Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Inventioneers at First Night!

Do you know anyone interested in learning more about FIRST LEGO League? Well, here's an awesome opportunity to see some teams in action and spend a fun day in Boston. We'll be doing robot demonstrations and promoting FLL at the Hynes Convention Center from 1-5:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve day (December 31). Check us out as well as other FIRST teams with all the other fun activities at the Hynes as part of Boston's First Night Celebration. We'll be in room 202 so stop by and say "Hi"!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Fun Snack for Meetings!

We don't know about your team but for our team, snacks are what make the magic happen! Here is one of our team's favorites. Also a great treat for New Year's Day!

Cappuccino Muffins

Espresso Spread:
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Monday, December 21, 2009

Survey Answers

Survey on Dangers of Distracted Driving

While most of the survey questions asked for your opinions, some tested your Don't DUIT knowledge. Here are the correct answers: (if you haven't taken the survey, don't peek at these answers yet!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thanks for Taking Our Survey!

We just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who filled out our survey. We hope you learned how dangerous DUIT (Driving Under the Influence of Texting) really is. If you haven't gotten the chance to take our survey, or find out about DUIT, you can access it from the home page of our blog. Check out the top right column.

Keep those surveys coming!

Thanks again,
The Inventioneers

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

State Tournament News

Congratulations to all the teams who participated in the NH State FLL Championship tournament on Sunday, December 6th. We were so happy to see so many rookie teams experiencing their first big tournament. I guess we can't call them rookie teams anymore!!

We give a big "High 5" to Kerry Creeden and Chris Palie of BAE Systems for putting together an awesome event and "High 5" also to all the volunteers who judged, supervised, oversaw, refereed and herded teams throughout the day. The robots were great and we always marvel at how rookie teams can take a concept that we, as veterans, gave up on and then make it look so easy. You guys make FLL Rock!!!!

We were honored to receive the Champion's Award and we plan to make NH proud at the World Championship in Atlanta in April 2010. We so appreciate the BAE grant making it possible for us to attend!

Thanks also for the tremendous support we felt from NH teams. We know that FLL is a life-changing program that develops key life skills and ingenuity - and that makes all of us FLLers winners!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Things to Bring to a Tournament

Lots of us here in NH are getting ready for the state tournament being held on Sunday, December 6th. Here are some things we want to remind you to bring to a tournament.

Technical/Game Table

-Robot and attachments

-Computer with programs and download cable

-Spare LEGO parts (a "first aid kit")


-Any props you might have

-Any visual aides you might have

-Resource list


-You really don't bring anything into teamwork judging except your team and great teamwork. Remember to have fun!

Pit and other

-Pit display board about your team/project if you have one

-Give away(s) if you have any

-A bin if you to store coats (especially with snow in the forecast!) under your pit table to keep them contained and out of the way.

-An extension cord/power strip if you want to plug in a computer or charge your batteries

Remember, have lots of fun, cheer for every team, come see us at our pit if you have a chance, and good luck!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tournament News!

Hi Everyone,

We have had the most exciting weekend ever! NH rookie teams we have worked with this year took home an impressive number of trophies! The Creationists from Hudson won the second place teamwork award from a field of 20 other teams! Go Creationists!! The Blockheads from Concord won the second place Champions Award in Concord - amazing for a rookie team! The SVNH Kids First team from Sullivan won an award as well (we don't have all the details yet). We caught up with the RoboPanthers from Pelham at the DWC tournament in Nashua and had a great report from coach Jaimi Kosa - her team was excited to beat their own goals on the competition table! Also, congratulations to the Lego Lords, a second year team from Derry, (a team we loved working with last year and loved cheering for this year) for winning first place for their research project at DWC! Many people have emailed and called to tell us that our help had made their first FLL experience a positive one! We are thankful we could help! We'll keep posting teams' tournament experiences as we hear more!

We were thrilled to earn the first place Champion's Award at DWC this weekend. We look forward to seeing many of our friends from the some of the highlighted teams at the state competition on December 6th.

