Thanks Gail,

 

I just want to bring closure to this subject, and reinserted the missing e-mails from the discussion chain.

 

As everyone can see from Charlie’s email that when he was coaching back in 2001 “the playing field was white melamine.  There was no mat.  You were given instructions of how to apply black electrical tape to the table surface to create lines”.  Since we also have international teams in FLL, there is no way to dictate the exact U.S. table specs or the design of a perfect table (the perfect world)!  If anyone is still in search of this perfect world, may I recommend the movie “The Giver” that recently came out on Redbox.  It a movie based on the fictional novel that has been assigned as reading material for many high school students to learn -- the perfect world is not really perfect after all!

 

I also want to point out that STEM is not meant for everyone.  We cannot force feed this STEM to every kids.  Just like football, basketball, or cheerleading, they are not for every kid either.  Some will adore FLL and some will dislike it!  That is why we try to make the program as fun as we can, and we have our FLL model as “We have FUN!”  This is not like those sport programs where winning is everything, and again that is why FLL model is also “What we discover is more important than what we win.”  There are about 250K kids participating in FLL every year, so it must be doing something right. 

 

Please remember that the robot games at the competition are not the end game of FLL.  A top table performance score does not guarantee team advancement to State, and a team can win Champion Award at regional even if their table scores were horrible but they are all rounded in the three judging criteria.

 

We need to encourage the kids to pick it up again next year if they did not win an award or advanced to State.  They will learn more if they can recognize their mistakes and correct them for next year!  In closing, I just want to repeat a hint for those teams that are looking forward to winning at regional next year that your “season does not end here.  There are more to learn and teach other about your FLL experiences, so you can come back and tell our judges all about it next year.” 

 

In addition, since we stole this thread from the TJ discussion, I want to attach the result of TJ for the 2013-2014 school years for those folks.

 

 

Best wishes,

T. (Curt) Tran

Judge Advisor, MEH Falls Church Regional ’13, ’14

Judge Advisor, GMU Regional ’11, ’12 & ’13

Judge 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

 

 

From: First Lego League in Virginia and DC [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Gail D. Drake
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 3:15 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [VADCFLL-L] TJHSST - RE: [VADCFLL-L] Need Your Help.

 

The robot ​is the tool to teach at a higher level.  Focus on team work, responsibility of 'my piece of a puzzle' sothe entire puzzle can come together, problem solving and critical thinking, variability.  I prefer to raise kids that  can be flexible! 

 

Respectfully, 

Professor Drake

Associate Professor Northern Virginia Community College

ILITE FRC Robotics Coach

ILITE FTC Robotics Coach

Robotics Tournament Director

US Cyber Patriot Coach

 

 

 


 

From: Curt Tran [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 1:53 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: RE: [VADCFLL-L] TJHSST - RE: [VADCFLL-L] Need Your Help.

 

Thanks Charlie, Fredrik & Anant,

 

Just for clarification, on page 7 of the official 2014 challenge, it does specify plywood in the parts list (see picture attached).  The materials table, on page 6, does make recommendation of sanded plywood (or other very smooth board) 96" X 48" X at least 3/8" (2438mm X 1219mm X 10mm), but those are considered as recommendation (i.e. at least 3/8”, black paint, etc.). 

 

Deviation and local accommodation (for international folks) are good, but the most important thing is that the kids need to take it into consideration and make adjustment during their tournaments. 

 

That’s the FUN part of FLL!

 

Cheers,

Curt

 

 

[log in to unmask]" alt="cid:[log in to unmask]">

 

 


 

From: First Lego League in Virginia and DC [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Charlie Aldridge
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 12:56 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [VADCFLL-L] Standardized Table Specifications

 

When I started coaching back in 2001 (Arctic Impact) the playing field was white melamine.  There was no mat.  You were given instructions of how to apply black electrical tape to the table surface to create lines the RCX-based robot could follow.  Inconsistent and incredibly heavy to transport.  Increased standardization of both the table surface/height as well as the playing field mat size (no trimming required) would be welcome as long as it's not melamine, granite, etc.

 

-Charlie

 

 


From: First Lego League in Virginia and DC <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Fredrik Nyman <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 2:58 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [VADCFLL-L] TJHSST - RE: [VADCFLL-L] Need Your Help.

 

These are all very good points, and I am very much aware of how frustrating the variability can be.  

