Jr. FLL (Junior FIRST LEGO League) is a terrific organization designed to introduce kids ages 6 to 9 to the concepts of basic engineering, scientific research and teamwork, among other valuable skills. This is my second year in a row coaching my youngest child’s Jr. FLL team, (actually, a friend and I are co-coaching two teams together) and we’re working hard, learning a lot, and truly enjoying the process.
Each year, the Jr. FLL organization promotes a different scientific theme. This year’s is “Super Seniors”. Our two teams, each consisting of six third graders, named themselves “Super Sonic Seniors” and “Ultimate Elderlies”. This year’s Jr. FLL project requires each team to find and interview a “senior partner” over the age of 60 about changes the senior has experienced in his lifetime. The team then chooses one of the topics they discussed, researches it, and prepares a poster board on what they have learned and builds a motorized LEGO model related to their research topic.
The “Super Sonic Seniors” chose to research changes in television. We learned a lot about television technology and content in the years since its inception. Did you know that the first working television system was mechanical and developed in the late 1800’s? In addition to their research, the team members created a LEGO model of a television that “changes channels” by rotating a platform with two different scenes when you press a button on the “remote”.
We build our model using the LEGO Education WeDo Construction set, which provides a simple data hub that connects to a motor and two different sensors, supplemented with the vast collection of LEGO that I’ve accumulated over the years. Last year we programmed the model’s motor and sensors using the default LEGO WeDo software. This year we were excited to discover that we could use Scratch, a graphical introductory programming language developed by MIT, to generate responsiveness and movement in our model. I’m a big fan of Scratch as an introductory programming language for kids, and hope to write a post about our experiences with it soon.
We’re wrapping up our research and preparing to join dozens of other teams at the Jr. FLL Expo on January 19th at Legoland, California. The event is a blast. The kids get a chance to display their research projects, and see what other teams have done with the same theme. It’s a non-competitive environment with an emphasis on sharing ideas and having fun. It’s like a mini scientific conference for young kids.
If you want to find out more about Jr. FLL, their website is: http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/jr.fll
I hope to post some picture of out team’s activities after our trip to the Expo.