FLL Rocks!
The Inventioneers

Check us out in the news: Derry News Story

Monday, November 9, 2009

Parents and Other Spectators on Competition Day

In general, parents/siblings/spectators are free to be in the pit area, the practice table area and the competition area - true for all the tournaments that we've attended. For the competition tables, all observers must sit in stands or auditorium seats and cannot get up close to the tables but usually there are cameras covering the action and video is projected up on large screens while an emcee calls the play-by-play. That helps everyone see the close-up action.

(above) You can't miss the Inventioneers in the
DWC competition area auditorium seats!

(above) One set of competition tables
at the DWC tournament

About the judging sessions, we recommend that coaches decide on how to handle the issue of including the parents. Some tournaments allow spectators in judging - our experience is that is mostly with research judging. There are positives and negatives to this - on the positive side, the parents get to see the presentation and hear what the discussion with the judges is like first hand. That's a great way to see the results of all the time their child has put in. On the other side, it can be an added distraction for the team (kids may look to their parent for approval or smiles which can be misinterpreted by the judges as "coaching"). Sometimes the space is too small for everyone (parents and coaches) and fewer people is better. Then you have to choose which parents can or cannot sit in on the spot which can be tricky.

So we think you should decide how you want to handle parents in judging sessions ahead of time. Also, email the person in charge of the your tournament to see how they are handling 'spectators' in judging sessions - if they are not allowing it, then you can let the parents know. Technical judging is usually limited to coaches but can vary depending on space available. In our experience, in teamwork judging, sometimes even the coaches are not allowed in. Even when coaches can go into teamwork, our coaches usually decide to sit out that session and we tell them about it afterward! Remember, everyone who attends the judging sessions - including coaches - must not communicate with the team at all and should keep a neutral face so that the judges will know that the team did the work themselves. Oh, also, you can usually videotape the sessions and that way parents can see what happened later.

There is so much excitement and action in the competition area all day that there is plenty for parents to see there! You will know the scheduled times for your team's judging sessions and you can let parents know when you'll be using practice tables (if you think your team will want to take a couple of robot warm up runs before the table rounds**) and when your team will be in the pit. That way, the parents will know when to check in with the team for the "public" part of the day. Also, you can plan to have lunch together in the cafeteria/designated eating area.

**Sign up on the sign-up sheet in the practice area as soon as you get your schedule when you arrive at the tournament. Try to figure out right away when you have time for a practice run.

Hope that helps. Let us know if it does and if you have any other questions. We are getting ready to post a tournament day checklist of what to bring on our TeamMatch Forum. That might help you, too.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Great Time to Build Tables

As you know FLL requires a table where your team's robot accomplishes its missions. The usual construction of the FLL game table consists of heavy wood components - plywood and 2x4 lumber. This traditional table is very heavy and not easily stored and limits who can participate in FLL to those who have enough space to accommodate this table.

However The Inventioneers have designed a game table that weighs only 10 lbs and folds for storage. We call it The Inventioneers STOW-OR-GO Home Practice Table. Our table can be set up on a dining room table one minute, stored away the next, and fits easily into the back of a minivan for portability! This opens up the FLL program to people who don't have a room to permanently devote to a 4 foot by 8 foot table (at least for the FLL season which runs September through November, December or beyond). Also, for teams that want to meet at different people's houses, our table is easily transported.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Inventioneers Comment on Q and A #25

Calibration of light sensors is allowed as part of your setup routine, and it's understood that this needs to be done outside Base. Don't go any farther out of Base than you need to, and don't touch anything but your robot.

The Inventioneers: Rookie teams may be a little puzzled by this one. Light sensor calibration is a way to set your light sensors to know what dark and light values are. Here's some more information on that: Light Sensors

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Tool For Your Table Practice

Don't forget to use the handy Inventioneers Score Sheet we developed to help you as you start running your missions on the table. It's a great way to keep track of the points you earn with each practice round at your meetings. It not only gives you an idea of how many points you can reliably score, but if you keep the sheets, they will give you a sense of how your robot is progressing. If you feel like you're not making the progress you want, you can go back to some older scoring sheets and prove to yourselves that you're heading in the right direction! Feel free to print out as many copies as you need and also, pass the file on to anyone on other teams!

Click this image and then choose:The Inventioneers Smart Move Score Sheet from the menu.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

We have heard from a lot of teams that are having teamwork struggles. We know that is probably the biggest challenge with new teams. Disagreements, lack of focus and differences of opinion about everything from the team shirt color to the research challenge topic are common and normal! That's why our ABCs of FLL Workshop had a whole session on teamwork and team building.

