Keeping on Track

The following discussion is quoted from the Facebook Group FLL: Share & Learn.

First tournaments start next month for many teams. Sometimes it feels like a lot to get done. What is your tip on staying on target, keeping organized, and getting it all done?

Response by Seshan Brothers

Our team’s suggestion is start with your tournament date and work backwards. About a week before you should be all done and practicing skits/robot runs. About two to three weeks before, have the skit written, revised, etc. So, put all these on a team calendar/white board so your team knows what is coming up/due each week.

Response by Mark Mascadri

I empower the students to keep themselves on track and police themselves both time wise and on the task at hand. If a student sees another student stuck they offer help and If they see a student goofing off they ask them to stop and engage them back in the team activity. We come into each meeting with a plan and specific tasks. Our schedule ends us a few weeks early so that we have some cushion built in. I have found that having the students set the guidelines yields better buy in. Of course this does not mean they get free reign. Another exercise is to guide the team to creates a set of rules. We have built in breaks and family style meals into our meetings as well. I hope this helps.

Response by Gloria Gibson

We have a large butcher block pages on the wall–one for project, robot, CV and “extras”. They start with large needs: ie: build robot and then go to more specific needs ie: attachment for specific model. It’s constantly changing and never is without something to do. It’s easy for the kids to look at it each meeting and decide what needs to be tackled. That along with a calendar

Response by Michelle Wood Estrada

An agenda for each meeting with how much time will be dedicated to that task. Also - breaking up the group into smaller teams. It is a constant struggle to keep them all focused, on task, or when to call a break.

Response by Asha Seshan

You should not panic. There are lots of rookie coaches who feel overwhelmed right about now. It seems like there is so much to get done and so little time. Break it up into smaller tasks/goals. Set realistic goals that work for YOUR team (ie. if you meet only 2 hr/week vs. 10). Keep it fun. Kids pick up on adult stress at meetings and (especially) events.

Response by Stephanie Ozenne

The most important thing for panicking rookie coaches to know is that events are, BY DESIGN, fun for the kids! They are meant to celebrate what a team DID do, not point out to a team all the places they are lacking. Kids come out of judging sessions feeling great about what they’ve done. Events are high energy and fun. I know some rookie teams skip their events because they don’t feel ready, and that’s really sad. There is so much to be learned and tons of fun to be had even if you have fallen far short of your original goals!

Have them hang out around the practice tables! Seeing other teams’ robots up close is really inspirational, and it will spark lots of ideas. :)

Response by Jason Baber

Yes, I’ve been judging for 4 years now, and this is my first year as a coach. I feel like I’m not getting the team to where the should be yet, but I know that isn’t the point. I want to get them to a practice and let them see what other teams are doing to help spur some ideas.

Response by Swati Gupta

I think idea is Dont get panic…organize according to your dates. Dont try to overdo the robot game, do enough do get through the qualifier. Freeze the code and building at least a week before and let technicians practice practice practice. Same goes for the project presentation as well.

**Response by Carrie Koepke **

Our team also likes to work backwards, but from the front end as well. We take stock every so often to see where the thinking was too big, as well as where there will be time to grow. We are huge fans of remembering what is necessary vs. what is ideal & fitting it all into what is possible.

**Response by Teresa Smalley **

Absolutely, pick what you are able to do well and make that your goal to complete at the tournaments. This is your first year and there is a lot to digest. If we stress too much about the game and try to make it all perfect (impossible) we won’t want to come back. It needs to be fun and feel right. Our first year we concentrated on Core Values and made the research project fun. Our robot was okay. Have fun with the kids on the team too.

Response by Ryan Evans

To stay focussed is actually pretty simple. Of course we look at all that needs to be completed and by when, but the one thing I do that kicks them up a notch is to tell them exactly how many weeks and then DAYS it is until the competition day. Quite the flurry of activity post that statement!

Response by Gloria Gibson

Divide and conquer–use calendar to keep on track–realize that it’s best to do a few things great than a lot of things mediocre–especially with the robot. Start each practice with a fun CV activity to set the tone for the day–FUN.

Response by Jennifer Francis

I think we say “that’s not relevant” roughly 500 times a practice to keep kids on target. We’re thinking of adding it as a team motto at the bottom of our shirts. “Electric Lego Legends - that’s not really relevant”

Response by Haruna Nakamura Cofer

For the kids who were distracted, we would ask them “Is it ready for competition?” (because it’s in 2 weeks) And this would always make them wide-eyed and get back to work!

Response by Jean Findley-Williams

At the start of each meeting, we sit as a group and team members update each other on project, robot and core values progress and ideas. Before breaking out into small groups, we always review timelines and keep a running countdown of meetings left before qualifiers (Nov 11). Each team member keeps track of their own engineering note for each meeting and then they are compiled by the team before the next meeting. We always have a team of ten with varying levels of experience. Each team member volunteers to take on a different part of the project, robot, core values prep, etc and gives each other continual updates. When one team member or small group finishes a task or goal early, they always seek out to help others. The team has also instituted a group text and email chain that they have me attached to for discussion of ideas and coordination of meeting times outside of our regular meetings. This has instilled a lot of ownership and momentum. We are a community team that meets twice a week after school and on Sunday afternoons. TS/Hurricane Nate is expected to pass right over us this weekend. The team initiated contact pretty quick yesterday after the updated projections came out to see how we could lengthen today’s meeting before the storm and adjust meeting goals. They ended up presenting a lot of great ideas leaving me to only have to give the go ahead to adjust the times. It’s not a perfect system, but it works for us. Each year the team also builds into their presentations how they plan to continue to develop and improve on their project or robot design following the competition and any feedback received.

Response by Paul Glaubitz

In addition to a calendar, teams I’ve mentored have used a to do / in progress / done board. It is a poster board with those three columns. Tasks are put on Post-It notes. Low priority tasks still go on the board in the Todo column, but may never move. When team members complete a task they initial and date the note. The notes will occasionally fall off. If it is initialed it goes back to done,. If someone is doing it to in progress, otherwise to do.