The LL Wizards - FLL Team #318

Week 4 Meeting - 10/1/2009

October 5th, 2009

We held our Week 4 meeting on Thursday Oct. 1st. We were helped out by Michelle Uthe and Mike Staub.

Building one of the robots

Building one of the robots

This week we started off talking about the amount of time we have left, namely 17-1/2 hours of meeting time. The kids commented that this was a lot of time, until I told them that if they worked straight through, they would have to be all done by 9:00am the next morning. They didn’t think that was a lot of time after that!

We discussed a team logo for our tournament t-shirts. I showed them a mock-up I made, and also told them they could come up with their own design if they wanted. Several kids asked for the sheets to sketch out a design. We’ll go over them and choose at the next meeting.

I also introduced the A.S.K. principle. A.S.K. stands for “Alternate Sources of Knowledge”. I explained that as we do our research and building/programming, if we need help we can seek out alternate sources of knowledge and ASK them questions.

Building one of the robots

Building one of the robots

We then needed to decide on the exact topic of our research project. Over the previous three weeks we had done a lot of brainstorming and came up with lots of good examples of our community, the types of transportation, and issues surrounding those mode of transportation. After much discussion, the team decided to look at ways to improve the efficiency of the school bus routes and how we might cut down on bussing time and fuel usage.

We then talked about robot design, and coaches decision that we needed to start with an existing design, build that, and then later improve on it, versus starting from scratch. This is an issue for a lot of newer teams, especially with younger participants. We now have two almost-complete robots that we can start programming missions with.

At that point, we did our weekly split up into 3 groups. One group focused on the research project, with the other two working on building the two robots.  The research group came up with lots of good questions and information that we need to gather to continue the research project.

Research team hard at work

Research team hard at work

Lastly, after we had cleanup time, I again gathered the kids around the competition table, and I gave them a demonstration using “coach’s robot”. This is a third robot that I will use to teach them design principles and programming with the computers. I programmed the robot to leave the base area and “dead-reckon” steer around the curve to the area where a bunch of the hoops are at.

That’s it for this week. Next week we will continue the research project and start actually programming missions.

- Coach Brian

Week 3 Meeting - 9/24/2009

September 25th, 2009

We held our third meeting on Thursday Sept. 24th. This week we had two new helpers for the day.100_0301

Our 1st helper was Mike Staub, a South Bristol resident and fellow Harris Employee. Mike is a former Kodak employee who has past experience with industrial robots and has volunteered in the past with youth organizations in the city of Rochester. Mike will help out as his schedule allows, and I think he promised to tell some stories in the future about robots not doing what they were supposed to do. I’ve heard a couple myself, and think the kids will get a kick out of them.

Our 2nd helper was Lego League parent Beth Hall. For those that don’t know, Beth is the manager of the Allen’s Hill Library on County Rd. 40.

In addition, another Lego League parent, Michelle Uthe will be helping out. After having to “fly solo” last week, the additional helpers this week were very much appreciated!

After having our snack and turning in the “homework”, I introduced the kids to the concept of the “Design Cycle”. Basically, the “Design Cycle” is an engineering principle that you apply when trying to develop something new. As applied to our program, it involves 4 basic steps: “Analyze Requirements”, “Design Robot”, “Build Robot”, and “Test Robot”.

The concept involves thinking about what we need the robot to do, developing a design for the robot that meets those requirements, building the actual robot, and testing our results. We then either go back to looking at the requirements again, or looking at the robot design to come up with improvements, and iterate that cycle until we come up with the best design we can given the constraints we have. Right now, those constraints include the robot parts we have to use, as well as the limited time frame to build/program/test the robot and get ready for the Nov. 21st competition.


The kids seemed to pick up on the concept pretty well, and I was very pleased with some of the resultant dialog. One kid asked “isn’t it a waste of time to work out a design on paper instead of building it?” and before I could respond, another volunteered that if we did that and the robot didn’t work, we wasted all that time in building and testing! Each week I am surprised at the level of dialog that we have and some of the ideas that they come up with on their own!

Our next item agenda was to as a group watch all the mission rules videos provided by FIRST. We went over each mission one by one and made sure we understood what the goal is for each. The kids were already wanting to talk about strategy options, but I tried to keep that to a minimum (we’ll tackle that starting next week) so that we could get through all the videos. It was encouraging to see though. All the missions rules are also documented in their “Rules” binder, which I have previously told them will be their best friend come competition time.

At that point, we split up into 3 groups again. One group focused on the research project, the second on finishing the bridge, and the third on getting familiar with the robotics kit. I want to say that Mrs. Slovak’s brand new white board has seen a lot of use the past two weeks!100_0300

Lastly, after we had cleanup time, I gathered the kids around the competition table, and I gave them an opportunity to start talking about game strategy. It is one thing to see the rules, but another to put that into the context of the whole table, and how doing 1 mission might affect the outcome of another mission. For instance, releasing the crash-test vehicle might knock down some other game pieces, or get in the way of the robot getting to certain areas of the table. We had a good 10-minute discussion with the kids coming up with lots of good ideas.

That’s it for this week. Next week we will start focusing on robot design, mission planning, and finalizing the topic of our research project.

- Coach Brian

Second Meeting - 9/17/2009

September 23rd, 2009

The team held its first meeting on Thursday Sept. 10th. Everyone had a good time and enjoyed the activities.

We started by going ove the details of the research project and talking about what will be required. I had a large-format poster that I hung on the wall, that they can go back and reference throughout the season.

