Dear Coaches – Need Help,


Yes, it’s really a tough job keeping 10 kids on task and having fun at the same time.  My hat is off to all those brave coaches that could not turn away a kid wanting to get on a FLL team (or maybe it was the kid's parent) until it max out at 10.   But this is truly about FIRST's mission in getting kids to be "excited" about science and technology!  They cannot be "excited" until they see how much fun they can have on a FLL team.  Now comes the really tough job of how to balance everything and keep those 10 kids from driving you (the coach/mentor) crazy and throwing in the towel.


Three year ago, we had 7 kids on the team, two year ago we had 10 kids with similar issues.  Last year we also had 10 kids on the team - and finally the team won best performance award at regional to go to State at JMU last year!  Here are some ideas that might help.....


_ Select a team captain that the kids can look up to and can keep all the other kids in line when needed (or you can have the kids vote for their team captain).  We had co-captain, two kids, just to keep the 10 kids in sync.


_ We assigned 3 leads - project, teamwork, and robot design.  Give each one of these kids their corresponding rubric and made them responsible for the team reaching the highest mark in each categories - to win.  Give each lead enough time to choreograph their judging event and a lot of team practice time for their presentation in each category.  There are pros and cons to this, but you can pick the most disruptive kid for the teamwork lead, the kids with the most crazy ideas for robot design, and most artistic for the project lead.  You will have to balance this out - but this will get 3 more kids on very specific tasks to help the team to win at the tournament.


_ Break the kids into smaller groups of 2/3 kids with specific assignment in solving specific robot missions.  Have each group report back - with the entire team meeting around the missions table - on their ideas and solicit suggestion from everyone on how attachments and solutions can be improved.  This is where teamwork really taking shape and they come up with ideas to combine certain missions into run to best manage the clock.  When it get a bit rowdy with heated debate, you'll need to send them off to their smaller groups for more brainstorm and bring them back together again after 5-10 minutes.  This is about the system design process before the mechanical engineer running off to build the robot and attachments while the software engineer start writing the program to solve the missions.  You will have to balance it out to ensure everyone can participate in some aspect of design, engineering, and programming - but not everyone can do programming and assembling the attachments at the same time – so get them to work on other assignments.


_ We had one kid that was very smart, creative, know everything about Lego robotics and did not want to follow anyone else ideas - we assigned him a very specific task to build the Lego Segway with a gyro sensor.  Their project was about building a "Flying Segway" for last year Smart Move challenge - so this really got him excited.  There were the cost of buying another robot set - but you can always talk the kid parents into investing in their genius kid with his/her own Lego set.  How about those new scientific attachments to NXT like heat measurement, color sensor, gyro sensor - maybe you can find something that can tie to this year research project.


_ We had kids that like scientific facts doing research on the Internet helping the project lead to solve technical equation on their research project and help writing script for their presentation.  We also had these kids playing the part of the Scientist to present their finding during their research project presentation.


_ There was the kid that wanted to program but did not have a lot of experience - we assign him the job of documenting all the programs, putting comments in the codes, draw diagrams of how each mission run work (on a printout of the table layout) - aka System Engineer.  This is the documentation package with print out of the codes that you will need for robot design judging.


_ There was the kid that was really good with engineering and putting all the Lego piece together - we assign him the job of tying all the mission runs and attachment together - aka System Integrator.  Give this kid the timer to test all their mission runs under 2.5 minutes.  Do this as early as you can in the season and not during the last two meetings!  Have the kids break into group of two (2) and have each group take turn at the table runs.  Pick the best two groups with the best scores to run the team missions at the competition.  This will keep it fun, and all the kids agreeing to who will run the robot at competition to get the highest score.


_ Two year ago, we had made a video of their research project for presentation at competition.  So if you can find a video camera from a parent, assign the most rowdy-fun kid the job of video all their meeting for a documentary of their team - the team's historian.  It’s amazing how kids can have so much fun in front of a camera - while behave more civilize - as they know that their behavior are being capture on video and that their parents will see it one day!



I hope that these tips will help some of our brave coaches.  Just focus on the FLL Core Value - "We have fun!" and remember that the kids will not become Engineer and Scientist over night.  There are plenty of times in high school and college for them to learn to become one -- only if they are "excited" about science and technology during this FLL season!



Best wishes,


T. (Curt) Tran

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



-----Original Message-----
From: First Lego League in Virginia and DC [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Heather Houlden
Sent: Monday, October 18, 2010 11:49 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [VADCFLL-L] Need Help


Hi there,


I have the same issue. I have 10 kids (9-11 yo). All of us are new at

this and I find it is difficult (but still fun) to keep all of those kids

focused at one time.

The biggest issue I find, is that all the kids want to program the robot,

but I cannot convince all of them to work out all the details in advance

and then program. So some tend to lose time while they wait to get on

the computer.

The kids seem to be having a good time, and they are learning, so I

focus on that. :)


Sonya, I really like your team led approach. Maybe we can do something

like that with our next year's team.





On Mon, 18 Oct 2010 23:29:03 -0400, Sonya Shaver

<[log in to unmask]> wrote:


>Hi Laura,

>Ten is a lot.  I honestly don't know that I could do it, so I commend


> Do you have another adult who can help?  Can you ask the parents to


>turns coming to the meetings for these last few weeks?  If you had

one more

>adult at each meeting, you could break the kids into groups and just


>through working on different things.  One group could work on

research while

>one does programming, then switch.


>You might also sit down with the team and ask them what they

think.  Let

>them know that you are having a hard time with all the arguing, and


>would like them to work out a better way to sort out their conflicts. 


