|The gang when they were 10. The little mascots in the front|
were 5 and always assumed they would become 'robot people'
when they got older. They are my champion FLL team now
I am still just mystified at how Dean Kamen and Woodie Flowers invented a competition that could get kids to do this. In a world where opening up CNN in the morning can just depress you to no end, I feel like writing this blog to express that there is good out there and where to find some of it. One of our casketeers recently met Woodie Flowers (retired MIT prof of mechanical engineering) on a boat tour to Antarctica and wrote me about it in January. She asked him about his work in robotics but he was way too humble. He should have said that he had discovered the secret sauce to inspire kids to try to solve the world's pressing problems. Dean Kamen, the inventor of the insulin pump, when asked about his greatest accomplishment immediately says "FIRST". 400,000 kids a year learning to work hard for months to solve difficult problems together. The dividends will be amazing.
|Winning Alliance Teams - we were the Winning Captain.|
I think they have doubled in size and now I have to look up at them
These were the first two of six awards they have brought home
this season - realizing that not even half the teams get any.
|This stuff coordinates so well with my interior design!|
year my butt!!' I had to beam. Not because the team had just won the entire robot game and all-around award, but because they had done it almost entirely alone. Nine teens organizing themselves, learning a complex computer/robot system in a few months and mastering it against veteran teams (some with 60 members!). You can't buy that kind of experience and what that means for their lives.
Their first event was in October, two days after the Casket Tour and they had been sending me update texts while I was on the lecture podium at Winterthur. Pictures of a robot they were proudly building kept 'pinging' in my pocket. I got home exhausted after the tour and lo-and-behold, instant robot. Drove them to the rookie training event the next day and the coordinators wouldn't let them in the door at first, not believing that they were a new team. They were holding a working, scoring robot and everyone else brought half-assembled parts. My team had hastily invented a scrimmaging robot because the parts for their design weren't going to arrive for three weeks. They told me that they didn't want to embarrass themselves, so they designed a new robot. At that point I really didn't understand what the State coordinators were saying when they told me that they were an impressive team after I joked that I was useless and now a 'credit card with wheels'.
Our reach goal this year was to make it out of the local qualifier to the state competition. Not to be in the finals of the state competition. And where was I? I was teaching embroidery and lecturing at Williamsburg (never thinking they would get that far). Stopping every time my phone buzzed to read the latest update from the robot pits from some excited parent. This blog is partially for that group of stitchers to get a better update. They watched me pace the room, freaking out getting text messages like "robot broken" "all-fixed" "won match" "650 points" "Made it to semi-finals" "Won" "In the finals!" "Tied 1-1". and then dead silence as everyone at the games phones ran out of batteries. Yes - I was a mess. Finally, a message from a number I didn't have programmed in my phone with one mysterious word - "Scranton".
March 17-21, Super East Regional in Scranton, PA. Something we were only hoping for in a few years. These guys were one of seven teams (out of 80) picked to represent MA/NH/ME at the Super Regional in a massive three-day set of super-eliminations. From there, 20 of the 72 teams go on to the World Competition.
I am blown away.
The kids are in six different high schools. They have to coordinate their schedules, get drivers, deal
|They had so much fun this weekend improving|
the robot - now that they have so many wins under
their belt, they decided to make their robot light
up too, like the World's teams they
watch on You-Tube.
So, many of the kids on my teams passed through one school (2 are still there) and that school heard and asked me to put together a trailer to get their kids excited because they are going to launch a program to do this. The secret sauce was to make the game as exciting as the NCAA March Madness. That was the model and very, very smart. Why should we only have events that push kids to ignore their school work and spent 3-hours a night practicing with a ball? One of Dean Kamen's favorite catch phrases is 'this is a game where everyone can go pro'.
When I get emails from kids begging to work at 6:30am - I know they hit the mark.
Here is the trailer describing our team's seasons (so far) to get that middle school 'into the game'. Apparently there was jumping up and down and many, many high-fives for the kids in the trailer. Great to see something that wasn't a ball sport getting kids praise. The Brainstormers are Team 8644 in the video. I was asked several times in Williamsburg if the kids want to do this or if we were making them. You really can't make them drink this type of stuff because they out number you. And apparently if you tell them to take the weekend off (because you are exhausted) - they show up anyways. The day after those kids won a spot to the Super Regional - they immediately tore apart the robot and rebuilt it to be better and faster. Those kids who showed up at 6:30 am - they improved it so much that I would say it is supercharged now. I thought that they were getting tired of the season after eight months of every weekend. They are so energized that if I said that they had to build a rocket to the moon to compete, we would ride the rocket all the way there.
On to Scranton!! Wish them luck.