Funny, this topic comes up every year and passions run strong around this.  I like the flexibility of FIRST FLL that is there today and would not want anyone's particular view on specialized teams versus everyone does everything team to override the possibilites for teams to operate in different manners. 

I coach multidisciplinary teams for a living and am also a life coach for professionals seeking the ability to lead a high performance and high life satisfaction life. 

I have a very different opinion. I have had teams do it both ways.  Everyone or nearly everyone at the table and teams that specialize.  It all depends on the teams, what their choice is and what their goals are for the team.  Also it depends on their maturity level (typically age related).

For older teams (7th 8th graders) the ability to specialize models real life high performing teams.  Real life teams don't have everyone doing everything.

This year my team interviewed a college student in biomedical engineering who did FLL for one year then FRC for 3. I know for a fact that on the FRC team they specialized significantly. When asked what the most important part of the FIRST experience was it was the teamwork aspect. 

Two different dimensions to this are:

1) give the kids a chance to do things they maybe haven't done before so they can figure out if they like it, it is a strength, and do they want to pursue related interests after FIRST.
2) allow kids to leverage their strengths

If done right, some kids will
1) probably do this one year and drop out after discovering that FIRST is not for them (hopefully this is a low percentage, but this is not bad, not everyone is suited to this sort of play)
2) help kids discover hidden or underutilized strengths
3) facilitate an environment that allows kids to leverage their strengths, operate in the flow and achieve greatness and discover the power of creativity and critical thinking and reasoning
4) learn the value of teamwork and for some mature teams achieve true high performing status

The above requires a mix of exposure to them of everything in FLL and push them to try all the new things and then if the team wants (and if it aligns with their team goals) to go deep into some aspect (robot design, presentation design, programming, driving....). If it does not align then the everyone does everything model can be useful.  Again, keeping them moving towards discovering their strengths (by the way, strengths does not mean that you are today good at it, only that you have an innate ability to develop this dimension quickly).

The nice thing about FIRST and especially FLL is the mix of engineering and research and especially presentation.  I have noticed that the kids especially  need presentation skills and the teamwork aspect and the individual component of the presentation (only one should be talking at a time) both gives them skills that will work for them forever.

So the question about what is more fun, what should be rewarded more, etc. is complicated. I for one like the mix of FIRST FLL dimensions.  It gives coaches and teams a wide latitude to try things in different ways to discover what works for the individuals and the teams.

Anyone interested in the fun aspect of life should listen to the TED video about the source of happiness. You will find that it stems from finding your strengths and getting into the flow with those strengths.  These concepts hold for FLL aged children and for adults:
Dr Martin Seligman does a great job outlining the source of happiness. 

While not useful for this age group you may be interested in the book that helps each of us find some of our innate strengths

Just my 0.234 cents worth

1740 TNBI

On Fri, Nov 5, 2010 at 12:10 AM, <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Tom brings up a question on the trade-off of two dedicated kids at the table versus having the kids switch off.  This is a topic I have passionate opinions and would like to bring up to the VA/DC FLL community.  There are a number of dimensions.  I'd like to preface by saying that the Lake Anne Sea Monsters is a large team of 8 to 10 kids for the last 5 years.  At every round at every tournament every Sea Monster has handled the robot.  A very large component of our success has been their teamwork.  To make it work requires that:
     - The robot's missions be designed so that they are easy to set up and transition to the next.
     - A full practice to choreograph each kid's role and transition to/from the table.
     - Teaching that gracious professionalism begins within the team, and being only supportive when a given part doesn't execute as planned.
So a number of points:
1. Which is more competitive?  Short-term having two kids at the table minimizes the preparation.  However, as the tournament progresses, having each kid concentrate on one aspect increases the probability that each part is executed flawlessly.
2. Which is more fun?  Hands down the whole team.  Each kid feels a real sense of accomplishment and contribution, particularly with their parents watching.  An added benefit is the huge boost in parent support.
3. Which better imbues the FLL philosophy?  Clearly full team participation.
Personally, I think teams that put all members on the table should be rewarded in teamwork scoring.  I'd love to see the teamwork evaluation form include a space that asks what percentage of the team participates at the table and a bonus be given based on the percentage.
As a parting observation: With the current scoring, a large team that only has two at the table can potentially win the teamwork award if the teamwork exercise is performed well.  Is this really consistent FLL's core values, which begin with "We are a team."?
Wally Walter
Co-coach, Lake Anne Sea Monsters

Nov 4, 2010 02:36:44 PM, [log in to unmask] wrote:
My question is what is the best way for our team to hold attachments during a match. What has worked well for others?  Also, any opinion on two kids running a match vs specific mission specialists tagging in and out? Thanks

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

----- Reply message -----
From: "Eric Palmer"
Date: Thu, Nov 4, 2010 1:42 pm
Subject: [VADCFLL-L] NXT merry go round effect

My team this year had a robot with a particular mission and attachment set
that had a "veer left bias" They changed the whole robot to our backup and
it "veered very slightly right" on further inspection the first robot has an
axle going through a beam that has been damaged so there was more friction
on the left side.

For the right bias they moved a counter weight to the left and the robot
goes straight most of the time.  But even with that it varies, sometimes

We are using disposable batteries this year and they monitor voltage
closely.  The front missions they use fully or nearly fully changed
batteries and the last mission they use batteries whose top voltage has been

They use a slight moist cloth to wipe the dust off the table before practice
and we occasionally wipe the dust off the wheels and let the tires dry.
They store the robot upside down so the wheels don't get flat spots.

The team pays attention to many more factors for repeatability as well.

But that said we still have problems with erratic behavior.  Turing for
example seems to work best (for repeatability) one wheel at a time.  That
slows down the missions but makes the missions more repeatable.

All learning opportunities.


On Thu, Nov 4, 2010 at 1:24 PM, Nagesh Chintada

> This is hard to figure out without seeing it, but couple of questions come
> to mind:
> 1. Has your team tried to reduce the power, to say, 50 or below?
> 2. How is the robot balance and center of gravity? For example, does it
> happen if the attachments are removed?
> 3. I noticed that sometimes loose wheels can cause strangest behaviors in
> movement, so not a bad idea to check if the any part of the attachments/
> frame and wheels are not loose.
> Just a comment: The great fun of FLL is ruined especially to rookie teams
> because of all the variability in the NXT Robots. These are no doubt complex
> products, and it is not easy to get consistent behavior. It requires some
> experience and lots of practice. This is not my first year, but I am still
> learning.
> I wish Lego or FLL would make it easier for all the teams - and improve the
> fun factor - by providing some basic information/ instructions/ best
> practices to reduce variability as part of the NXT kit or FLL kit. Just a
> thought. I'd like to see more teams having more fun than struggle so much..
> Nagesh

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