I cannot begin to tell you how much work it was to get involved with and take on the role as co-coach of the 4th/5th grade First Lego League Robotic Team at Allendale Columbia. With strong support from their science teachers, we are gearing up to compete in our first regional qualifier. The kids are excited, the coaches are nervous, and in just a short few months, it boggles the mind on how much we’ve accomplished as a team.
Never having been involved in Lego League type competition before, I had my doubts. I knew it was “programming robots”, but truth be told, that is all I thought it was. Had I just taken the time to learn a little more, I would have gotten involved many years ago, and it was only because my own child is on the team that I was willing to take a look at the program. Shame on me.
Sure, there is a programming component to the competition, jam packed with rotations, angles, sensors, and problem solving. What I found to be wonderful, was the other portion on this project – in this year’s case, a theme entitled, “Senior Solutions”. The team needed to adopt a senior citizen (age 60 or older) and ask them about things that make life difficult for them on a day to day basis. Team had to decide upon one problem, and propose a solution to this problem via an invention, or proposal. It was heartwarming watching our 9 and 10 year olds sitting eating pizza with a 73 year old nuclear physicist, talking about life, science, struggle, and hope. When talking about his various career choices – his message to the kids was, “I don’t like work, I like fun. If it isn’t fun, then maybe you should think about why you are doing it”. My son raved about his visit to the Digital Art Lab with Mrs. Oliveri to learn how to put their team t-shirt designs into the computer – his education went far beyond the code typed into a programmable robot.
I am not sure how we will do in the regional qualifiers, but I know this First Lego League competition has lit a fire under 6 students who will represent their school on Saturday. Not only did they learn programming, but they also learned something about empathy, respect, pride, and community.