Image:Mountaineers win Director´s award at Robotics competition!
The LEGO Mountaineers, FIRST Jr. Robotics Team #1144

Four years ago, I volunteered as a mentor for a high school robotics team in the U.S. FIRST Competition.  For the past three years, I have had the privilege of coaching a group of talented home school girls in the Jr. Robotics league.  Our team, the LEGO Mountaineers, has done well each year, winning awards in various areas such as research presentation, judges award, and team spirit award. While the girls, excelled in many areas, there was always ample opportunity for improvement. (In the past, their robot ranked 39 out of 44. Not a great score.)

At the start of this year's robotics season, the girls announced that they intended to win the Director's award -- the award given for the team with the highest achievement overall.  The Director's award is a difficult award to earn, and is usually awarded to the larger, more experienced, school teams.  (Our team was quite small this year, with only 5 girls)

As a coach, I see the strengths and weaknesses of our team. My job is to direct the team so that each child develops her skills, and is able to contribute to the team. I knew the work that they would have to do to try to win this award.

I told the girls that if they really wanted to win the Director's award, I would be happy to coach them towards that goal. With that agreement, we spent the early weeks -- while other teams were already building their robots -- focused on studying the goal (the award criteria, etc) and visualizing what it would take to win the award and what winning would be like. We created mind maps of the process and of the things we would need to accomplish to reach the goal. We then broke these down into specific next actions. (i.e. collect parts, build robot, plan mission, etc.).

For the next 10 weeks, we focused on outcomes and actions -- all moving towards the goal of delivering our best performance at the competition. (The competition consists of robot design, field competition, technical presentation, research presentation, sportsmanship, etc..)

We spent a little less time on the robot this year and more time on the theory of planning, goal setting, mind mapping, game strategy, the GTD methodology, and flowcharting. I am confident that these skills contributed to the girls' ability to be ready for anything that they would encounter at the competition.

This past weekend, the girls competed at a regional FIRST Jr. Robotics competition in Southern California. Not only did their robot finish in first place in their division, they finished 3rd overall for robot performance (score) on the field.

At the award ceremony, the judges called the LEGO Mountaineers, to award them the distinguished Director's award for top achievement in all categories.

I'm very proud of them.

The girls have been maintaining a Blog site so that they can share their experiences. This year, the girls provided almost daily updates of their progress, challenges, and successes. I encourage you to stop visit and, if you are inclined, post some words of encouragement. if you have a young person in your life, you may want to share the site with them. FIRST is a great program to inspire children to pursue math, science and technology.

We were fortunate this year to have several distinguished sponsors and partners, who helped provide the funds, software, and encouragement to help the children get things done.  We even had a visit from Microsoft's Channel 9 guy. You can learn more about all of this on the LEGO Mountaineer's Blog site.

I plan to share my thoughts on how to coach an all-girls Jr. Robotics team to success. Look for this and video clips on the girls' Blog site in the weeks to come.


Management Training for Children?

Monday, November 1st, 2004
Nik Chapapas, posted this question about teaching children how to be productive on his Living Life forum:
Management Training for Children?
As I continue to practice the methods of Getting Things Done, I'm reading of people being successful in teaching their children these methods. I'd love to see my children learning this, but question if I have the right words or practices to teach them.
Nik's question is an appropriate introduction for today's blog entry. I believe that Nik already has what it takes to teach his children, and in fact, he's already doing it.

One of the best ways that I know of to teach a child anything -- good or bad -- is simply to model it. Desirable behavior or not, they will copy what they see. I try to have my children see me in a variety of situations; one of them is dealing with clients. I will often allow one of my children to study or read in my office, just so that they can be with me, see what I do, and observe how I serve clients on the phone or even in a video conference. I never cease to be amazed and what they pick up without my even saying a word to them. It's a great lesson for them, and a good reminder for me.

This weekend, I had to take a brief trip to see a client a few hours away. I knew it would be a casual event, so I decided to invite one of my children to come along as my "helper." This time, it was Emily's turn. We had a great time, the client was friendly and gracious to her, and Emily and I got to spend several hours together in the car, just talking about stuff.

Equally, if not important to the things we discussed, were the things that she observed. I could lecture about principles at length, (been there, done that), but in the end, what is more likely to stick is what she has observed.

Image:Management Training for Children?
All dressed up and ready to go...

I consider myself blessed to be able to make a living doing what I do, and serving the people that I serve. I'm even more delighted to share this blessing with my kids.  If you ever have the opportunity to invite your child to come to work with you, consider doing it. It will be a learning experience for both of you. Whether or not you are able to do this, know that your kids are watching your every move. They know what is real and what is not and they are quite perceptive. Next to knowing that God is watching, I cannot think of anything more humbling.