Sunday, February 7, 2016

FLL Update: The End of One Season, and Looking Forward to the Next

Combined, the teams that make up Searsport-Area FLL.
The end of 2015 brought the end of another exciting FIRST LEGO League season.  This year, we fielded two teams under the Searsport-Area FLL umbrella:  Team 2956, the LEGO Lords; and a new rookie team, Team 17380, the Trash Trekkers.  The season's theme was Trash Trek, and the teams spent the last few months learning about all of the trash we generate, what happens to it, and what we can do to make a difference.  Their research projects were impressive, especially given how young both teams still are.  The LEGO Lords came up with an idea for a dishwasher accessory to help wash plastic storage bags to reduce the amount we throw away, and the Trask Trekkers came up with a campaign to reduce the amount of seals that get caught and killed in plastic strapping.  Both teams presented their projects with great enthusiasm, and came up with songs to support their solutions.  Both teams scored very well in the research component of the competitions.

Teamwork Award, earned by
Team 17380 at the Old Town
FLL qualifier.
Speaking of competitions, we had two of them this year!  Given the growing number of FLL teams in the state of Maine (89 this year versus 72 last year), three preliminary qualifying sites were adding around the state, where roughly two-thirds of the teams from each would advance to the state competition.  We competed at the qualifier in Old Town, and both teams advanced on, despite some issues we had in the Robot Game portion.  Team 17380 also came away with the teamwork award!

The last few weeks of the season were hectic.  Both teams decided to rebuild their robots after the qualifier, and making the programming adjustments for new equipment and new routes went down to the very last second.  The teams also did some last-second research to shore up their presentations, and we added some elements to our practices to help us assess our Core Values.  The hope was to focus on the things we needed to improve on to boost our scores.

Mechanical Design Runner-Up Award, earned by Team 2956
at the Maine FLL Championship (and which they promptly
made a robot out of!)
And it worked!  Team 2956 excelled in the Robot Game portion, finishing inside the top 15.  Team 17380's strong showings in the research project and Core Values helped boost their scores.  Overall, Team 2956 finished in 20th place, and came away with the Mechanical Design runner-up award.  Team 17380 finished in 30th, out of 89 teams in the state, for the season.  I would say that this season was a success!

Team 2956 presenting their research project at the Maine FLL
I'm also excited that students are able to share what they do in LEGO League with others.  In December, team members from SES (all fourth graders) were able to share with their classmates all that they accomplished this year, and I have demonstrations lined up for the East Belfast and Nickerson schools this week!  I'm hoping that Searsport-Area FLL continues to grow and be inclusive and expose students to exciting opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math!

I'm already very excited about next season.  The only thing we know at the moment is that next year's theme is Animal Allies, and knowing how much children love animals, and seeing that one of our teams chose to focus on a Trash Trek project involving animals, I think that this is a wonderful theme that will get students engaged in the research project.

Going forward, we're going to need more help to ensure that our success continues to grow.  I am projecting a need for at least a third team next year, and maybe even a fourth.  I know that I was not the only one among our coaches and mentors that felt overwhelmed with how much was needed to make this season what it is, so please email me if you are interested in being a part of the team next season.  We need you!

Searsport-Area FLL will stay quiet for the next few months.  Preparation for next season will begin sometime in April.  Stay tuned for updates on spring practices, informational nights, team registrations, and upcoming fundraisers!

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