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December 2008


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Michael Blanpied <[log in to unmask]>
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Michael Blanpied <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 12 Dec 2008 11:52:53 -0500
text/plain (147 lines)
I'll weigh in on the thread about the awards ceremony and the role of trophies.

First, I like the parade of teams. It's a way for every team to get
some special attention, no matter how well their work stood up under
competition, and no matter how poorly their robot may have performed
in the same physical space for the same audience, earlier in the day.

Second, I think its appropriate to award plaques and trophies to
exemplary teams and exemplary volunteers. We -like- to see deserving
people get recognized, we -like- to cheer teams to celebrate their
great accomplishments, and we -like- to thank volunteers for their
hard work. FLL already does a nice job of spreading the joy and kudos
by ensuring that single teams earn (at most) single awards. (Yes,
there's the possibility of a second award for robot performance, but
those are different than the judged awards, and the kids understand
that.) I also disagree with Rakesh's proposal that judging be
eliminated be "quantitative criteria will be always preferred." This
does not match the goal of FLL to encourage and celebrate
well-rounded teams and outside-the-box thinking, nor does it match
the real world where science and engineering may be quantitative, but
the choice to employ their results is a judgement call.

Yes, I acknowledge the point that closing ceremonies can be "too much
about the trophies." But the solution is not to eliminate the
trophies. The solution is to increase the -content-!

Teams work hard for all fall to perform original research, to prepare
and practice a compelling presentation, to create unique and clever
strategies for solving table missions, to design and perfect an
autonomous robot, to learn and employ a computer programming language
to drive a robot, and to learn to work together as effective teams.
Judges spend a long day hearing, seeing and exploring these wonders,
and then tackle the Herculean task of deciding among worthy choices
of who will receive plaques and trophies. But despite all this, there
seems to be a reluctance to say even a few words about those things
when handing out trophies.

Awards are often made by simply announcing the team name, failing to
mention what they did to earn the award. Sure, it's great to cheer,
and cheers come from teams disappointed not to have been chosen, but
it would be great to know -why-. In Sterling, the research awards
were given out by team name only, despite cries of "Tell us what they
did!" coming from kids on the floor. This focuses on the trophy as
the thing that matters, and misses the opportunity to educate the
audience, teams and coaches--and to atta-boy the winners--by
mentioning the accomplishments that made them stand out to the
judges. Unless something is said in the closing ceremony, teams will
have very little opportunity to expose their great work to the
receptive, eager audience of fellow FLL'ers, especially at one-day
tournaments given the hectic pace.

It would only take a sentence or two. For example, it would be
terrific to hear something like "Team X built a strong, gear-driven
robot that moved quickly on the table, using LEGO hydraulics to lift
the house. They combined their missions into logical groupings,
organized their programs using MyBlocks, and documented their work in
a binder shown to the judges. For this terrific work, they earn 2nd
place in Robot Design." Or "Team Y studied the effect of snowfall and
snow removal on local businesses. They interviewed business owners,
and created recommendations for altering the priority of snow removal
to reduce business losses, and presented their recommendations to the
town council. For this great work and a clear, organized
presentation, they earn 1st place for Research."

Adding this detail wouldn't prolong the awards ceremony--it takes me
less than 30 seconds to read both of those sentences. It would give
the ceremony interesting, meaty content, would justify the awards
without saying a word about scores or rankings, and would celebrate
the hard work of the kids, giving us something real to cheer about as
the grinning kids rise to accept their well-deserved awards.

Mike Blanpied
Reston, VA
2006 #4809 Nano People
2007 #1666 Power Bunnies
2008 #5013 BLT--Brilliant LEGO Team


At 10:52 PM -0500 12/11/08, Nicholas Duan wrote:
>I can't agree more, considering the fact that about half of the
>awards/trophies were given to adults, not kids. If I was a young
>child, waiting in the hallway and going though the closing ceremony
>after a long day would be very tiring, and there isn't much
>value-added in the spirit of FLL and learning. If I was a kid, I'd
>like to have fun and more excitement at the closing ceremony:
>1. Skip the team intro entirely (we could save at least an hour).
>Let the kids enter the gym freely, play some dance music (just like
>the closing ceremony at the Beijing Olympics). It's party time!
>2. Give awards only to kids, not adults. I'm not saying that we
>shouldn't recognize the contribution of our volunteers, but this may
>not be the right time. We may find another way to give out the
>volunteer awards, for instance, having a party for
>adults/volunteers/parents/coaches the night before. Or hosting a
>parent/coach conference for exchanging ideas in
>coaching/judging/parenting, while the kids were doing their
>3. After announcing the winners, have each one do a live
>presentation to the whole audience, and have the judges providing
>comments on the uniqueness of each winner. This will give our kids
>another opportunities to learn, and also eliminate any doubts about
>fairness of the judging process.
>FLL is all about kids getting interested and learning science and
>technology. If we could focus on this goal,
>coaching/judging/running the championship will become much simpler
>and easier...
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Rakesh Bahadur <[log in to unmask]>
> >
> > Let me share my observations as a rookie coach.
> > FLL need to de-emphasise award giving and put more emphasis on
>> learning. As long as awards are given at the end of the
>> tournament, winning will be the major driver of participation. In
>> FLL spirit (all about having fun and not about winning), just give
>> only two awards, one for div 1 champi on and othe r for div 2
> > champion.
> >
>> Robotics and FLL is all about science and engineering. For
>> anything to be scientific, it must be quantifiable and verifiable.
>> Judgement at regional and state FLL tournament (team work,
> > project, design) does not meet that criteria. A quantitative
> > criteria will be always preferred over a qualitative one.
> >
> > FLL should decide
> >
>> 1. Whether it wants to stay in the realm of sound science or soft
>> science.
>> 2. What it wants to stand for? L earning by the teams or
> > competing parents/coaches.
> >
> > Rakesh

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