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December 2008

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From:
Steve Scherr <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Steve Scherr <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Sat, 13 Dec 2008 09:08:56 -0500
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I'd like to throw in my two cents on the different components of the FLL Challenge.

I became aware of FLL when my son was on a school team one year.  I remember when he tried to 
describe what was being done with their project, I asked myself the question "What does that have 
to do with robotics?"

As I have volunteered over the years, I've learned more about FIRST and come to have a real 
appreciation for the design of FLL and the balance among the different components.

Since it's "not only about the robot", FLL
 - can attract kids who might be intimidated by the hard-core engineering and give them an area 
to contribute, and learn to appreciate the quantitative and hard-core stuff
 - expose team members to a science or technology topic and encourage them to learn about it, 
think about it, and talk to experts
 - include a competition element and awards to add excitement, encourage, recognize, and give 
incentive to kids
 - encourage skills that are useful in the real world (also done in FRC)

During my career in science and technology, I've seen that technical excellence on its own is 
almost never the only criterion for success or implementation of a concept.  Communicating the 
value of a concept, researching previous or related work, developing support, marketing, 
obtaining funding--these are all necessary for success.  Although I may not be able to do all of 
these well (I don't!), as part of a team, and appreciating the need for all skills, we can succeed.  
The same is true in FLL, and, as judges, we hope to see the kids learning to value and to respect 
the components of the Challenge that may not initially appeal to them.

So, is the project robotics?  Rarely.  Does it emphasize skills that are useful in engineering?  
Definitely.  Does it need to find a balance between presenting content and holding the listeners 
interest?  I think so.

I think that coaches have the hardest job--coaching kids without directing them, encouraging in 
a variety of areas where they may not be comfortable or experienced, and working for multiple 
months with kids who are still learning how to be aware of timelines and deadlines.  As a 
tournament volunteer, I can concentrate on one or two areas, but coaches have to be a jack-of-
all-trades, and it's certain to be a learning experience for them, too, and probably takes them out 
of their comfort zones.

Steve

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