Congratulations to you and Team WNANF for making it to the State Championship!
Good observations about tournament surprises. It's typical for
first-year teams to have some surprises, especially if they didn't
get the benefit of some pre-tourney coaching from an experienced
mentor. Other surprises reflect the fact that every tournament is
somewhat different, and every pair of judges runs their sessions in a
slightly different way.
However, there are abundant materials provided to help coaches and
teams prepare for the tournament. Most of your surprises are actually
discussed in the FLL Coaches' Handbook that came with your kit. For
example, in the Tournament chapter it recommends that programs be
printed and brought to the robot judges, and says that the team will
be asked to demonstrate the robot.
Judging sessions can be overwhelming for young kids, and you're right
that it can be tricky for them to answer questions while
simultaneously demonstrating the robot. Here's where it pays to
divide up the work. For example, two kids can be tapped to introduce
the team to the judges, two kids can stand ready to demonstrate the
robot, and others can be prepared to answer questions about the robot
building and programming while that is going on. That way everyone
has something to do, and they won't trip over themselves. Older and
more experienced teams may be better able to multi-task.
>I would like to add the thanks of Team WNANF (We Need A Name Fast)
>to the others who have chimed in about the Newport News tournament.
>We are a rookie team, and had a few surprises in how things were
>done, but the scheduling went very smoothly, the rooms were easy to
>find and centrally located, and folks were gracious and
>professional. Well done!
>I'll pass along the things that surprised us, in the hope it can
>help others. I hope I'm not spilling any secrets.
>One of the things our team got feedback on the sheets as a weakness
>was "No introductions to judges." Although our team handed the judge
>the Team Information sheet, no one told us that it was standard
>procedure to introduce themselves as well. Talking to an
>experienced coach friend, he said they forgot to tell this year's
>team to do that, even though they had remembered to tell their
>The team was also surprised in the robot judging to be asked to run
>the robot while they answered questions. Even though this is a
>middle school team, several members are shy, and had a hard time
>listening to and coming up with coherent answers to the judges'
>questions while they were also trying to run the robot - definitely
>something we need to practice.
>After reading the comments here last week (at 10:30 p.m. the night
>before our tournament) about needing to bring a "code book" with
>photos of the robot with all the attachments and printouts of the
>programs, I was in a panic, particularly since my printer was out of
>ink. We decided to just take our robot and laptop to show the
>programs. Although bringing our robot to the robot judging may seem
>obvious, it wasn't to this rookie coach, particularly after reading
>about needing to bring photos. Finally, even though some team
>members said, "We can show you in our program what we did," the
>judges didn't want to look at their programs at all. (Glad I didn't
>go on a midnight expedition for printer ink!)
>As a final suggestion, I would have liked to have the team see the
>other teams' presentations, in order get ideas on what worked and
>what didn't. This is allowed (with students as young as 3rd grade)
>in Odyssey of the Mind, and the kids learn a lot from each other.
>The format is very much the same - using classrooms for the
>presentations. When the room is full, that's it, so teams would
>have to be judicious about sending only a couple of members to not
>take up too much space.
>Perhaps a "What to Expect" few paragraphs would be helpful, either
>posted on the VA/DC website or e-mailed to the coaches when they
>register for a tournament. This should help new coaches, and also
>serve as a checklist for the experienced coaches. To put everything
>in perspective, none of these things hurt us much, as we did qualify
>for State, but it was stressful for the team members. Even so, they
>had a great time. Thanks again!
>Coach for Team WNANF
>Poquoson Middle School
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