Friday, October 30, 2009

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White

Yesterday as part of our research project we took a field trip down to the Thompson Center in Chicago to interview Secretary of State Jesse White.

Secretary White is a remarkable man with a life long list of accomplishments-- any one of which would be sufficient for one life time. The Secretary was very gracious and has a real love for kids. We had an appointment for one hour with him but he kept asking questions about our team, our robot, and FLL that, by the time we gathered our things to leave, he was late for another appointment because of the extra time he spent with us.

He was incredibly generous and lavished us with a ton Jesse White Tumblers wrist bands and lanyards, then filled us up with Girl Scout Cookies and soda pop, and then opened a huge box of Halloween Candy and said "dig in!"  As we were leaving he asked for the date of our regional tournament so that he could put it on his calendar!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wisdom from a veteran Coach

I ran across this bit of wisdom while browsing the Projects section of the FLL forums. I thought it was worth passing on.

The research assignment this year is beautiful in its ambiguity. Through careful selection of the community you can make almost any topic fit into the project guidelines. As long as you do all parts of the research assignment it would be unfair for the judges to mark you down. Judges should be expecting some wacky ideas this year.

You should pick a topic you are really interested in and will have fun researching and presenting. If you have fun and learn something you are a big winner, regardless of what the judge says.

The only reason to get a high score in FLL is to have another opportunity to compete. If you aren't having any fun this isn't much of a motivator... ...The plaques and trophies they (my team) have won are getting dusty in storage somewhere. The excitement of winning only lasted a short time, as does the disappointment of losing. But the friends you make and the fun you have is what makes the program worthwhile. That is why my team competes year after year. -- Dean Hystad

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Insights from a technical judge

I ran across this little nugget from Dave Parker on the FLL forums.

As a judge, I would like to hear more than "Bill made that one, and Sue made this one" from the kids, and hopefully also more than "This one has a light sensor, this one doesn't". I might ask "Why use the one without the light sensor, since it can also count motor degrees?". There may be practical answer, but I want to make sure the kids are on top of it.

I have judged at the state and WF (World Festival) levels, and listened in on many judging sessions at the local/qualifier level, and I would also add that in general, at the lower levels (e.g. qualifying tournament), design judges are interested in stuff you haven't finished yet (even attachments that are in progress), but at the higher levels, it moves to more of just what the final robot can do.

Having said that, at WF last year, one team showed me two robots, one of which was a redesign since winning their state championship, which was designed to go faster in an attempt to get more done in the time limit. After putting a lot of work into it, they still couldn't get it to score any higher than their original slower one, so they ran that one, but I was impressed that they tried and were able to explain the whys.