There used to be a coffee table somewhere in this room....
Noah and Will are both members of the First Lego League (FLL) team at their school this year, and together with their teammates, they've been eagerly preparing over the past two months to compete in a tournament that will take place at a local high school this coming Saturday. The competition is an excellent, multi-faceted experience for everyone involved: kids research a real world issue based on the year's theme (2013's theme is Nature's Fury, so our team has been studying the effects of hurricanes on communities), and develop an innovative solution to a specific problem they choose. They consult with experts and share their ideas with others in the community who could benefit from the information, and on the day of the competition, they present this entire project to the judges in a creative way. Team members also design and build a robot using Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0, and program their robot to complete various timed, theme-related missions on tables just like the giant one now set up in our living room. Just as importantly, each team is required to complete an unfamiliar cooperative task together as part of the competition, and all participants are expected to demonstrate core values of teamwork, positivity, respect, and gracious professionalism throughout the entire day. It is a great deal of work to prepare for an FLL tournament, but it is also an exciting and incredibly valuable learning opportunity for the kids who become involved in it.
When time at school to complete all of the robot programming work our team still had to do was running short and the tournament date was quickly approaching, our family volunteered to set up the table at our house for the last week of preparation, and to host a couple of team work sessions. Yesterday, three other boys from the team, plus a kind and knowledgeable teen mentor who willingly gave up his Saturday to help, joined Noah and Will in our living room for six busy, productive hours to get the programming done. It was incredible to watch these kids work so hard together towards a common goal. They were focused, encouraging of one another, and great at solving problems as they arose. Admittedly, there were some moments of extreme silliness, and the occasional fart joke, but the overall impression I had from the day was that these boys could do anything they set their minds to. I felt as elated as they did over their successes as they painstakingly completed each program one by one, and I beamed with pride for all of them when they first piloted their robot through a perfect run, completing all of their timed missions gracefully with a few seconds to spare. I can't wait until next Saturday when I'll see the truly inspirational sight of our group and all of the other teams sharing the results of their hard work on the competition day. These kids are all a testament to the fact that our young people today can be truly amazing.
There was a time when part of my November Saturday afternoons could be spent with my feet up on the coffee table in my living room, enjoying a good book or a magazine with a mug of tea. Those days feel far away now; it seems they've been completely replaced by the bustle of activity that curious, motivated, energetic boys seek out and thrive in. As busy as our weekends often feel these days, I'm so glad for the experience of having a giant Lego table where our coffee table used to be. In the same way that the physical structure fills our living room to overflowing, the echoes of the positive, creative energy that table carries with it make my heart feel so incredibly full.
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