This year I have taken on the responsibility of being a mentor/coach for a local FLL team. This is my first year being involved with FLL, and I was wondering if anyone could give me a rundown of what to expect at the competition and what I should do there in regards to my presence as the team’s mentor.
As a mentor, it is important for you to show the students what to do. Not tell them what to do, but show them, if it is appropriate. For example, if you see a team around you has a really good bot, get your team to go and learn how and why they did it. As for the competition, you are basically in the pits most of the time, and then you go out for a match, and then come back. It’s sorta like FRC, but you probably won’t be spending lots of time repairing a broken robot, though you may spend a lot of time fixing code and making things run better. At the same time, you must remember that there will be judges coming around, who will ask about their robot, how they did it, why, etc. Make sure the students know what to say, and what not to say. I’ve had the incident before where I was showing my students how to use Lego Digital Designer (A lego CAD software). They designed it, and since they weren’t very good at LDD, I was the one who made what they designed on the computer (just for the picture). When competition time rolls around, the judges asked who made the robot. And all of the students pointed to me and said, “Our mentor did. He designed it on the computer!”. They were all happy, and thought I should take the credit for their awesome robot. I had to explain to the judge, who luckily knew me, what I had done.
Well, now that I’ve typed too much, I guess I’ll have to summarize it.
FLL comps are like a low level FRC.
That’s a lot better than reading that whole big chunk of text, now isn’t it.
The toughest part of being an FLL judge is knowing that the students are going to tire by the afternoon. That produces different reactions in different students, be prepared. You are there to hold it altogether. Be sure that the students get enough liquids and lunch without a lot of sugar. Praise them often, even if things do not appear to be going well. Have them congratulate their competition and remind them to be gracious. Competitions vary across the world so check over your documents prior to your competition. There will be certain rubics on which the team will be judged. Use those as a guide while preparing your students. Make sure you have all the school travel papers filled out and ready.
It is OK to make assignments. I told my students that they had to find one really cool design or idea and report back to me during the day. As with FRC, stay until all the awards have been presented. Cheer for the other teams. Being involved in cheering and applause will make the afternoon fly. Have fun.
There is a lot of information on the FLL site. Maryland FLL planning committee has also done workshops to try to help the coaches. Take a look at: http://www.mdfirst.org/programs/first-lego-league/fll-team-resources.html Although from last year, there is a presentation on Team Tips for new coaches. Miss Mary also has a presentation posted from last year with What to Expect at Competition towards the end.
You can help your students by paying attention to the schedule (the MD FLL State Tournament is a color coded marvel, but there are a lot of places the team needs to be a certain time).
Help the students to enjoy the competition and cheer on the other teams. You can help set the tone for the families and the students and make this a great experience.
Thanks everyone, you have been a great help. I have but one major question that I do not think has been answered yet. Is there anything I have do during the matches? Like how in FRC and FTC there is an adult coach that stands next to the drivers. Is there any coach like that in FLL?
As an FLL coach the only thing you can do is stand on the sidelines and cross your fingers. (I find this to be the hardest part of coaching…well that and not being able to open my mouth when they are in judging)
Seriously, make a checklist and maybe have a special bin that they can put everything in to take up to the table with them. Your job is to make sure they don’t leave anything in the pit.
Stress the fun factor. Have a cheer and wear something silly. You will set the tone. If you are having a good time, they will too, no matter what your scores are.
In addition to what Wendy said, at most events you will have to leave your drivers when they enter the arena area, and stay beyond the barriers (ropes, tables, etc.) A few events, particularly practice events, will allow you to go with the team to the table to help them set up or calibrate, but then you have to leave the area before the match begins.