Thursday, December 10, 2009

On Our Way to Robotics Again

It's that time of year again, when our robotics team heads off to the regional tournament with a robot built and programmed and a research project completed, and I as a coach am pulling out my hair trying to keep track of all the details, equipment, and schedules that need keeping track of to get us all there in one piece. For me, this week is probably the single most stressful of the entire year, mostly because I don't want to be the person who messes everything up in forgetting something crucial!

Watching the team present their research project and robot at the public library last week, I'm reminded that it is all more than worthwhile. I know just in watching Mackenzie over the four years that he's been involved in this program, it has given him many things. Most especially, the confidence to speak in public about complex subjects, and the ability to reach out to experts in various fields to ask for their assistance. This year the team did their research project on Orbital Space Debris, quite a hefty problem to try to solve. One of the things Mackenzie did was to call up the NASA representative for Oregon and Washington and ask if he would assist in answering some questions. He also picked up the phone and arranged for a tour of a local metal recycling facility.

Watching these kids answer questions from the audience at the library about their research and their design and programming of the robot, I was struck by how much each of them has developed in maturity and poise and public presentation skills. I know for Mackenzie too it has sparked an interest in all things engineering and programming related, and his programming skills this year have really taken off. For this year's competition, he wrote a line-following program that navigates the robot around the table following the black lines on the mat. Each year that we've done FLL robotics, his abilities in these areas have grown and grown.

So wish us luck as we travel to the competition this weekend, I'm excited to celebrate all that they've learned and accomplished as a team this year.

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