Building Blocks of Teamwork in FIRST Lego League

The FIRST Lego League teams in San Marino elementary schools had a strong enough showing to get started on next year’s season, even if it wasn’t reflected in the Los Angeles area’s final results.
Four teams from Valentine Elementary School and five from Carver Elementary School recently competed in a regional tournament in Upland, with one team — the Valentine Vipers — advancing to the championship round in La Cañada Flintridge this past weekend. Unfortunately, that’s also where the team’s inaugural season ended.
“However, I spoke with a few of the kids today,” said Crystal Shin, who advises the Valentine teams. “They’re already so excited. They’re asking about next year’s theme. It was really encouraging to see that even though they didn’t advance, they were keeping what FIRST Lego League calls its core values.”
Those values are “gracious professionalism” and “coopertition,” an amalgamation of “cooperative competition.” Each team had to give presentations on not just their project, but how they used those core values to develop it. They also designed and coded their robots and used them in the matches.
“FLL is really big in creating positive collaboration,” Shin said. “They have several rules of what each team should be doing at each meeting and how they should be showing professionalism.”
For the championship competition last Saturday, parents and coaches were allowed to listen in as judges evaluated each team on their projects and presentations.
“It was a lot of work on their part, especially with the short time period. With all that considered, I think they did a great job,” Shin said. “It was very cool to see how they were problem solving on their own. Their responses were totally based on them doing the work. It was really taking that ownership, and I think that’s what 21st century learning is. That’s what they need to prepare for the workforce. It was so encouraging to see them taking responsibility and ownership of their work. You could see the confidence in them.”
Carver Principal Michael Lin helped to bring this league to San Marino schools for the first time this year and said he was pleasantly surprised how much participation there was given how short the notice was.
“It was a very intense amount of work,” he said. “We started late this year. We had only six weeks before the qualifying tournament. We’re going to form the teams earlier and have experience going in (next season).”
With both elementary schools implementing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs this year, and with the continuing success of the Titanium Robotics club at San Marino High School, joining FLL was the perfect complement for students, Lin said.
“This adds another dimension to STEM,” he said. “It makes it feel normal for students, as opposed to something that is at the fringes of an elective. This is normal. This is what kids do and have been doing.”
With this season and its theme (hydrodynamics) wrapped up, the focus now turns to next season and its space theme. Shin said the foundation set this year bodes well for the schools’ teams moving forward.
“Our goal this year was for the students to enjoy themselves and have fun and also want to continue this kind of learning,” Shin said.

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