Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Junior First Lego League

Can you feel the excitement crackling in the air? As I write this, it's 11:59AM, on the day that the 2007 challenge is released on the First Lego League web site. All over the world, nerdy little children who understand how to program legobots to perform tasks are huddled over their computers, refreshing the page every five seconds, so they can be the first to know. Okay, maybe not, but in a few minutes, this nerdy 35-year-old is going to scamper over and see what it is.

Benny and some of his little friends have organized into a Junior First Lego League team, this is a 6-9 year old version of the league for older kids. The older kids have to build a robot, and take it to a tournament where it is judged and competes against other robots. The junior version have, reportedly, a less difficult challenge, and a more open-ended kit to work with.

We had our first meeting yesterday. When I arrived at Shez's house, I had brought with me a few building kits, Mega-Bloks Dragons kits that Ahno had given Benny for Christmas, years ago, that we had never opened because first they were too old for him and then he had the Imaginext castle stuff... anyway I had the BRILLIANT idea that the kids could practice teamwork and get their Lego on (yes, I know, Mega-Bloks are anathema to Lego, like matter and anti-matter, they cause tears in the universe, but whatever) by doing these kits.

We ran into a couple of issues:

1. The kits were hard to put together. Not just hard to figure out the directions (although that was part of it) but hard to physically get the pieces to fit together. I don't know if this was years in the laundry room or if the pieces never did go easily together or what. But, it was an issue.

2. We had a personality conflagration, between two of the little boys. I won't name names but one of the names rhymes with Penny. Both of these two wanted to be in charge of the kit they were working on together, neither wanted to give up the instruction sheet, and they got into a big semantic argument about who had told whom that they "didn't know everything" and who was a "smartypants" and what it meant to be uninformed but wise, etc. So. We decided that these two are going to have a Lego challenge beyond the robot building -- they're going to have to figure out how to get along with each other and be a team. Which is a good lesson.

3. We adults had a beast of a time thinking up a name for the kids. The children came up with Legodiles, having rejected my more austere suggestion, Legotorians. So they're the Legodiles, and now I'm working on making them a logo, a web page, a CafePress store, and everything else that a group of silly children needs to be happy.

We never did get those lousy castle sets put together during the meeting, but Benny finished one of them this morning and here's the result:

Pretty cool! He and Sadie have been happily playing with it for about two hours. Time to break up the party and get back to the multiplication by 9s. Enough fun! There is no fun in homeschool! No fun! ;) Now speaking of total seriousness and devotion to rigorous study of relevant topics, I'm going to go peek at the challenge about making colorful robots that save the world.

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