One thing our team has done (and other teams do, too) is bring some fun into the stressful situation. We used giant glasses to make sure everyone had a chance to speak and that everyone listened. We got dollar store glasses and made a rule that only the person wearing the glasses could speak and if you didn't have the glasses, your job was to listen! It was just the thing to make a point about respecting each other's opinions and ideas.

We'll be sharing more teamwork tips, so check back soon!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Inventioneers' Take on Q and A's 23-24

The Missions page tells you that the gray loop bonus is independent from the red loop bonus. This means they have nothing to do with each other. This does not mean you can only earn one. You can earn both.

Here is the mission #23 refers to:

Friday, October 16, 2009

What's This About Field Damage?

Here's the Q and A from FIRST's webpage:
Under Rule 27, the referee is supposed to restore the field to the condition it was in right before the damage. That would (unrealistically) include the robot. Unlike other objects in the field, the robot often continues moving, and may even make new changes before the referee gets to the scene. So these rulings are needed, mostly for referees:---If the robot damages an access marker while driving over it or getting stuck on it, the team must immediately interrupt the robot, bring it to Base, and lose an upright beacon, if there is one available at that time. Any changes made by the robot after the damage will also be "undone."

---If the robot damages an access marker and either backs or turns successfully away from it, the referee will decide if the damage was obviously intentional.

*If the damage was obviously intentional, the robot will be interrupted as described above.
*If the damage had any chance of being accidental, or due to a poor Dual Lock connection, the ref will simply fix the damage, and the robot will not be interrupted.

---Loops and yellow guide walls are known to be fragile, and damage to these will always draw a "benefit of the doubt" call (robot won't be interrupted unless the team wants it). BUT...Don't count on them breaking - tournament organizers have permission to glue them.---I'm officially not worried about the remaining models.

The Inventioneers: The moral of this story is - try to avoid field damage at all costs! Remember, your robot may not act the same way at a tournament as it does during practice at team meetings so if your robot's movements sometimes knock over an access marker, Murphy's Law may come into play when it's tournament time. So don't damage the field on purpose, especially the access markers, because this will cause the referees to take away the points that were scored after the damage and you will be forced to call a retrieval and a warning beacon will be removed (if there are any upright at the time) - a ten point retrieval penalty!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Interesting Project Explanations

Project Q and As:
(These are interesting answers! They just highlight the point that if you can directly relate your community and solution to the project instructions, the sky (sorry for the pun!) is the limit!
The Inventioneers

Q: Can space be our community?
Q: Can our team choose the International Space Station or Space as our community?
A: Yes. It is up to your team to decide what you define as your community. Your community does not have to be the place in which your team lives. When we say your community we actually mean a community of your teams choosing. If your team chooses to attend a tournament, the presentation for the judges must include a clear description of your community and why your team chose this community. The mode of transportation and solution that you choose must directly affect your community. Please remember that one part of the Project is sharing your findings and solution with your community. This can be done in a number of ways. It is up to your team to decide the way you want to share your research and solution.

Q: Do viruses count?
Q: Can FLL teams research the movement of viruses as their mode of transportation and create innovative solutions to stop the viruses from traveling or moving?
A: Yes. It seems a lot of teams are thinking about relevant issues happening in many communities all over the world. While the project specifically states that teams should choose one mode of transportation and a problem surrounding that mode of transportation with hopes of making it safer and more efficient, the unique idea of stopping the mode of transportation such as a virus is a noteworthy cause and we do want to allow the teams be able to find a solution to stop the spread or movement of a virus such as the H1N1. So, after consulting with many on the FLL team we have decided to allow this mode of transportation and wish the teams a lot of luck in finding the solution to helping stop the spread (or movement) of a virus of your choosing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Game Q and A

This is the latest Q and A from Scott Evans:
The scope of objects that could become stray includes loose, valueless objects (such as the black pillars) as well as loose valuable objects and strategic objects. However, if a Dual-Locked object gets separated from the mat, that's considered "Field Damage" and the referee will restore it (Rule 27).

