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October 2008


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Michael Blanpied <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Michael Blanpied <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 14 Oct 2008 15:43:44 -0400
text/plain (190 lines)

Thanks, I'm glad it was helpful. And good to know about the ORTOP 
tutorial. With FLL growing at a rate of about 1000 teams/year, there 
are lots of rookie coaches and the need for all sorts of material!

VADCFLL posts are archived at the URL at the bottom of this email. 
The archive goes back to October 2007, which must be when the 
listserv moved to JMU.


>That posting was so helpful!  Do these get left posted somewhere 
>after the competition, or should I print out Mike's response and 
>save it?  I too am completely new with a completely new and very 
>young (4th graders) team.  We are just trying to figure out how to 
>put the robot together at this point!  We are not competing this 
>year, but hoping to learn the ropes so we can compete next year.  By 
>the way, I have the Unofficial Guide.  It does have some useful 
>tips.  The combination of it, the coaches handbook, and the advice I 
>have gotten from people seem to be very helpful.  Any one of them 
>alone is not enough.  The other thing that is great is the ORTOP 
>programming tutorial that someone told me about.  Do a web search. 
>It is much easier to understand than the Robot Educator one.
>Anne Geraty
>From: First Lego League Discussion on behalf of Michael Blanpied
>Sent: Tue 10/14/2008 12:33 PM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: [VADCFLL-L] Help with FLL Please!
>>On Tue, Oct 14, 2008 at 11:14 AM, Sarah Brown
>><[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>   Hi everyone,
>>>   This is my first time coach and I am feeling a little lost!  It was a last
>>>   minute decision to get a group of students together and compete this year
>>>   in FLL.  Seeing as how the competition is in November, I'm starting to
>>>   feel the pressure!  Any suggestions???  We have met about 3 times and the
>>>   students have a working robot with the NXT kit.  I have some questions if
>>>   anyone can help me!
>>>   1.  Do the NXT Robots have to be built a specific way for competition?  Or
>>>   is it up to students how they build it?
>>>   2.  With the climate missions this year, do you compile 1 program that the
>>>   robot is designed to do ALL Missions within taht ONE program?  Or can you
>>>   do a series of programs to accomplish the missions?
>>>   3.  I know I have a lot of reading and researching to do but is there
>>>   something someone would suggest as a starting point?
>>>   Any help would be SO appreciated!!!
>>>   Thanks!!!
>>>   Sarah
>You are dealing with a time crunch and a steep learning curve at this
>point, but do take solace in the assurance that no matter how
>inexperienced and far behind you and your team may be, there are
>others more so! :)
>Robert Haskins had good answers. My off-the-top-of-my-head advice is:
>- Read the FLL coaching guide (that came with the field model kit)
>from cover to cover. It will give you the lay of the land in terms of
>the requirements, your role as coach, how to manage the team, and
>what to expect at the tournament.
>- Remember that it's about fun and learning, not winning. You'll
>facilitate both, and they'll have a good time at the tournament, if
>you keep them focused and work with them to set reasonable,
>achievable goals in terms of robot work and research
>- Map out the rest of the short season in terms of meeting times and
>milestones. Talk with the parents to find out when the kids can meet.
>You didn't say how big the team is, but if it's big, it may be
>effective to have a whole-team meeting once/week and some smaller
>gatherings at other times. Smaller gatherings are especially good if
>you have a rambunctious group and/or have just one robot to share
>among many kids. Make agendas before each meeting, review them with
>the team at the start of the meeting, and stick to them. It may be
>effective to have separate meetings about robot and research, or to
>divide a meeting (an hour on each, say), or to divide the kids so
>that some work on robot while others work on the project.
>- Recruit the parents to help, in multiple ways:  Have at least one
>on hand to help work with the kids during meetings. Tell them about
>the kids' between-meeting action-items (e.g., looking up information,
>contacting an expert, plotting some data, designing a robot
>attachment) and get them to help the kids remember to do it. Have
>them bring snacks to the meetings. Have them make up t-shirts for the
>team. Have them work with kids on the research project or robot
>programming, if they have the aptitude.  The more the parents are
>engaged, the better things will turn out and the less stressed you'll
>- Many teams use the basic robot design that comes with the NXT kit,
>or modest adaptations of it. But the design is completely open-ended.
>Many missions can be solved without the use of sensors, though they
>may enjoy using the touch or light sensor. The NXT kit comes with
>simple examples that teach the use of these sensors. See also the
>excellent suite of examples called Robot Educator that are in the NXT
>programming software itself: click the Lego piece in the upper-right
>corner of the programming screen.
>- If you have multiple NXT kids available, clone that robot (at least
>once) so that different pairs or trios of kids can work separately.
>Do a bit of simple programming on your own until you understand how
>to write a rudimentary program to make the robot drive around, so
>that you can coach them on programming.
>- For the robot missions, choose a small number of the easiest ones
>and concentrate on those. The team may want to solve everything, but
>that's not realistic for a novice bunch starting late. It's better
>that they arrive at the tournament with a small number of missions
>that are nailed down, than a mish-mash that may fail in the clutch.
>Some of the easier missions include:  trigger the storm; push the
>nearest carbon ball into the reservoir; put the red/white and
>gray/blue people in their intended spots; move the bike, laptop and
>insulation to the green area; move the polar bear and snowmobile to
>the research area. Most teams have the robot leave Base several times
>to accomplish different things, and controls each excursion with a
>separate program. Those programs can be pretty simple; e.g., for a
>simple push-the-object mission, it might be just three or four Move
>blocks, the last one bringing the robot back to Base. Sometimes a
>different pair of kids will be in charge of each of those excursions,
>and will take turns standing at the table.
>- Check YouTube for innumerable videos showing robots doing missions
>in prior FLL years (search for "first lego league" or "FLL". Some of
>them show wonder-robots that solve everything, and some are more
>modest. That will give you a sense of the logistics and dynamics of a
>match, and also the vast range of robot designs and mission-solving
>strategies that kids can dream up.
>- Keep things organized. Keep backups of the programs, clean and set
>up the mission table at the end of each meeting, have the kids keep
>simple notes on the status of missions they're working on, and keep
>their attachments in a safe place. Reserving some time at the end of
>each meeting for clean-up and note-taking can help a lot. Plus they
>can show their binder of notes to the Project and Robot Design judges
>at the tournament.
>- Keep the project and presentation simple. Identify a
>straightforward problem related to climate, one that interests them.
>Have them talk to an expert, brainstorm a solution, and think up a
>fun way to present it. Our team has chosen to do skits each year, but
>some do posters, some do 'newscasts', some do songs or dances.
>Anything goes so long as it involves the team, conveys the
>information, and takes no more than 5 minutes.
>- If you aren't sure whether the kids are doing something 'legal' in
>how they're designing the robot, solving the missions, or doing their
>presentation, ask us.
>Feel free to email or call if you want to chat or to bounce ideas.
>Mike Blanpied
>Reston, VA
>2006 Nano People #4809
>2007 Power Bunnies #1666
>2008 {Name TBD} #5013
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