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November 2013

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From:
Brittany Rose <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Brittany Rose <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Tue, 12 Nov 2013 08:23:49 -0500
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Good morning,

Although I have only coached for two years, I have volunteered with VA/DC FLL for more than a decade and I would like to offer an additional perspective from having seen many, many teams compete over the years.  Older teams (division 2) aren't always stronger or more successful than those teams with younger kids (division 1).  In fact, unless something has changed in recent years, Virginia is only one of two regions that even has age divisions.  While I personally am a fan of them despite the fact that it makes tournament coordination more difficult (thanks, Karen Berger, for managing the craziness!), many regions don't feel compelled to separate their teams because they find that some of their most successful teams are younger and they are not disadvantaged in competing against older kids.  In fact, it is by no means unheard of for states to send young teams that would be considered division 1 in Virginia/DC to the World Festival because they win their championship tournament.  A successful young team is not synonymous with a team that has inappropriate coach involvement.

That being said...are there coaches from both division 1 and division 2 teams that commandeer programming from the kids or are otherwise inappropriately involved?  Absolutely and shame on them!  Unfortunately, we see it every year and it is completely counter to the FLL core values.  Curt is right on the money, though, when he says that judges are trained to recognize an overabundance of adult participation - this comes out very clearly in the robot design judging and is often observed openly by roaming core values judges.  Teams who do not do the work themselves are fairly easy to identify and they do not receive awards.  

Thank you to all of my fellow coaches out there and to all of the tournament volunteers for creating such an incredible experience for our kids.  FLL is an amazing program!

Cheers,
Brittany

P.S. - I want to second Curt's encouragement to volunteer at an upcoming regional qualifier or the championship tournament.  I firmly believe that every coach - and subsequently their team - can benefit from participating in, and truly understanding, the process from the other side.

On Nov 12, 2013, at 1:49 AM, Curt Tran wrote:

> Hi Everyone,
> Please allow me to address this subject if I may.  This is my personal opinion and in no way an official response or a view of FIRST nor FLL.
> With over 20,000 teams in over 70 countries, FLL has grown into an international phenomenon.  Please don’t forget that FIRST was founded by Dean Kamen.  He is truly a very smart man, and we can only assume that he has surrounded himself with some very bright people to help manage FIRST and FLL.  As such, we can be assure that they must have seen these issues and made adjustment to FLL over the years to deal with them.  FLL takes adult intervention very seriously, and as such on the very first page of the coaches’ handbook after the FLL’s Core Values is the Coaches’ Promise #2 of “The children do the work.”  Adult coaches and mentors are guides, helping the kids find the answers.  FLL judges at regional and champion tournaments are very wary of teams where adults are overly involved, and will ask questions to determine if the children did the work themselves.
> In the early years, FLL Champion’s Awards were based on four criteria 1) Robot Design, 2) Project Presentation, 3) Teamwork, and 4) Robot Performance with each represented a 25% (or ¼) weight value.  Approximately 4 years ago, FLL Champion’s Awards were changed to base only on the three core judged areas of 1) Robot Design, 2) Project Presentation, and 3) Teamwork with a special criterion that the team has to be among the top 40% score at their regional tournament to receive Champion’s Awards. 
> Many people thought that this was a bad move since the kids were attracted to FLL because of the robot games, and if we reduced the important of winning the Robot Performance that it would ruin the whole concept of FLL.   However, more kids and teams continue to compete at FLL events every year since.  In addition, if we take a careful look at the reason for FLL making the change four year ago, it might answer some of these questions that have been raised.  First, if there was any adult intervention in helping with the design and programming of the robot, a team can get a very high score at the robot game and maybe even winning the Robot Performance award but still might not win Champion’s Award to advance to State.  The kids will have to do very well in all three judging areas to advance to State.  This is where a team is judged by three different set of judges on three different rubrics criteria.  In FLL, the children are expected to do the work.  If there are any adult interventions, it more likely will surface during one of the three judged sessions.  Judges are trained both to give any benefit of the doubt to the children and to recognize an overabundance of adult participation.  A team’s inability to answer questions, or to make robot adjustments without the direct assistance of an adult, will be evident and will impact award eligibility.
> Second, as a team mature and grow into division-II, the children quickly realize that the path to State is more than just winning the Robot Performance award, but to win in all three core judging areas.  This might explain why the older kids put more emphasis on winning Robot Design, Project Presentation, and Teamwork rather than focusing in getting that perfect score on the table games.  This also might help to clarify why the division-I with younger (and rookie) teams might get much higher robot performance scores than those in division-II.  It makes sense since the younger kids are drawn to FLL because of the Lego robot -- and winning the Robot Performance award is much more important to them than working on a research project to solve a real world problem!
> In summary, I would like to remind everyone to keep the children in mind.  The most important thing for you to know about an FLL tournament is that it is supposed to be FUN!  FIRST’s mission is to get children excited about science and technology.  Also remember that these are children who worked hard all season to make it to the tournament.  Treat their accomplishments and their work with respect, and be sure that other does as well.  One negative comment from an adult can have a devastating effect on a team and the children.  I hope that these might answer some of those tough questions that you might have.
> Remember “What we discover is more important that what we win.”
>  
> Best wishes,
> T. (Curt) Tran
> Judges Advisor, GMU Regional ’11, ’12 & ’13
> Judges Advisor, TJHSST Regional ’09
> Mentor Team #5390, Kilmer-I ’09
> Mentor Team #8941, Kilmer-II ’09
> Coach Team #324, Scitobor ’08
> Coach Team #3563, Rabid Llama Lords ’07
>  
> P.S. If you and your team are done with your regional tournament, please consider volunteering for one the remaining tournaments this coming weekend and the State tournament at JMU in December.  We need volunteers for Referees, Judges, and Judges Assistance.  Please contact these tournament directors directly or email me if you want to help with judging at GMU on 11/16 or 11/17.  - Thanks.
> 
> From: Sujata Mohapatra <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask] 
> Sent: Monday, November 11, 2013 9:32 PM
> Subject: Re: [VADCFLL-L] About VADC Tournaments
> 
> My team did very well, even if they did not qualify to the state , they ranked 4th in division II. They are extremely happy, what they got that's their own effort. I just spoke what I observed. I did not mention any one team name. This type of e mail directly to me is not gracious professionalism too. Hope to write a generic e mail. 
> 
> 
> On Nov 11, 2013, at 9:17 PM, [log in to unmask] wrote:
> 
>> Coach,
>>  
>> I understand your frustration and have seen plenty of parents on computers making adjustments to programs at the practice tables--with and without team members.  But in the spirit of the FIRST Core Values, I think such an indiscrete email to the complete LISTSERV does not demonstrate gracious professionalism; discovery vice winning; or learning together.  So I would ask you to consider what did your team discover this year?  Did they master a new skill with the EV3 or NTX?  Did they finally start using the geometry and other math skills they've been taught in school vice 100 guestimations?  Did one of your team members finally get the courage to speak in front of a group of people?  You can never control what other teams do, but you can lead your team in the spirit of the core values, and know that in the long term--they'll be better for the effort.
>>  
>> The idea about a spontaneous programming task might show that some teams are not as good as others at programming, but in the end what does this really serve?  What if a 3rd/4th grade Team completed the spontaneous task better than all the the 7th grade teams?  Then what?  Like the robot game itself, there are too many variables in play with exponential possibilities to say with any certainty that a spontaneous programming task would definitively prove that another team was not following the spirit of the FIRST Core Values.
>>  
>> My third year team is using about 1/10th of the EV3's potential, but it's their bot, their program, their mission, and most importantly their discovery.  They actually used geometry this year....I couldn't be happier.  Best wishes in the future and for your team.
>>  
>> v/r,
>>  
>> James Garner
>> Coach and Pizza Delivery Guy for Team # 5220
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Sujata Mohapatra <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: VADCFLL-L <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Mon, Nov 11, 2013 12:26 pm
>> Subject: [VADCFLL-L] About VADC Tournaments
>> 
>> 
>> Thanks to the all organizers, judges, volunteers for their hard work to make the tournament successful at Chantilly.
>> 
>> 
>> I am coaching a team since last 2 years, but I I have enough experience from coaching teams in other STEM activities (Odyssey of the mind etc.) to guide a team and observe a team. If I understand correctly the main purpose of FLL is to motivate students to involve in STEM and apply to the real world. Last week our team was competing in division II in Chantilly High school. The team  had a sound score on all 3rd round of robot performance. All our team members are very focused and very interested in science, academically very bright. I am working with them since last 6 years and very proud of them. Some of the team members have 3-4 years of NXT programming experience. When they were practicing I realized  how much hard work, perfection, calculation and time management needed to get a good score in the tournament.  In reality most of the teams struggle with managing time of 150 minutes. Last week in Chantilly,most of the division  II ( above 7 grade) could not achieve 200 points in any of the round where 3rd/4th grader rookie team got a consistence score in all 3 rounds above (250- 390). Unbelievable! 
>> 
>> Sorry to ask this question to the coaches who are programming the robot for their teams, Are you giving chance to the kids to learn or your main priority is to get an award and proceed to the next level? Definitely, FLL Core value does not allow this.
>> 
>> FLL should give a spontaneous robot task to the teams to program and run the robot during the robot design and programming judging time to test the ability of the team. 
>> 
>> Thanks.
>> 
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