>them come up with a solution and stick to it at least for one meeting. 


>if it isn't working, they can try something else.  For example, one

year, we

>were having trouble with everyone getting their say in and feeling


> So the kids decided to use a "talking stick" during discussion time. 


>can only talk when you are holding the talking stick.  When you have


>talking stick in your possession, the rules are this:  Be kind, be brief,

>and speak from the heart.  The talking stick was a Lego apparatus,

and it

>didn't last very long, and they didn't even do it every time.  And they

>weren't always brief!  Ha, ha!  BUT, the point was that it was brought


>their attention, they became more conscious of it for a time, and after

>that, they were much, much better.


>Another thing we tried one year was having the kids take turns being

the one

>who keeps everyone else on the team "on task".  So at the beginning

of the

>meeting, that person would lead a quick group meeting.  The group


>decide what they wanted to work on that day, and what they wanted

to get

>accomplished before the end of the meeting, and set up a time frame

for how

>they would spend their time.  Then it was that person's job to keep


>on task, focused, remind them of their goals for the day, and what

time it

>was.  If you don't have ten meetings left (since you would want to give

>everyone a turn), then maybe they could do it in pairs.  In reality, this

>didn't work perfectly.  However, it was totally worth it because again,


>generated discussion about the issue, brought it to their attention,

and at

>least they were thinking about it and it did make a difference.


>Our team is completely team-led.  The kids decide what they are

going to do

>and how they are going to get it done.  We have to be there to help,


>suggestions, help them through tough spots if they need it, and help


>set realistic goals for themselves.  And make snacks!


>I have found that I just have to continue to talk about these values


>ideals, and we are all learning (me too!).  I feel like at times there is a

>tremendous amount of pressure.  The kids have eight short weeks and

a task

>that they could probably work on every single day of that time and

still not

>be 100% done.  Towards the end, I think the kids can start to feel that

>pressure and time crunch.  Do you think that is part of it?  If so, I


>just remind them that this is about the process, and that you are so


>of them for jumping in and putting forth their best effort, and it's really

>okay if they don't get things perfect, just do your best.


>I hope some of that is helpful.  I am sure you are doing a great job,

and so

>are they!  Try not to get stressed out and just enjoy the process.  Even

>when it is hard, we are all learning.  Even in conflict, if you can help

>guide them through to a peaceful solution, they are learning how to


>along with their future co-workers!  Good luck!



>Sonya in Harrisonburg




>On Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 11:01 PM, Laura Dysart

<[log in to unmask]>wrote:


>> Sounds like you will have what you need- but I have an extra NXT


>> (personal)- not parts I'd be happy to lend in an emergency; in

Richmond Va

>> if you need. I had a 7 person rookie team that worked well together


>> year. This year have the max of 10.  Keeping the newer kids

occupied- we

>> have one robot- (have an extra brick but not enough parts to do

much with)

>> and right now only one computer for research during team meetings-

 i sense

>> some of the newer kids struggling- one new kid who feels he knows


>> and if he isn't the one in charge doesn't want to do anything. We


>> to do team building exercises- now each sessions cause has been

an issue-

>> lots of arguing- wasn't like this last year- the larger team- three new

>> members with no experience- they don't seem content to shadow

veteran's -

>> goof off and distract.  Any ideas for new members without a lot of

>> experience involving them?  We have 5-6 very dedicated team

members who are

>> getting frustrated.

>> On Oct 18, 2010, at 4:37 PM, Salas, Alex wrote:


>> We can lend you one, we are in Hopewell Hgh School.


>> Let us know.


>> T. 804 541 6402 ext 247

>> Hopewell High School

>> 400 South Mesa Drive

>> Hopewell, VA 23860

>> (804) 541-6402   phone

>> (804) 541-6403   fax




>> On 10/18/10 4:05 PM, "Patrick Angel" <[log in to unmask]>



>> Hello all,


>> I am in my fourth year of FLL and our team is in a desperate need

of an

>> NXT.  All three of our NXTs died this year.  I have contacted Lego


>> and the Tech support people confirmed they all have a dead LCD

display.  I

>> have sent all three off to be repaired at no charge.  However, the

turn over

>> time is 3 - 4 weeks.  If any team has an extra NXT that we can

barrow for

>> the season it would be greatly appreciated by my kids.  I reside in

the West

>> Point area and teach in Middlesex.  I will travel to pick-up if one is

>> available.  Hopefully Richmond or Tidewater.


>> Thank You





>>  ------------------------------

>> To UNSUBSCRIBE or CHANGE your settings, please visit

>> and select "Join or


>> the list".

>> VADCFLL administrative announcements are sent via VADCFLL-

ADMIN-L. Visit

>> to subscribe.



>> ------------------------------

>> To UNSUBSCRIBE or CHANGE your settings, please visit

>> and select "Join or


>> the list".

>> VADCFLL administrative announcements are sent via VADCFLL-

ADMIN-L. Visit

>> to subscribe.



>-- To UNSUBSCRIBE or CHANGE your settings, please visit and select "Join or leave

the list".


>-- VADCFLL administrative announcements are sent via VADCFLL-

ADMIN-L. Visit to










-- To UNSUBSCRIBE or CHANGE your settings, please visit and select "Join or leave the list".


-- VADCFLL administrative announcements are sent via VADCFLL-ADMIN-L. Visit to subscribe.

To UNSUBSCRIBE or CHANGE your settings, please visit and select "Join or leave the list".
VADCFLL administrative announcements are sent via VADCFLL-ADMIN-L. Visit to subscribe.