I understand that it is June but many of us are already looking towards the fall and the fun activities that are coming. And here in the NerdFamily house, we are looking towards our 4th year of Lego Robotics!!! The NerdDad and I coach a homeschool team so we are getting ready to start up again and part of that is opening up to new members. And every year I find myself explaining what this is and isn’t, so this year I decided to do a post, including the specifics of how our team works! There are some standard things and some that are specific to our team. The differences are noted;). There are teams in all types of schools be they public, homeschooled, chartered or private.
What is this?
What we do is actually the First Lego League versus high school Lego Robotics. This IS NOT just playing with Lego. This is actually a competition with 3 parts.
-One part is programming the robot to complete a variety of task on a specific field with specific obstacles. The board changes every year and the kids work together with the robot to program in the tasks. During the competition they are calling all the programs they have previously worked on.
-A second part is a challenge. The kids will be issue a challenge having to do with the theme of the year. The kids do research to develop a solution and then create a presentation that they will perform for a couple of judges (not a big audience) at the competition.
-The third part is core values. It isn’t something they actually do but making sure the kids learn to work together as a team and so on. There will be a chat with a judge to make sure they grasp them. The coaches will go over the values as they prep for competition.
The Nuts & Bolts:
– There is a limit of 10 kids per team. Our team first gives former members the option of coming back before opening it up to newcomers.
-This is for kids 9-14. The bottom limit (9) is a squishy boundary and will allow 8 year olds in our area. Our team has a rule that we only take 8 year olds if they have an older sibling who is also on the team.
-Our team meets 1 night a week for practice August through the end of November/beginning of December. For us this isn’t a drop off situation. Parents need to stick around and possibly help;).
-There is a cost. While other schools and groups either charge a standard fee or no fee at all, every team has to pay a registration fee, order a pack of parts for your practice arena, a map and pay entry fees to competitions. How our team handles it is that we split all costs evenly between the kids. Last year we had 10 kids on the team, my family owed 3/10 of the costs because we had 3 kids participating. I believe the initial fees are around the $350 arena with a competition fee after that.
-Every team can start at a different time in the fall. We run some informal practices in July. They serve as brush up sessions for those who have done this before and an introduction to students who have never done this before. We ask for a firm commitment by August 1st and basically when we are full, we are full. Even if it is before August 1st. That is so we can collect fees and get us registered! We can’t order out kits for the year until that point and we need at soon as we can!
The biggest misconception I have seen about Robotics in elementary school has to do with the name Lego. This is not a Lego building or playing group. I have seen kids (in our group and others) be disappointed because that is what they thought they were signing up for. The only real Lego assembling happens for 1 week when we assemble the field kit. Everything else is simple programming and presentation stuff.
This may not be for everyone but my kids have really loved it. It is a great way to develop logic, team building and be a great step in a #STEM education!