While attending the FIRST World Festival in St. Louis last month I ran into the Starbucks adjacent to the hotel where I was staying. The line was at least 20 people deep. I needed to do a little review of the judging rubric prior to the beginning of the FIRST LEGO League judging sessions that morning so I decided to hold off on the coffee and at least enjoy the comfy chair that was empty next to the door. The gentleman next to me seemed to have a similar idea.
Back to this gentleman and the conversation that ensued in just a bit.
The FIRST World Festival ran from April 23-26. It overtooks downtown St. Louis; at least everything in a half mile radius of the Edward Jones dome. The place simply swarmed with robotics team participants, enthusiasts, volunteers, parents, grandparents, and on and on.
More than 600 teams from 38 countries competed in the three levels of FIRST: FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®, grades 4 to 8, 9 to 14-year-olds in the U.S, Canada, and Mexico; 9 to 16-year-olds outside the U.S., Canada, and Mexico); FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®, grades 7 to 12, 12 to 18-year-olds); and FIRST® Robotics Competition(FRC®, grades 9 to 12, ages 14 to 18). In addition to the high-energy robotics matches, 40 teams of 6 to 9-year-olds participated in the Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®, grades K-3), World Festival Expo.
In all, more than 12,000 students, ages 6 to 18, participated in the Championship events.
I had the great pleasure of judging FLL teams from the Middle East, Asia, the South Pacific and the United States. I event got to interact with a homeschooling team or two!
As I will continue to say, all of the truly good science programs out there reach the highest of heights when conducted . . . at . . . home! The FIRST® Robotics programs are a perfect example.
Comfy chair sans coffee
Back to my chair in an overcrowded coffee shop. Divine appointments are truly divine. I realized quickly that this was one as I introduced myself to the gentleman from North Carolina next to me. He was there supporting his son and his son’s FRC (FIRST® Robotics Competition) team. FRC is the granddad of the FIRST Robotics programs and the most intense. A short season and a big robot with lots of engineering are the hallmarks.
His son participated in an FLL team for several years and then “graduated” up to an FRC team. He and his wife homeschooled their children from start to finish. FLL and FRC were major components of their homeschooling. Their son thrived in and through these activities.
When I arrived in St. Louis I was a science educator that saw great value in the FIRST robotics programs. I have returned home convinced that these programs are absolutely excellent options for homeschooling families.
Without going into much more detail about my conversation that morning, I left the coffee shop with an empty caffeine tank and an encouragement and inspiration tank absolutely brimming. I also left with a new brother in Christ.
Thanks Jerry Hutchins and Team 2655 – Flying Platypi. See you next year in St. Louis!