 

But even if we were to standardize on manufactured playing fields, wouldn't variability still very much be part of the game?  Our robots are still plastic toys; the motors would still have considerable slop in their internal gearing, the color sensors would still be sensitive to illumination, and rookie teams would still eyeball their robot's starting position in base.  All of which are arguably bigger variability issues than whether the playing field is made froir pm plywood or particleboard or MDF.

 

And: what is the point of the robot game?  Is it an end in itself, or a means -- a way to introduce kids to STEM, give them hands-on experience and get them hooked?  

 

If it is an end in itself (much like soccer or football), then by all means let's standardize so that each team has the same equipment and plays on identical fields. 

 

But if the robot game is a means to STEM, then doesn't the variability the kids see in the robot game help them?  Helps them identify a problem (variability) that's very much a fact of life, think about possible causes (table condition, illumination, battery voltage, gearing slack, robot starting position...), experiment and figure out how they can minimize each factor?  And isn't that knowledge going to help them next year, not just with the robot game but also with their project since their investigation of robot variability is real-world, quantifiable research and an excellent introduction to scientific methods?

 

 

 

On Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 2:16 PM, Haydee Cooper <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I couldn't agree more with Nari that having faulty equipment that introduces a ton of variability is a surefire way to lose young, inexperienced kids from FLL and possibly from STEM altogether. The conclusion that some of them will inevitably reach when their hard work entirely goes to waste during the tournament because a robot that worked perfectly at home doesn't do anything right on the competition table is that this engineering stuff is unpredictable voodoo and that they can't build robots to save their lives.

It's also a bit disingenuous for a bunch of experienced engineers to extol the virtues of this kind of trial by fire when the kids don't even have the resources we might have in this kind of situation. They don't generally don't get to try out other tables ahead of time to check for variability. They don't get to turn a 50-hour work week into a 90-hour one when things go wrong--many of them only have a few set hours a week to work for eight weeks. And they don't get to miss deadlines and push back the tournament date.

You end up with an inherent survivorship bias. The kids who stick with it (and who might have gone into STEM regardless) learn to master all these details and build a beast of a robot, but in the meantime you've lost a lot of tentative learners who needed encouragement.

Haydee

 

 

On Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 1:27 PM, Fredrik Nyman <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

What do you mean that FTC is "moving to manufactured tables [...] In a year or two, so will FLL"?  Have FTC and/or FLL officials stated so, or is it just what you predict will happen?

 

My own hope and prediction is that it will not.  Or rather, I do hope that someone will come up with an improved table design, but I would hope FLL never requires the use of a manufactured, standardized table from an approved vendor.

 

Mind you, I very much agree with you that playing surface variability is frustrating.  But that and all other variability discussed in the other thread about batteries earlier today is very much part of the game.  If you can get your team towards thinking about variability -- on the differences from run to run, from table to table, and between practice and tournament -- you set them up for making important discoveries on their own.  Ask them about the differences they notice (from run to run, from table to table, and between practice and tournament).  Ask them: how can we measure the differences?  Help them set up and run experiments, introducing useful terms like "hypothesis" and "standard deviation" as you go.

 

Once you have quantified the variability, have another brainstorming session to figure out what you can do to reduce the variability.  For the sports mission, you might challenge your team to design a solution that doesn't require the ball to bounce on the table. :-)

 

On Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 12:37 PM, Anant Narayanan <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Kurt makes a sound argument for adaptibility and bracketing design around the set point, but just for the record, there is no FLL requirement for use of plywood.  The official guidance for building tables, found at http://www.firstlegoleague.org/sites/default/files/Challenge/TeamResources/NaturesFury/2013-14TableOnly.pdf calls for

 

"Sanded plywood (or other very smooth board) 96” X 48” X at least 3/8” (2438mm X 1219mm X 10mm)."

 

Under this standard, MDF would qualify (and in fact would be best, but for its low moisture resistance unless treated).  IMHO, Sterling board (OSB/particle board) is rarely smooth enough without lamination/surface treatment and should be disfavored.  In fact I see no requirement for a wood surface -- what we use today is more an artifact of history, rather than design.  The above document notes that:

 

"With safety, weight, height, and cost in mind, a simple design is offered here, but as long as your surface is smooth, and your border walls are sized and located properly, how you build the understructure is up to you."