The Inventioneers: This means that as soon as any strategic object ("strategic objects are defined as team-supplied objects which you or your robot may use as tools or aids"), scoring objects (the loops, for example) and/or non scoring objects (pillars) are not in their original position they can be removed by the referee and that if the bridge, for example, comes off the mat it will be restored to its original position!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Judging Sessions

Remember, even if you divide the work and have a research sub-team, make sure everyone on the team has input and understands all aspects of the project. During the research judging session, the judges will be looking to see all that all team members understand and contributed to the project. Make sure during your five minute presentation that everyone adds some information about the project no matter what your presentation style is!

Hope your season is going great!

The Inventioneers

The New Q and A's Just Keep Coming!

Hi again,

Just reminding new teams about the new Q and A's from Scott Evans at FIRST. With respect to #19 - if you are a rookie team, you may not truly appreciate the missions and table challenge this year. We felt that with 18 or so missions to accomplish last year, it was really overwhelming for new teams.

We think there are still plenty of tricky missions for Smart Move but many fewer than last year. We know teams that were a little discouraged by the sheer number of missions for Climate Connections. We think Mr. Evans has found a good balance between keeping it challenging this year without putting so much pressure on rookie teams.
The Inventioneers

The latest Q and A's from

15 - SEPARATED QUICKLY: Please be sure that anything you add to mission models can be removed in about 15 seconds when the ref gives the okay after the match.

16 - ROBOT CAN'T TOUCH MAT: For end-of-match options where the robot's drive wheels are touching yellow or red bridge decking, the robot must not be touching the mat.

17 - STRAY OBJECT EXCEPTIONS - 2: Since sensor walls could score while "upright" as well as "not upright," they could never be removed as stray objects under the original Rule 25. Yet teams are still writing in, wishing to have them removed. So this exception is being given: If a sensor wall has been moved, you may declare it stray, but once any wall is removed from the field, the referee will record the end-of-match condition of all walls to be "only one wall upright," no matter what the actual condition of the walls is. This reduces the max possible overall score you can get for walls to 10 points, so be sure the trade-off is worth it. This wording replaces previous wording from QA7.

18 - OBJECTS AT REST: Objects about to become "stray" (removable) are not actually stray until they come to rest. For example, the truck may NOT be interrupted by hand while it's moving.

19 - TIE-BREAKING: While this year's game is a tough challenge for most teams, some top teams are finding it somewhat easier than usual. I'm projecting multiple teams at some events, who will score 400 in all of their three matches. So the usual tie-breaking system, where we compare 2nd and finally 3rd highest scores would be insufficient. This is an alert to you "perfect" 400 teams, that some tournaments may give out multiple Performance Awards, some may decide to separate you by how FAST you get to 400, and some may hold head-to-head elimination matches. Other fair options are possible. The exact method for tie-breaking will be decided at the event, by the people running it.

20 - NO DUAL LOCK ON ROBOT: Where the Missions tell you "any constraint system is okay," for your crash-test figure aboard your robot, that doesn't mean you can ignore the Parts rule (Rule #2). "Everything you compete with must be made of LEGO elements..." (Dual Lock is not allowed)..

Friday, October 2, 2009

FLL in the News!

Check out this newspaper article from last week's Derry News! Congratulations to the team from Tabernacle Baptist Church, the Creationists, for getting off to a great start in their rookie season!

Derry News Article (click this link)

Hope all is going well!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Human Player Clarification

Hi again FLLers,
We have talked to lots of new FLL teams and have found a common misconception that we want to clear up. The topic is how many team members can be at the competition table at one time. The answer is two - at a time, not two only. For those of you who already know this, great. For others, here's the scoop. If it is important to you - and it is important to many teams, including us - to have everyone get a chance to be at the table, plan to have a tag team system. Two members start at the table and get the robot ready to run. The match starts and one person or both step back from the table and one or two more step up. You can cycle through your entire team this way with a little planning and practice.

All the rest of your team members (and coaches) are 'at' the competition table but must all stand behind a taped line on the floor back a few feet from the the table. Changing out team member "human players" is simple - just make sure you don't have more than two at the table by mistake. Other teams like to have the same kids run the robot the entire match or they have two different human players for each of the three table runs. There are many ways to approach the game table - find the one that works best for your team.

Live, Laugh, LEGO!
The Inventioneers

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Q and A Reminders!