We had a discussion about Lego League “homework”. Each week or so, I will give the kids a small assignment to complete by the next mission. The purpose of this is to expand our research activities beyond just the meeting time. The idea is that each member doing 5-10 minutes of research or brainstorming outside of the meeting results in 45-90 minutes for the group. This won’t be every week, and some weeks may involve looking stuff up on the Internet, from transportation-related sites that I will have pre-screened in advance.

We then watched some more 30-second clips describing each of the robot missions. They are now getting an idea of what they need to make the robot do. That led us into our next activity for the day.

As a teambuilding exercise, and to give a a lesson on programming, we did something called the “Robot Game”. For this, we broke the group up into teams of 3. In each team, there was an Engineer (who decided what the mission was), a Programmer (who got the mission details from the Engineer), and a Robot. It was the programmer’s job to give discrete movement instructions to the robot. These are commands like “Move left foot forward”, “Bend knees”, etc. They weren’t allowed to give high-level commands like “Walk 3 Steps”. The mission was to cross the room and have the “robot” sit in the chair. This turned out to be a fun and educational exercise, and the teams wanted to switch roles and do it again. The outcome is that they learned that they need to break down each required movement of the robot into very small detailed commands.

We then broke the group up again into teams of three.
Group 1 worked on brainstorming ideas about transportation. We looked at the definition of community, and then what types of transportation do we see in that community.
Groups 2 & 3 worked on building the mission models again for the robot playing field. This activity is almost complete.

We then cleaned up for the day.

Our next meeting is Thursday Sept. 24th.

-Coach Brian

First Meeting Held 9/10/2009

September 14th, 2009

The team held its first meeting on Thursday Sept. 10th. Everyone had a good time and enjoyed the activities.

Since this was the first meeting, we focused on some initial items to get them into spirit and begin working as a team.

We started off with a snack, and introducing ourselves. Our team includes two girls from home-school programs, so this allowed everyone to get to know each other.

We then watched a 25 minute video from US FIRST that comes with the coaches kit. This video followed the kids from the PBS program ZOOM (out of the Boston area) as they participated in the FLL program during the 2003 Mission Mars season. This video showed not only the robot building/programming/competition that our team was introduced to during the summer camps, but also showed the process of doing the research project and giving the presentation on the research to the judges panel at the competition.

After the video, we did a little team-building exercise. This exercise had a two-fold purpose. Not only was it to get them working together as a team, but also to elicit creative thinking skills. The kids were given a rope, with the instructions that they needed to figure out how to get the most number of kids to jump over the rope, as many times as possible, without missing. I was surprised at how fast they arrived at the answer! They started with the jump-rope idea, but quickly realized that the answer was to simply place the rope on the floor and all jump over it. Yeah Team!

We then sat back down and worked on picking a team name. I gave them some examples of other team’s names, then allowed them to brainstorm some ideas. I wrote down all the possible names they came up with. We then did a vote to narrow down the list, everyone could vote multiple times at this stage. We narrowed the list to three names. They then did a “blind vote” between the three. The resultant name (the “Monster Mayhem”) was chosen by 4 votes, the others had 3 and 2 votes respectively. That caused a problem because 5 members were against the name chosen by 4 votes. So we went back and tweaked the process a little, and came up with a 5-4 vote for “LL Wizards”. The LL is short for Lego League.

We also picked a team “color-theme” to be used on the website and our team t-shirts. Turquoise & White. Surprisingly, after the team name activity, that went easy and quickly.

For the last 45 minutes, we worked assembling the rest of the Lego mission models that go on the competition table. We still have a little more work to do on that, but should finish up next time.

At 5:30, we started picking up and putting away our stuff. We had a few minutes to watch a couple 15-second videos describing the robot missions. We will do more of that at the next meeting as well.

All in all, it was a very successful meeting, and I think all the kids were excited. Our next meeting is Thursday Sept. 17th.

-Coach Brian

Forms / Sponsorship Due

August 26th, 2009


Please make sure to turn in the participation forms. Also looking to get $30 sponsorship dues turned in so that we can get insurance in place to allow use of the school building.

I am meeting with school officials on Thursday 8/27 to work out details of school building usage.


Fundraising in progress

July 27th, 2009

Fundraising is currently on-going to raise the $1200 to $1400 needed to start-up from scratch. I have visited quite a few local businesses that I need to hear back from, but we are at about 20% goal currently. Track the progress with the “thermometer” on the left.

If you are interested in supporting the team (as a business or individually), please use the contact link on the left.

Pictures from Lego Camps

July 21st, 2009

Pictures from the July 11th and July 17th Lego Camps. The kids had a great time and got hands-on experience building and programming. They then got to put the robot to test trying to pick up a ball off a platform. Both groups successfully completed the challenge. These camps gave them the opportunity to see what the program would be like in the fall.

I am scheduled to give a presentation to Honeoye Rotary on Thursday July 9th. Looking to obtain help in soliciting sponsorships (mentoring), non-profit status, and others. Let’s hope this goes well for the program.


Summer Lego League Camps

July 6th, 2009

Penfield High School Robotics program is hosting Lego League day camps this summer. I have reserved spots for the Honeoye team on both Saturday July 11th and Friday July 17th. I will be taking some girls to each camp, depending on their availability.

Times will be available shortly. The program is free and a pizza lunch is provided.


Look here for news…

May 5th, 2009

This page is where Team 318 parents/coaches/etc should look for important team information and updates.

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