Since 2003, Team 812 started and coached, on our own, 4 FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams at the Preuss School UCSD. For the past seven years, our determination to build the next generation of engineers through FLL has led to our mentoring over 36 FLL teams in San Diego County and being the exclusive organizers of the San Diego LEGO Challenge, an official FLL qualifier engaging over 600+ students throughout our region.
We held yet another FLL tournament at our school in 2010; this year’s competition was called Body Forward and it involved the technology and knowledge of medical sciences. The competition consist of two parts an oral presentation and a NXT robot competition. The oral presentation this year consisted of thinking of a body part, function, or system and finds a problem with it. The next step was to analyze the problem and find an innovative solution, while acknowledging the efforts of scientist who have done research and breakthrough in that area of expertise. The building period of the NXT is about 2-3 months the actual competition.
At the Preuss School, the actual competition was on November 13th. Our school invited FLL teams from all around California, mostly La Jolla, and other places near us, the teams prepared interesting presentations with different types of visuals. There were three rooms with 4 judges each for each team's presentation. The NXT competition took part in our auditorium there two game boards were set side by side and two teams competed and were judged at the same time. The NXT robots were for the most part preprogrammed to complete a series of missions, as fast as possible. The theme was Body Forward so all the missions were related to medical science, like placing a cast on a broken bone. The teams were also judged on their team work and gracious professionalism through a test that tested their ability to communicate, listen, and lead. At the end of the competition that teams that did the best in different categories; presentation, NXT robot, overall presentation and NXT robot, were awarded FLL 2010 trophies (even our trophies were student made) of Legos!
Through their FLL experience, students realized that the possibility of their pursuing careers in engineering, math, and science were possible – that, one day, they could be the future innovators of our nation! Like Team 812, the 4 FLL teams at the Preuss School UCSD also consist of students who come from low-income families where they will be the first to earn a diploma. Under our mentorship, these students learned the value of hard work and how important it was for them to push through and succeed not only for themselves, but for their families as well. Each year, we watch proudly as our FLL students mature from being timid middle 9-14 year olds, to being leaders within their team, grade, and community. For example, this year, Team 812 had the opportunity to mentor Devon Lee, a sixth grader on “The Green Machines.” She began her FLL career extremely quiet (although she was enamored with poking others) and, somewhere along the way, emerged as a confident, outspoken leader. Her transformation was evidenced by her bravely gripping the microphone and speaking to FOX5 news about FIRST, FLL, and her experience as a future engineer.
For many of the FLL students we mentor at Preuss and throughout the county, FIRST was a way for them to express their excitement for math/science. Everyday, after school, the FLL students would rush into our classroom eager to start building, start making a mess, and eager to run out the door at 5:30PM before we made them clean up! While Team 812 spent many days looking for lost LEGO pieces, we’re so happy that our FLL students continue to be involved in FIRST even after the FLL season is over. As “Mini-Mechanics,” they are directly involved in the brainstorming, building, and even shipping of our robot. We welcome their ideas and their enthusiasm and, everyday, they serve as a reminder of how significant FIRST is in our lives. The Mini-Mechanics are involved in off-season programs, such as BUDDY and STEPS, and are always ready to lend a hand in helping us organize events, such as the San Diego Pre-Ship Expo, a pre-season FRC scrimmage, on behalf of Team San Diego.
We often cannot wait for the day we welcome them into our FRC family. Grow up faster Mini-Mechanics, we need you!