Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I Think I Have Created Monsters...

So the World Championship was finished three weeks ago and yes, I have news but I am not ready to talk about it yet.  It isn't actually over and that is part of the story.  Maybe later this week.  I hope.  Thanks to everyone who has emailed me.

But before we left, we took down the robot room and cleaned it up.  Moved the field into closets and put the furniture back.  There was just one little table off to one side with the robots on it and the rest of the room was empty and back to normal.  And CLEAN.  We could watch movies together again with the couch in the right place.  No food wrappers hiding under piles of papers, there was space to walk, play ping pong/pool and our vacuum wasn't sucking up screws anymore.

Well, at the World Championship there are 120 or so First Lego League teams, 128 First Tech Challenge teams, about 100+ cute little Lego League Junior teams (they are six years old) and about 400 enormous First Robotics Challenge teams.  So just tens of thousands of kids and their mentors.  It takes up all the venues in a big city and there are screens everywhere bunched together running the live stream from the other venues simultaneously so you can check in on what is going on in other divisions while you are in yours.  Well, my younger son Andy was there of course and he is captain of his FLL team.  You know that he barely missed going to Worlds this year and is a bit miffed at that as his system was quite good.  We never expect that they would do well at Worlds if they made it there because the USA rules cut the age off at 14 but the rest of the world can field lego teams as old as 16.  And that 14 to 16 years old difference is enormous in cumulative ability.  So it was quite a surprise to see that if they had gone, they could have ended up 7th with the system as it was in December (without working another four months straight on it).

So that created a monster.

When we came back he started looking up the videos from the live stream.  Then identifying the top teams and finding You-Tube videos they had posted showing their systems working with more close ups.  Analyzing them every morning over breakfast.  Then the LEGOS came out again in the family room and he started building.  He knows that competition field forward and back for this year and he started building different concepts for detachable robots, exoskeletons that fit over the robot, etc.   In one case the winning team had a 5 second animation where their robot was built from the ground up in the LEGO designer program (think a CAD program for legos) as a insert in a larger video.  Well, over a two hour stretch with his team mate, they froze frame the you-tube video and figured it out and built the darn robot to understand the concept that group had used.  They are now on the third iteration of that concept making it their own.

The team mate who lives next door has been watching the same videos this weekend on our TV and going ballistic with excitement at some of the out of the box ideas.  Started their research notebook for next year's challenge already in Google Docs and shipped the notes off to all the other kids.  This next year the challenge is "HydroDynamics" - the water system and its challenges (think Flint).  They are looking up waste water treatment plants and contact info for me to try to arrange them meetings already.  Krikee!

Then yesterday I spent 11 am - 3 pm up in my attic office catching up on Frostings work.  Little did I know what was going on downstairs.  At a nice dinner with my husband last night he mentioned that 'the table is back'.  I said 'what?'  So he proceeded to tell me that while he was working on a little home repair project, the two young boys came through the shop getting the drill and saw horses and carrying out the wood that makes the FLL competition field.   Amused, he told me that they had set it all up, found the matt in the closet and put all the mission modules on it as well as a folding table as a work space.  All he did was answer a question on drill bits.  Gone was our clean media room and it was back to being a robot room.

Those little monsters wanna win.

And I didn't tell you that they spent Jan-April building a metal robot to do the challenge that the big kids were doing.  By the time we left for Worlds, it could do many of the things on the field and might have progressed from a qualifier to the state level.  We were happy as they were learning the metal robot division skills and were keeping busy while we were so preoccupied with the big team.  They would use it as a nuisance robot to drive against the big kids to improve their practice.

Yikes.  Roboting is becoming a year-round thing.

My clean room is no more.  I have no idea what those kids are planning as I just saw they did this.
Season doesn't start again until September.  
The black thing in the foreground is the replica of the winning robot
from St. Louis a few weeks ago - a German team that was amazing.


  1. What they are going to do is research, build , fail, build ,fail and build again. Until they can compete against 16 year olds. Because they love the competition and the science. Commitment, couriosity and determination are valuable traits, so well done to them and you.

  2. I have been out of the loop. Just catching up.

    As I read the stuff about your robot kids, I can't get Chitty Chitty Bang Bang out
    of my mind. "From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success". Sounds like a good song for them! After all, after many disasters that car flew....