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This is our second year (first year at state.) The very first year, we meet in July to get the everyone (myself included) acquainted with programming and what FLL was.
We did the season.  In January, we started bi-monthly programming sessions that were 2 hours long.  That ran through early May.  Then we started meeting as a group again (mostly the same kids) in mid August.   We won at regional, so our season didn't end until this past weekend. 
      2 of the 4 kids who were there from the start are pretty burnt out.  They are committed to next year, but said they don't want to do anything until August again. :)   I could keep going indefinitely, but I see FLL as the most exciting thing I get to teach.  
  My plan for my returning, what will be 3rd year, team is to lay low until early May, then get them back together to do some fun, robotic challenges & exercises and talk about their project. 

   I realised an organic progression of my team from year one to year two.  The first year, they came up with  a "theoretical research idea" that they, themselves, could never have created. (But we discovered about 8 months later that it had already been in the works in Europe and did, in fact, succeed, so that was very cool.)  This year, their idea was something they could have created, but did not.  I would like them to move next year into an actual prototype or workable model.
    As far as the robot design:  It improved this year because they used smaller wheels, choose one design and stuck with it which gave them the entire season to work.  They changed the robot significantly last year about 3 weeks from tournament!  They learned not to do that this year.   The missions were improved becasue they had a better idea how to make measured turns and how to mathematically calculate distance from day one.  They learned to start the robot always from the back wall and to build lego measuring devices (bricks they stacked to tell them where to start from).   Next year, they said they will be using more sensors and allowing the robot to find more of it's own way.  So I see them using different, evolving strategies as they move forward.
    What becomes shockingly apparent is that my team is always "best" at whatever my expertise is best at.  I started off with an expertise in researching with a strong background in drama with kids.  My kids took 1st place at regionals.  As I improved at programming, my kids got better and their programming improved greatly.  I could answer their questions and was able to help the new members of our team nearly catch up to my experienced team with programming because I understood it SO much better. With improved robotic skills, they were able to get to state this year.  So having many mentors, knowledgeable in different fields, may be the way to go.  I saw how the team who had two dads as engineers won a top robot design award at state. I think they just knew how best to mentor the kids in that field. 
Good luck next year,
Brandy
   
 

On Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 5:26 PM, Mary Kendrick <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Hi all!

Well, brand new coach here - we made it to our first tournament, using it as a
learning experience for the years to come.  We did fairly well and the team will
continue to meet throughout the rest of the school year.

Ideas for goals and focus of these meetings is to redesign our robot and work
on programming the robot to accomplish all missions in Food Factor.

So the question is, how do you vetern coaches run the off-season meetings?
Do you meet off-season, making it a school-year club?  Any ideas or
suggestions on how best to use this more relaxed time is GREATLY appreciated!

Thanks so much,
Mary
TechnoSharks

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