I was obligated to attend a Lego Robotics tournament all day on Saturday. I confess my viewing of the practice runs for the teams of Boy two and Girl one left me less than enthusiastic. Someone had to explain to me when the Lego robot finished maneuvering whether things went well or not. Since I didn’t get it, I assumed the kids didn’t either.
My fantasies for freezing rain or a last minute illness didn’t materialize, but the kids’ excitement was catching. By the time we got there, it seemed like a nice day. Their eagerness (and my plans to leave them and only watch for the afternoon) had unScrooged me.
To my surprise, the afternoon I thought would be long, proceeded to unfold as a series of revelations to my traditionally low tech self.
Revelation #1: The place was teaming with grade 4 – 8 kids (including mine) who understood most of what was happening.
Revelation #2: The pedigree of judges and referees giving their time to the event was nothing to sneeze at. People with all kinds of engineering degrees, employed in some of the most prestigious companies in Canada, were there convinced that my kids (and a few others) were the future of Canada’s ability to innovate.
Revelation #3: Nobody there was interested in grooming cookie cutter kids. (One of my biggest frustrations with education today is that inadvertently or not, much of it is designed to spit out kids who don’t think, risk or try new things.) First Lego League (not something I was previously familiar with) is out to reward risk taking, innovation, teamwork . . .
Here’s the list of the core values that teams were marked and rewarded for understanding and exemplifying:
*We are a team.
*We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.
*We know our coaches and mentors don’t have all the answers; we learn together.
*We honor the spirit of friendly competition.
*What we discover is more important than what we win.
*We share our experiences with others.
*We display Gracious Professionalism® and Coopertition® in everything we do.
*We have FUN!
(For more on First Lego League, see http://www.firstlegoleague.org/mission/corevalues#sthash.Z7mZlLR4.dpuf)
Revelation # 4: Waiting for the judging results, they cranked up the music and invited the kids to dance. Seventy five or so geeky kids spontaneously dancing (or forming trains with kids they don’t know) to Cotton Eyed Joe and YMCA is a pretty refreshing thing to watch.
Revelation #5: The world is a big place. Some really good things are happening. I stopped short of a one man standing ovation when one of the extremely accomplished speakers commiserated with the kids about failing, starting over, and not understanding why something wasn’t working. How great is that? When a successful adult talks shop with ten year old’s like they’re colleagues in the big world of innovation and design? When someone teaches by example that failed attempts are merely steps on the road to discovery?