Hi teams!!!

We hope your season is off to a great start! Don’t forget to read the Q and A’s on the US FIRST website (see previous post). It is very important to stay updated on the Q and A’s because they can slightly change the rules and affect your robot strategy. Three new ones came out yesterday.

The point values for parking on the bridge vs the target were not assigned by accident. If you can't figure out why a team would take a possibly higher risk for a possibly lower reward, feel free to ask them---not me.

Drive wheels/treads are those that would continue to move even after you pick your robot up.

Please be sure that anything you add to mission models can be removed in about 15 seconds when the ref gives the okay after the match.

There have also been updates to old Q and A’s. They are labeled as:
NOTE - CHANGE to QA 12 (for example)
Be sure to read those too – they can change older Q and A’s a little bit or completely!

Where the robot is required to be PARKED at the end of the match, it must be permanently stopped by the time the end-of-match signal starts.

These are exceptions to the third bullet in Rule 25: The truck when not in contact with the red beam may be considered stray. The red beam with no truck will still be worth points. Sensor walls moved by the robot will be considered stray only if and when the TEAM asks for them to be removed. A removed wall will not count as upright, even if it was upright when removed.

The entire figure must be part of your robot (see Rule 11) from buzzer to buzzer. Rule 16 allows you to place/load the figure aboard the robot before the start. The figure can touch the mat, but it has to stay intact.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Check those Q and A's !!

Scott Evans just posted 5 new messages on the Q and A page:

We thought this one (#10) was worth adding our two cents to, certainly the italics below are only our opinion, the rules themselves were directly copied from the Q and A page. We would be interested in your interpretations as well.

"The 5th part of Rule 17 was offered as a friendly relief for robots which were engineered to return to Base, but needed a break upon entering, due to kid excitement or a bad angle. But in the face of growing over-interpretation of that rule change, you are informed here that the term "reaches Base" as used in Rules 17 and 30 shall only apply at the completion of an actual/obvious trip to Base. Extensions which drop, uncoil, shoot, telescope, etc., for the obvious purpose of avoiding the penalty for truly failing or not even trying to engineer a trip to Base will be treated like tethers, and not considered part of the robot."

The Inventioneers: In Inventioneers-speak, we interpret this to mean that if a part of your robot crosses the plane(s) of base as it is attempting to return to base, the entire robot and its contents (any retrievables in its possession) are considered in base. If the robot is just extending a piece/part/arm/beam/ into base without purposefully trying to get to base, the robot will still be considered active and a touch penalty will be incurred and any retrievables/deliverables in the robot's possession will not be considered in base.

Other new Q and A's:

Your hands can only operate in Base to add pieces to models. 2009 Rule Change A does not give you any new freedom to touch models outside Base. That would violate Rules 17 and 27.

Where drive wheels or treads need to touch, at least one is all you need. This can be seen in at least one of the scoring diagrams labeled "scoring example."

The loops on the southeast wall are placed parallel to the wall, as shown in the pictures. Those of you who thought this was obvious (95%) were right. Those of you who recognized that this missing text detail could cleanly have justified fields being set randomly were also right. So if you roll your eyes at Q&As like this one, remember, they're for your protection!

Since any part of "A" touching "B" counts as "A" touching "B," understand that separated parts from your crash test figure touching the mat (example: the arm falls off) will cause a no-score for the crash test figure mission.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Inventioneers Top 10 Teamwork Tips - Games

Now is always the perfect time to work on team-building activities. One of our favorites is the Tissue Game (using a fresh roll of bath tissue only!). The first time you play the game, pass around the pristine roll and ask team members to take as many squares as they like. There will be much laughter and many jokes at this point. After everyone has their desired number of squares, team members must take turns telling the team new things about themselves equal to the number of squares they selected. We have learned some cool things about our team members even after six years - we even learned that on the day we first played the game, one of our team members had driven a car for the first time in a shopping plaza parking lot, supervised by a parent, of course)!

Since everyone will know the significance of the number of squares after the first game, we recommend putting squares in envelopes and having team members choose envelopes without knowing how many squares they hold!

Have fun!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hi all you LEGO fans -

We are helping other kids get excited about science through FIRST LEGO League. Contact us at !