Boost FLL Scores and Skills with Robotics Training Mats

Monday, May 1, 2017

Training mats can be a big expense! As a new coach, I was shocked to discover training mats can cost $100-$200 per mat. Sets that are bundled with curriculum cost even more.

Are training mats really worth the extra expense?  

Absolutely yes! Since adding the training exercises into our team and camp time, I've seen much larger gains in skill sets and confidence. Here's why:

#1/ If you are a new coach, a bundled set will save you so much time! I'd strongly recommend a bundled set such as NASA Mission to Mars. The curriculum, building guides, training programs, and mission challenges are all included. You save a ton of time going this route! Instead of having to create all your training exercises, Lego Education has done all the work for you.

#2/ It is easy for different students to work on building different skills at the same time. Each training mat in the Mission to Mars set is about one-third the size of a First Lego League challenge mat. This makes it easy to spread out all three mats at once on a FLL-sized table. One group of students can be working on the sonic sensor, another with the gyroscope, etc. This prevents a backlog of students waiting to test their programs, keeping all students much more focused on task and actively learning. 

By working on one specific skill at a time, students build confidence and mastery.

#3/ Students can focus on learning a skill first, then apply it to a mission challenge with confidence. Once skills are built, students will automatically start recognizing what skills are useful for solving specific missions! This two step approach (training mat first, then mission application) has really strengthened my team's confidence and skills. It's worth adding to your budget for next season. 

If you already use training mats, which are your favorite? Please share! 

Registration Open for 2017 Robotics Summer Camps

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Are you looking for an affordable robotics camp in Dallas? Registration is now open for my 2017 summer camps!

Different EV3 Robot Configurations | Mindstorms | Robotics Summer Camps Dallas
Different robotic configurations from simple to complex 

Additional robot and attachment design
Each session is limited to 6 students to ensure a fun, hands-on Lego robotics experience. Learn to build robots, design mechanized attachments, and program your robot to accomplish specific tasks using our Lego Education resources. Visit our full schedule.

At the end of camp, we will have a party to celebrate our student's accomplishments! Campers will demonstrate their new robotics skills to their families and friends. Each student will receive a Certificate of Course Completion. Video and photography of your student's work is welcomed and encouraged for your student's academic portfolio! 

Camps are designed for all levels of Mindstorms experience - from beginner to advanced.

How to Evaluate Potential FLL Team Members

With so many students trying to join a First Lego League team, a coach often has to decide which students are the best fit. 

How do you do that? Through trial and error, I've created a system that can work for you too.

But before starting evaluations, wait at least a month after competition! Current team members should be involved in the decision-making. Competing is both time-consuming and rewarding. Give your current members a much deserved mental break. As a coach, you'll enjoy a bit of a time off!

Once you and your team are well rested, begin hosting open practices for potential members to attend. The goal is to have your current team interact with potential teammates. This will serve two benefits. First, your team will get to advance their robotics skills. But more importantly, you'll get to see how interested students perform in a team environment. 

Core Values can make or break a team. Are potential team members using kindness when working toward their missions? Emphasizing Core Values will keep your team interaction positive. 

How we treat our teammates, coaches, and competitors is an integral part of FLL. 

Take open practices as an opportunity to fairly evaluate all students interested in joining the team. If you have more students interested than open spots, see who works best with your current team members. Ask team member input on strengths and weaknesses. Team members often see things from a different perspective than a coach. 

Making final decisions is hard! But ultimately, you must choose the best fit for your team. Once you've decided, invite them to the team and celebrate. It's going to be another awesome year! 

If you're a veteran coach, how do you evaluate potential new members?