This year I decided to take on a new challenge – starting a FIRST Lego League robotics team for my Grade 4-6 division. We have had a robotics program in the high school that I am connected with for the past 2 years, so I thought it would be great to get students developing some skills to feed into the high school program.
Last November at ECOO I attended a session on LEGO Robotics which got my gears turning and thinking about how I could introduce it at my school after seeing what was possible. After gaining the support of the admin and getting some funding I had 2 large boxes of LEGO in my classroom in September and lots of excited kids. We were all newcomers and… I had heard about how great the program was and done a little bit of research on the internet but really didn’t know what I was getting into! Word of advice to anyone else thinking about starting a team – find a mentor! The support provided by FIRST is excellent but nothing beats someone in your neighborhood to visit you!
The learning curve has been steep but it has reminded me that problem solving especially open ended, like the FIRST Lego League missions are can be very rewarding when the right parameters are present. Initially, I struggled with how to keep all of the kids engaged during practices because they all wanted to work on the robot but I had 20 kids and 2 robots. After attending the Robotics Symposium a few weeks ago my strategy for running my sessions totally changed and our ability to break into smaller groups to work on attachments has made all of the difference in keeping everyone on task during practice.
Tonight, my team completed their first mission successfully! Our competition is coming quickly (Dec 3) so I was starting to feel the pressure that we would go and be totally embarrassed by not completing any missions. The mission that they have completed is actually one of the more challenging missions in my opinion for a rookie team because it involves using an arm. They were able to move the food from the base to the table and get it to stay on the table! We have to work on our repeatability but we did it! The cheers that happened in the room after completing the challenge was so rewarding and has made all of the work we have been doing over the past 8 weeks worth it!
Although we may not be as advanced as some other teams, I know that my kids will be proud of what they have accomplished from knowing nothing in September to being about to work together to solve problems like this!