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First Lego League team

Lego, robots, and a group of kids.  Sounds like an interesting combination, and that's just what we'll be doing this fall.  My daughter is part of a First Lego League team that will be using Lego Mindstorms to accomplish a challenge and compete against other teams.   There are over 5,000 teams in North America alone!

First Lego League is an international competition that is held every year.  They choose a theme (2006 - Nanotechnolgy), and then develop a series of challenges around that theme.  The kids have to design a robot to accomplish each of the challenges, complete a research project on the theme, and make a presentation to the judges.  They have about 8 weeks to get it all done.

I've signed on to coach the team, and it all seems a bit overwhelming at times.  My kids like lego, but I wouldn't describe either of them as lego fanatics, and robotic lego is a whole new experience for us.  Fortunately two of the kids on the team do having experience programming an older version of Lego Mindstorms.  

Each team gets a field set-up kit that contains a 4' x 8' mat and lots of Lego to build the modules.  That's the first challenge.  Some of the instructions are over 50 pages long.  If you make one mistake, the module does do what it's suppose to and you won't be able to test the robot.

Once you get the modules figured out, the next step is to understand the missions.  They have great names like 'Atomic Force Microscopy', or 'Individual Atom Manipulation'.  The kids have to learn something about nanotechnology, just to understand the missions.  

Part of the competition involves a research project and presentation to judges.  The kids have started on the research, but haven't narrowed it down to one topic yet.  

One of the real challenges for me, as the coach, is to help them work as a team while learning everything from nanotechnology to robotics.  During the competition, they can earn as many points for teamwork as they can for completing all nine missions.  

I've been creating a new robot game for the kids to play each time they get together.  The games help with team spirit and are helping the kids learn about robots too.


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