Having Fun with STEM Learning

It’s been a little quiet on the blog lately.  That’s because our life has been full of this:

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Our dining room has been completely taken over by LEGO Mindstorms and I love it.  We built a competition table that fits over our dining room table and added a temporary “desk” for the kids to use while doing programming.  E continued on with his team and will be competing in his third year of FIRST LEGO League (FLL).  This year I’m coaching a rookie FLL team for C and his friends.

It’s busy and chaotic sometimes, but I absolutely love it.

FLL is about so much more than a robotics competition.  The kids work on a research project and come up with an innovative solution.  They also share their project and solution with a few audiences before they go to a tournament.  This year teams are answering the question, “How can we improve the way someone learns……?”  They come up with a project board and put together a presentation about their project.  The presentations are skits, power points, songs, or anything else the team feels is appropriate.

Teams also learn and display the core values of FLL.  This means they are learning that what they discover is more important than what they win and how to truly honor the spirit of friendly competition.  They work on learning how to find solutions on their own, be a team, and very importantly – HAVE FUN.  The core values aren’t just given lip service.  Awards are given specifically for displaying exceptional core values and teams that score poorly in this area don’t advance.

EV3 PBL Mission World Class

And what would a robot competition be without a robot?  Teams are judged on their robot design and programming as well as its performance.

It’s a lot of work for both the kids and a rookie coach trying to keep up with them.  It is well worth the effort.  I enjoy seeing the kids learn how to program a robot and celebrate when a mission goes correctly.    The robot really brings together a nice combination of mechanical design and programming skills.  The project is always interesting and inspires creativity.  The core values do a great job of teaching valuable professional skills.

I was a little nervous going into this year, but I’ve learned a lot and definitely plan to coach a team again next year.  The new EV3 is easier to program than the older NXT and I don’t have to know a lot more than the kids.  One of the core values is that kids do the work with guidance from their coach.  Looking things up and watching videos together is part of the learning process and valuable for the kids.  Sometimes I can anticipate our needs and learn ahead of the kids, but sometimes we really are learning at the same time.

I look forward to doing more blogging once our tournament is complete and I will let you know what fun and exciting projects I see!

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9 thoughts on “Having Fun with STEM Learning

  1. Super cool!! Good luck 🙂 I can so we my oldest having fun with something like this once she gets a little older. Thanks for the update.

  2. Oh my little guy would love to participate in this. We have to find the room for him and his sister to do their building though. There are some local robotics teams in our area they could join in with. I’m visiting from Weekly Wrap Up

  3. This is so cool! My youngest (age 6) is super into robots right now (thanks to Annedroids on Amazon Prime). I have a feeling we’ll be doing the Mindstorm thing in a few years…

  4. We have been considering this for awhile, but the prices of the Legos kits are so high! What you recommend for a first purchase? I’m interested in knowing from someone with first hand experience! Many thanks!

  5. I would love to get my kids involved with this but there is no local league and I am not organized enough to try to start one on my own. It looks like such a wonderful opportunity and a lot of fun.

  6. We had always planned to get T Lego Mindstorms for his 13th birthday but he has other plans of starting a car washing business. This means he wants a bike to fit the trailer he has made to get to and from the cars. I’m quite disappointed. I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed learning next to him!

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