 

Clearly the focus on making the surface smooth -- a running theme throughout the document.  The portable table is made of different materials.

 

The other thing to keep in mind is that FTC is moving to manufactured tables (from Andy Mark).  In a year or two, so will FLL.  Standardized surfaces offer many advantages -- they make the game day experience more predictable, and thus help in the retention of rookie teams.  A uniform product will let teams focus on the game, and learning important skills.

 

Soccer these days is largely played on synthetic (astroturf) surfaces (in our areas).  While children in some countries may play barefoot, and sadly, in war zones, there may even be kids who lose their limbs to land mines while playing sports, I don't think anyone would tolerate Darwinian arguments in such contexts.  We hardly want a return to the Spartan practice of leaving kids out in the cold overnight so that the ones who survive strengthened the race.  I say this only to make a rhetorical point, not to paint anyone as having these thoughts.

 

Encouraging kids to stick and persist with STEM is hard enough with balky robots and sensors to insist on the ritual/tradition of imperfect playing surfaces ("This is how we do it in FLL").  A bad table experience negates in six hours, what a coach may have spent three-six months in training and mentoring.  We lose the kids, we lose the coach.  often, all we have to show is increased entropy.  This is called churn in marketing speak, and there is entirely too much of it in robotics/FLL.

 

I feel we need to move beyond this culture of poverty (in thought, and in resources).  We should not be debating this issue any more -- we should spend our energies working towards solutions.

 

Sincerely,

Anant Narayanan


----------------------------------------------------------
Anant S Narayanan
Founder & Executive Director

McLean Robotics Institute
McLean VA 22102
202-421-3826 (cell)
[log in to unmask]

-----------------------------------------------------------

 

On Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 11:03 AM, Curt Tran <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Thanks Jerry,

 

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” Job 1:21.

 

So TJ has finally fixed their entrance exam to really accommodate FLL.  This teaches our kids another lesson in that the “perfect” world never stays the same!  Okay, so let’s talk a little about FLL before someone complaint!  During the Falls Church tournament, some coaches have brought up the subject of the blue ball not bouncing as well on the tournament tables.  This is due to the material makeup of the table surface.  The FLL spec calls for plywood, and if anyone out there is using OSB board, your team will have a lot of discovery during the tournament.  Even, if everyone is using plywood, the thickness will make a lot of different.  The spec only specifies 96” X 48” plywood, but mute on the thickness so if a team mission was relying on the ball bouncing a certain way are the kids out of luck or can they adjust!

 

An interesting lesson for the kids to learn about bouncing ball and the unexpected is the recent landing of the ESA’s Philae probe (robot).  The unexpected bounces of Philae on the Comet 67P put it into a place where no one could ever expect.  Read more on BBC at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30083969.

 

To all our coaches, thank you for guiding and teaching the children this FLL season.  They are an outstanding bunch of kids and are all winners in our book.  To those teams that advancing to State, good lucks and have FUN in Harrisonburg.  Make those hotel reservations quickly or they will run out. 

 

For all other teams, the season does not end here.  There are more to learn and teach other about your FLL experiences, so you can come back and tell our judges all about it next year.  For those moving on to high schools, there are FTC and FRC that they should look into. 

 

Let’s go and build another Philae, and never give up! 

 

 

Best wishes,

T. (Curt) Tran

Judge Advisor, MEH Falls Church Regional ’13, ’14

Judge Advisor, GMU Regional ’11, ’12 & ’13

Judge 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

 

From: First Lego League in Virginia and DC [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jerry
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 6:43 AM
To: [log in to unmask]


Subject: Re: [VADCFLL-L] TJHSST - RE: [VADCFLL-L] Need Your Help.

 

FYI - tj no longer has a written portion I the examination so the blessing is moot. 

 

:)

Sent from my iPhone


On Nov 24, 2014, at 11:16 PM, Curt Tran <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Hi Marin, Jeff, Lakshmi and everyone,

 

Okay here is the Secret in the “accidental” design of FLL & TJ!  Every year, it’s a coincident that both the TJ entrance exam and the FLL State tournament in Virginia occurred during the first weekend of December.  For this reason many 8th graders might have decided not to compete in FLL during their final year to focus on the TJ test.  However, for those students that are pursuing TJ admittance, winning regional and advanced to State during their 8th grade is more critical than winning it during 7th or 6th grades.

