A public school in FIRST LEGO LEAGUE Competition: Possible or Impossible?

The Challenge

Every year, FIRST LEGO League releases a Challenge, which is based on a real-world scientific topic. Each Challenge has three parts: the Robot Game, the Project, and the Core Values. Teams of up to ten children, with at least two adult coaches, participate in the Challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (Robot Game), developing a solution to a problem they have identified (Project), all guided by the FIRST Core Values. Teams may then attend an official tournament, hosted by our FIRST LEGO League Partners.

Lessons learned from FLL Greece 2018

Who we are

I learn and share”, is the motto of GreekCodersK12, the Coding Club of 7th Public Junior High School of Athens Greece. Our team came to life 3 years ago, in 2015, as a volunteering after school programme, organized by , Stavroula (Pola) Misthou, ICT teacher. About 20 students 13-17 formed a very bonding team.  They participated in many STEM and environmental activities such as programming in Scratch & Python, physical computing with Micro:bit, AstroPi, Arduino,  3D printing, robotics with Lego EV3 etc.

The opportunity

The offer of one Lego EV3 kit from the robotics team i-Robot, the 2017 FLL Greek Competition winner, was the starting point for “A trip to FLL 2018”.  In addition, EduACT, the FLL competition operation partner in Greece, sent us one pit for free with an invitation to participate in the competition.

Place

Although we had only one month to prepare for the competition, GreekCodersK12 chose 6 members to represent the Coding Club in FLL 2018. We found a warehouse in the school and we transformed it to a makerspace. Many students helped to clean  the place  and took part in the pit construction. All the them were very enthusiastic, cheerful and optimist!

Time spent

Only 1 member of our team had a previous participation in FLL. The rest of the team had just a little experience from robotics. We spent totally 100 hours in one month, working on weekends and evenings, having a million things to solve, to confront, organize, search, discover, combine, try, do, discuss…

Because of the lack of support and funding, we learnt to cooperate, to be flexible, to focus on our target, to respect each other and share. Whenever a conflict occurred during  stressful situations, a member of the team was shouting  “Core Values” and everyone calmed down. We all agreed that we participated in FLL only for the experience with no ambition for awards.

The competition

Our participation in FLL Athens 2018 turned to be a miracle: we gained the 2nd position, and “Gracious Professionalism” Award! Our IoT device NeroAlert and our Core Values presentation gave us a ticket to the final!

The team managed to organize a self-funding low budget trip for the final. And then, during our participation in FLL Greece Final 2018, a new achievement made us proud of ourselves. We gained the 1st award for Research and 2nd position for the “Global Innovation Awards”!

When we were on stage, our stress and fatigue disappeared! What cheerful moments! We were very satisfied because we got what we deserved for our efforts.

During and After FLL

Socializing with other teams, interacting with visitors and judges, facing problems, overcoming obstacles and controlling our temper, were some of the profits from our FLL journey.

Additionally, using our knowledges from FLL about water problem, the team gave 14 presentations in the school, participated in Athens Science Festival, in STEM Discovery Week 2018 and organized a Water World Awareness Event at school.

During these activities, GreekCodersK12 robotics members were proved to be amazing mentors for little kids and other students. All were exceptional presenters of our project, explaining how NeroAlert works, the problem, the idea,  the prototype, the physics and maths behind the project.

Finally, the team wrote a manual about the robot missions with pictures and programs for sharing with the rest of the team. They also wrote blog posts in our site about their experience.

What team members think

The students who took part in this project think that FLL participation was a great opportunity for them and for their future. They say that “Through this competition you only win!”  The most valuable thing they gained is friendship and teamwork.

According to their opinion, a team in FLL needs a coach who will not stress the members and who understands the potential of the team. They described the profile of FLL team member as a passionate for tech student who can sacrifice many hours for a project; a goal driven individual who has the willingness to continue to learn and improve along with others. Dedication, hard work and ethical culture led our team through the competition.

What coach thinks

As  a coach in FLL competition, I had to be ingenious enough to overcome the limited time, resources and budget. With only 1 Lego Ev3 kit, 1 month and with no prior FLL experience, we had the best result, due to amazing, self-motivated, open-minded students who impressed me with their professionalism, integrity, love and skills.

It is my strong belief that when we allow students to pick a topic they are passionate about, they mobilize others to act on that passion and form a culture of cocreation; that means a learning community which “learns how to learn”.

The answer is .. Possible! 

A public school is a perfect place for FLL only if the school can provide a place for work independently, support and funding.

Special Thanks

I  thank my team GreekCodersK12 for the fantastic adventure we shared, the team i-Robot, EduACT and 2 ICT teachers and friends, who helped us in this project.

Video: https://www.facebook.com/groups/267454270270147/permalink/736671373348432/

 

23/08/2018

Stavroula (Pola) Misthou, ICT teacher, FLL coach, polamisthou@gmail.com

and GreekCodersK12 Margarita F., Ioannis K., Ioanna T., Ioulia O., Maria K., Giorgos Z., Aggelos V.

7gymcoding@gmail.comhttps://greekcodersk12.school.blog/,

https://www.facebook.com/groups/267454270270147/

 

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