Opportunities

LEGO Dragon Trash Trek

Congrats to the LEGO Dragons!  They took home the INSPIRATION award at their FIRST LEGO League (FLL) tournament this past weekend.  The LEGO Dragons are C’s team that I coach.  E’s team was awarded the PROGRAMMING award.   I’m very proud of both teams and all the work they put into the season.

Neither team is moving on to districts.  The threshold to be considered for a district invitation is placing in the top 55% of teams during the robot competition.  The LEGO Dragons just barely missed the cut off score, I think they were 1 point behind 10th and 7 points behind 9th with 320 points.  They  scored 433 the night before in our practice rounds.  Unfortunately they made a very slight error when they built one of the practice models and were unable to make changes to the programming while at the tournament because of a separate misunderstanding about what “saving” meant followed by a program crash.  The fix to the program where the mission model was set up incorrectly was easily done in a few minutes, but doing so at the tournament would have risked messing up 3 other mission runs that were worth 140 points.  It was really a tough thing, but the kids took it pretty well.  They really showed so much growth in how they handled the robot game this year.  When things went wrong they adapted quickly and made lots of good decisions.

One of the core values of FLL is being in the competition to learn, not just to win awards.  This year in particular I feel like we learned so much.  I know I’m much more conscientious about avoiding plastic shopping bags.  I also discovered I was throwing away film plastics that can be recycled by taking them to the store with any plastic bags I happen to collect.  I taught our team how to use a sewing machine and  I learned how to use a cutting machine for vinyls.

NXT CatapultI’m viewing the fact we didn’t move on in the competition as an opportunity to connect with the robots in more creative and fun ways.  Instead of focusing on points in the robot game maybe we will be building robotic animals that respond to sound or “eat” food pellets.  The contraption above is one E built to send fun size candy bars down a conveyor belt, drop them into a catapult, and fling them at the recipient.  It was a bit crazy and didn’t work exactly as he wanted.  but he was very engaged in making it and trouble shooting.   Maybe we will set aside the robots and do some 3D printing or make animated Christmas cards.  I’m not sure exactly what we will be doing, but I’m looking forward to the space for creative play.

Community Service Day

If you are ever want to be inspired, you should spend some time hanging out with a FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team.  I’ve written several times about how these kids do an amazing job coming up with solutions to problems.  This year the challenge is Trash Trek.  Our FLL team has spent the last few months learning about trash, recycling and ways we can Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

TrunkChallengeMonday the kids had a day off school and decided to spend it doing community service.  Our first project of the day was to contribute to the reuse portion of the cycle by filling the trunk with clothes and shoes for the Goodwill.  I’m not sure what the donation receiver thought when five boys spilled out of my car.  She was gracious enough to give us a quick tour and we looked around the retail store for several minutes.

CollectingTrashatLakeErieDuring the course of our trash research we were shocked to read how much micro plastic is in Lake Erie.  Since we live near Cleveland, we decided to investigate ourselves.  Getting out on the lake and collecting samples of micro plastics wasn’t practical, so we decided to conduct a beach clean up.

We took a couple of clip boards with survey information by the Great Lakes Alliance, trash bags and gloves, and we headed for the beach.

IMG_2558Probably because of the time of year (mid October) the beach looked pretty clean from a distance.  We found mostly bits of plastic, bottle caps, straws, and a few plastic bottles.  By far the most common items found were cigarette tips and small bits of plastic.  We only stayed about an hour but collected 2.5 kg of trash.

BlueTrashScorpionWe thought it would be fun make art out of our litter finds.  During the summer months we would probably find more litter in the form of bottles and caps that would make better “art”, but the boys really seemed to enjoy figuring out things to construct.  A little spray paint really helped.

TrunkChallengeOverwriteThe LEGO Dragons are extending a “Trunk Challenge” to our friends, family, and readers.  Fill your trunk with donations for your favorite charity.  Donate.  Then post in the comments to let us know you took the challenge.  Issue your own challenge to your friends and family.

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Field Trip: Goodwill Industries

IMG_2430I may have mentioned the FIRST LEGO League Challenge this year is Trash Trek.  The kids are learning about trash and recycling.  My special thanks go out to the mom who put together a field trip to a Goodwill processing center.

There were about 15 boys on the trip and our hosts graciously provided donuts and juice while the kids sat in spinny chairs around a conference table.  The kids really appreciated being treated in such a grown up manner.

Our hosts told us about the circle of Goodwill.  It starts with donations that are sorted and sold in the retail stores.  The money raised in the stores is used to provide job training and help to people in our community, who need a bit of help getting back on their feet due to challenges they are facing.  Once people are employed they are likely to donate items to Goodwill and the cycle continues.   Making donations helps us by giving us a place to take items we don’t need anymore.  People who are on a limited budget, committed to living a non-consumer lifestyle, or want to save money are helped by purchasing used goods at a low price.  People who need job training and other services are helped by the programs offered by the Goodwill.

IMG_2427We visited the area where goods are sorted when they come to the store.  There are about 150 different 501(c)3s operating under the Goodwill name so different regions have different requirements on what they accept.  The site we visited does accept clothes that are worn out and those are placed in bales and sold to other industries.   It can be helpful if you label clothes as such when you bring them in.   They also have salvage options for other items.

The site we visited has an electronics recycling program.  They refurbish computers and sell them to qualifying families for $85 for desktops and $125 for laptops.  They also work on and recycle printers, tvs, and other electronics.  The process they use for wiping hard drives is a 7 time overwrite.  You might imagine with a group of fifteen 9-13 year olds, there are a few tinkerers in the group, so we found out that this program accepts electronics even if you have dissected them or if they are missing a power cord.

After the tour we decided it would be great to send out a challenge to FLL teams to do a donation drive.  We are still in the planning stages, but our team is shooting for October 17th.  We are planning to take clothes and electronics.  I recently went shoe shopping and as soon as I came home I put the shoes I was replacing in a donation bag.  I even managed to get rid of more shoes than I bought!  Please let us know if you are inspired to do the same.  We would love to collect pictures from across the country of donations!

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