New Coach? Overwhelmed by the process? Here's seven
key motivational points to remember.
- Anything worth doing is worth doing…
Let's get this straight: Participating in a
FIRST program is worth doing. You're part of
a global program with more than 100,000
students and thousands of adult mentors and
coaches. You're part of program that
is recognized as one of the best training
grounds for young engineers. You're part of
a program that has dozens of colleges
offering scholarships to participants and
hundreds of local and international
corporations providing support. Finally,
you're part of program that will challenge,
stretch, and educate your team
members in more ways than they can imagine
and in ways they will never forget.
- Complete the research in general
If you're a first time coach it all
seems a bit overwhelming. The goal is to
have something prepared the meets the
challenge guidelines. Plan to have a
presentation. Make it modest, but make it
complete. Dream big, but work realistically.
Your team will be happy to have
presented well. This is one area that even
young rookie teams can excel because it is,
essentially, a creative research report.
- Get a few missions down cold…
Each year's board poses unique
challenges and strategies. This year, more
than ever. Yes, some experienced teams will
score well. However, every team should score
acceptably. The mistake is to try to solve
the entire challenge at once. For a new rookie team (and coach), pick the three or
four tasks that are obvious and effectively
score substantial points (satellite,
windmills, etc.) and get them working. Not
only will your team be encouraged, but
makes sure they will get an acceptable
score. Need help? Scour the web for building
and programming tips.
Follow our four-point methodology for all
- Simple: Less parts, fewer
problems. Less steps, fewer points of
failure. And, make sure you can easily
change the battery.
- Reliable: Make it strong.
Drop test the robot (yes, every year at
least one robot self-destructs like this).
Put pressure on it while changing
attachments. Stretch and bend your
components. Make sure everything is
- Repeatable: Make sure you
solution works over and over again.
Drill, film, analyze. Remember, it
doesn't matter if it worked once or even
fifty times if it doesn't work at the
- Precise: Here's a secret
you'll only hear from us: "LEGO robotics
is an inherently imprecise system."
Okay? We said it. That means that no
matter how carefully you aim a robot
it's not likely to cross the board in
the same way every time. You make sure
that your robots does its tasks with
precision and purpose.
Bonus Point: Don't forget the
'A' factor. That's Adrenaline. It works
like this: Whatever works consistently
in practice is not likely to work that
way in competition. The solution: use
our scoring sheet and do run after run
using a timer. Turn on really loud
music and get some applause tracks from
the web and crank them up. Replicate the
noise and confusion and a tournament.
And, do everything you can do to get to
a local scrimmage or trial competition.
- Plan on being here…
This sounds too simple. But every
year many teams that have registered,
bought equipment, and met for months,
drop out of their state competitions at the
last minute. Just plan on being at
your state or preliminary competition no
matter what you've completed. It's part
of the learning experience.
- Remember the adage of the early
days of stock car racing: “Run what you
Yes, there will be some amazing
robots. But your's will be amazing too
because your team built it. Make sure
your team members are proud of the work
and run it well.
- My third rule of consulting:
“Nothing takes an hour…”
(First two rules don't apply here). What
does this rule mean? Nothing you do with
your team will take an hour. Rather it
will take hours of work, thinking,
re-working, analyzing, and planning.
Just don't expect solutions in minutes.
- Be there and be square…
You want your kids to be square (not
look square). This world needs sensible,
clear thinking students who know how to
get work done and done well. Students
who will come away from the work with an appreciation for
the order and design of the universe and
raw materials with which they will work.
We are doing nothing less than
cultivating the technologies of the
future (and hopefully, a transporter).
That's it for now... See you at
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Forest Hill, MD USA
Contact Marco Ciavolino
FIRST®, FIRST® Tech
Challenge, FTC®, FIRST® LEGO League, FLL®, Junior FIRST® LEGO® League,
and JrFLL®, are jointly held
trademarks of FIRST® (www.usfirst.org) and The LEGO Group, neither of which is
overseeing, involved with, or responsible for this activity, product, or