 

TJ admission has made it very clear that they do not make any exception for students missing their entrance exam.  Unless you are sick and bed ridden, they will not let you make up the exam.  However, every year TJ makes the only one exception for those students that have to travel to JMU to compete for the State FLL tournament.  TJ will excuse those students from the second portion of the exam so they can travel to Harrisonburg to be on time for their competition.  They will just take the first portion of the exam and allow making up the writing portion at a later date. 

 

Some students might not like deferring their essay portion to a later date, but this is a blessing in disguised.  If asked by these students, FIRST will compile a list of their names and send it to TJ asking for testing accommodation.  The list of name is typically handled by the TJ admission director personally every year to make sure that they receive accommodation for early release from testing.  So why does TJ makes this special accommodation you might ask, TJ is the Governor’s school for science and technology.  They are out to select the most qualified science and technology students in Virginia for admission.  How qualify can one be if their team won FIRST’s FLL regional tournament and have made it to State. 

 

FIRST is one of the top STEM program in the nation and advancing to State is a high honor for these students.  Although TJ does not accept outside recommendation for applicants, but how cool can it be that your name is on a very short list of name from FIRST that is being personally handle by the director of admission.  I’m not saying that the students will get into TJ just because they are on this short list, but it shows how much TJ has valued FIRST’s programs and has honored those students that have advanced to the FLL State tournament.

 

So having an opportunity to skip the second part of the TJ entrance exam is really a blessing in disguised for our 8th graders!  If anyone still have question on little mistakes that the kids should try to avoid on their TJ application just e-mail me and I will try to reply off list since that is not really related to FLL.

 

 

Best wishes,

Curt

 

 

 

Sent: Monday, November 24, 2014 12:28 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [VADCFLL-L] TJHSST - RE: [VADCFLL-L] Need Your Help.

 

Curt,

 

I'm curious to hear the TJ secret.  We have a sibling who is applying for TJ this year.  He's competed in LEGO and VEX before.

 

Thank you,

Marin

On Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 12:22 PM, Curt Tran <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Hi Niketa,

Congratulation!  Make sure the kids go to the FLL State tournament;  it’s the best thing that can ever happen to any TJHSST hopeful! 

 

This is one of that real world FLL “accidental” in design for Virginia FLL and our TJHSST bound students.

 

Once you have registered, the State will try to schedule all your team’s events in the later part of day to accommodate their TJ test!  And even if the schedule is still too tight for your team when it comes out, there will be many Coopertition® FLL teams that will swap their judging schedules with you (with our scheduler at State final approval for the swap, of course) .

 

If any TJHSST hopefuls out there still have not find Coach Katarina’s secret message about VA FLL and TJ, please e-mail me, and I will spill the TJ secret.  (I cannot locate her secret message on the website either!)

 

 

Best wishes,

T. (Curt) Tran

Judge Advisor, MEH Falls Church Regional ’13, ’14

Judge Advisor, GMU Regional ’11, ’12 & ’13

Judge 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

 

 

 

From: First Lego League in Virginia and DC [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kent and Anne Meyer
Sent: Monday, November 24, 2014 11:21 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [VADCFLL-L] Need Your Help.

 

Don't worry, Niketa. This happens every year and the tournament knows how to handle it. Contact Nick Swayne or Dustin Skelton about exactly what you need to do. Congrats on your success!

 

Anne Meyer

Sent from my iPhone


On Nov 24, 2014, at 10:44 AM, niketa ganju <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Hello Everyone.

 

I am a coach of rookie Team - The Master Builders- 4636. We are from Fairfax county  We are lucky to be selected for the State Championship. Unfortunately 5 out of my 8 team members are appearing for the  entrance test of Thomas Jefferson High School on December 6th. The time schedule for the test is from 8 am till 12 am. The kids can be at the tournament location by 2 pm. We are Division 2 team. The kids really want to participate in the tournament as it is their first time. I would really appreciate if anyone can let me know whom should I contact to reschedule our team's events. The deadline to register is tomorrow and we are really worried that we might not be able to participate if we are not allowed to reschedule our events.

Any help would be really appreciated.

Thanks.

Niketa ganju- Coach of The Master Builders- 4636.


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            ~MARIN KOBIN~
University of Rochester class of 2009


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