This is a guest post by Eric Brosch, who coaches a FIRST LEGO League team of elementary and middle school students in Tampa, Florida.
Robotics season hadn’t even started, and I had my first challenge. We had a team name (Porygon Programmers), but no robot. Four of six team members, ages 10-13, were rookies, and they didn’t know a friction pin from a bush pin or a single-bevel gear from a double.
How were they going to collaborate on building a robot without a shared vocabulary? I had visions of LEGOs spilling everywhere as 12 hands dug through them because someone needed a pin ... the blue kind ... no, a longer one! I winced at the thought of stepping on one later.
My first thought was that they could create a flashcard app. After all, they are learning to program. But that would be a distraction from robotics, and the app-creation process looked daunting. I asked a high school computer science teacher what app software he’d recommend, but he clued me in to Quizlet instead. What a relief!
In less than an hour, I’d downloaded the Quizlet app, photographed 35 LEGO Technic parts on my iPhone, and created my first study set: FIRST LEGO League Technic Parts. I showed it to my daughter who is in her fourth season of robotics. When I couldn’t get the computer back because she was trying to beat my time on the Match game, I knew it was going to be a success.
It turned out that several of the Porygon Programmers had used Quizlet in school, so they jumped right into studying at home. At the next practice, they were ready. They paired up to work on the robot, with one team member finding parts by name and the other building with them.
Quizlet was so much fun that when the season’s robot game was released, the team created their own Quizlet (Animal Allies FLL Robot Game Missions). They had a first draft of a 29-term study set done before snack break. They’ve used it to memorize how many points each animal-themed mission is worth: getting honey from a beehive (15 points), safely transporting a bonnet-head shark (as many as 30), feeding a flamingo (10 or 20), and many more. It was an important first step to deciding which missions to focus on.
Even better, the Porygon Programmers want to share their Quizlet with other teams—and there are 32,000 in 88 countries!—to help them learn the missions. They are embracing the “Coopertition” philosophy promoted by FIRST LEGO League, which teaches teams that they can cooperate with each other even as they compete.
Best of all, the team built and programmed a robot in time for Roboticon at the University of South Florida Sun Dome. And I haven’t stepped on any worm gears or axle pins.