Being on the team is a privilege, not a right. There is a lot of money and work involved, and the boys should be told that up front, and the expectations should be tied to that.

Edited by angela in ohio
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