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Student Spotlight: Dragonots Roaring Toward the 2015 FLL Season

allison fllIt’s that time of year: FIRST Lego League (FLL) teams across central Texas are gearing up for competition by putting final touches on their projects and brushing up their code. We had the opportunity to catch up with Allison Dragonots, who were interviewed by FIRST in Texas a year ago.

There is a lot of preparation that goes into an FLL season, both for the teams and for Skillpoint. Our Robotics Coordinator Noah is hard at work securing plans for the competitions in early December, and coaches everywhere are encouraging their teams to work together and build creatively. To get a better picture of the work a team puts in, the Dragonots talked us through their process to get ready for the season.

The team meets nearly any time that they can, up to and including after school, over lunch, and on the weekend. It can be tough, with almost every team member involved in other organizations and clubs. Having so much going on keeps everyone focused on the goals of each team meeting.

Each session starts off with a Core Values exercise, the type of team-building activity that comprises a third of an FLL team’s competition score. Afterward, the work on the robot or project is always led by the students with a teacher or coach on the side to guide the team when they need it. The students love the building process, with 4th grader Fabian saying it’s fun to be “creating something from your imagination.”

Of course, there are challenges. 4th grader Natasha says that “coding can be frustrating because you have to change it several times until you get it right” but 5th grader Kimberly chimes in, saying how exciting it was when the program finally worked. “Don’t give up if you want to succeed,” she continues, sounding wiser than her years.

The Allison Dragonots are going great places with both the school’s support and external mentors. For this year’s challenge, Trash Trek, the students have toured an Austin landfill and met with the Food Director of AISD and several environmental engineers. The opportunities for mentorship are where FLL shines, letting the kids lead their own project while introducing them to the wider world of STEM careers and projects. These role models are crucial to changing the conversation around STEM subjects!

We can’t wait to see what the Allison Dragonots pull off this year at competition. If you’d like to see it too, consider volunteering at an event this December or even mentoring a team! For more information on these opportunities, visit centraltxfirst.org or contact Noah Bickford at nbickford@skillpointalliance.org.