Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Tournament

Well, we didn't come in last.

And we didn't come in second-to-last.

I'll let you extrapolate from there where we DID place... LOL.

So, this wasn't exactly one of those movies where, you know, the motley team of beginners pulls together under crazy alcoholic but charismatic coach and ends up winning the tournament while discovering along the way that there are much more important things than winning...

But there ARE more important things than winning. Learning, for one thing, and the kids and I did a lot of that. Fewer than twenty hours of club meetings, and we went from not having any vision at all of what we were trying to do - let alone a clue how to do it - to a team with a robot we'd built ourselves, with programs we'd written ourselves, fluent in terms like RCX and IR Tower and queueing and clicks and touch sensor and wait for.

Over the course of the day, the robot changed dramatically - they added an arm to try to scoop up the reef and the shipping carton, changed it with the help of another team who shared some of their secrets with my kids (so awesome - thank you!), wrote about three programs from scratch, went for about 6 different missions at different times and in different ways, you name it, we tried it, changed it, learned from it.

I had hoped that the robot would do at least one thing exactly as programmed - that would have been a great moment for the team. We earned points here and there, and the robot came excruciatingly close to doing what they'd programmed it to do... but we didn't quite have that breakthrough moment... that was the real disappointment for me. The kids went through a lot of frustration, hard work, renewed hopes, frustration, silliness, and a few moments of excitement and confidence. They felt really good about their research presentation, felt that the judges really responded to their message about oil spills. Overall, they handled the disappointment and frustration extremely well, and are excited to do better in the next tournament, whenever that is.

It was a long day, and an extremely loud one. I almost completely lost my voice, just trying to direct kids here and there over the booming music (if I hear the macarena, the electric slide, or the cha-cha slide even once more...) and the cheerleading and chanting and announcing and general hubbub. I am looking forward to the next few weeks when we will continue meeting but without the pressure of an upcoming tournament - we can slow down and tackle the challenges one at a time until we nail them, and learn even more in the process. I'm also looking forward to getting more members of the team actively involved in the building and programming - with the time pressure they faced, the team members deferred to a couple of kids who picked up these things quickly, but of course it would be better if they all contributed.

And we OWNED 73rd place! ;-)


Anonymous Muriel said...

It seems you had an awesome day. I love hearing about your trials and tribulations with this robot tournament thing. It always sounds exciting, challenging, and a great way to bond with the kids in an original way.

I'm sure the next few weeks will be just as rewarding if your team continues to rally as it seems to.

We don't have anything like these tournaments here. It's a real shame...

2:31 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Awesome! And what did your parents think?

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Schoolgal said...

Your students will never forget the experience. The impact on their lives can only be positive.

BTW: Did you ever find out how your school is handling the extra minutes? I will probably find out tomorrow during the extended Mondays.

I hope all teachers now know that we don't start working late until Feb. 6th and not the 1st as originally planned.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Fred Wright said...

I had a similar experience last year. It is an awesome experience for everyone. I hope your students' parents realize what fantastic gateway to other opportunities these programs can be and also how much of ourselves we put into it all.

I would have liked to see you guys in action. We competed on Sunday.

Maybe you can join us for the Spring Region 4 challenge. I think it is a more direct forum for getting the students to focus learning because the coaches decide what the missions will be and many of us ask the kids what they would like to compete in against other students.

11:08 AM  
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1:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good luck..... :-) u need it

5:34 AM  

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