Neutrino Mentoring FLL During COVID-19

FIRST Lego League this year has been a challenge for mentors, coaches, and team members alike. As we reach the conclusion of this crazy season and an even crazier year, we’d like to tell you about how we approached these challenges and how proud we are of everyone that helped work through them.

Two Ames Middle School FLL team members meeting with a Team Neutrino mentor virtually

As the season began, no one knew what to expect. At the time, we were fully remote for schooling, so FLL had to do the same. Discussions were crucial, and planning ideas were more at the forefront of our program, as no one knew when we would be able to actually build or work with the robot. As we moved into a more hybrid format, with half of the teams coming on one day and the other on the next, mentors and coaches continued to help online, as being with them wasn’t in the cards.

I can’t have ever imagined that I would mentor and connect with a team without ever seeing them in person. Mentoring online was certainly one of the biggest challenges for me personally, as there were limited camera angles of the robot field, and the students weren’t used to re-explaining all of what they were doing. As the hybrid format continued, the team got a lot more comfortable with it, and it seemed like a nearly normal season.

Of course, when the team had to go back to fully remote learning for school, the challenges came back in a wave. As it was at the end of the season, programs had to be perfected and tested, presentations rehearsed. As the project was already more suited to the online format, it didn’t seem to pose quite as many issues, but remotely programming and testing the robot was one of the largest hoops for the team to jump through. Using Chrome Remote Desktop Support, team members were able to control the laptop that was at the school in order to program and run the robot, which seems simple enough, until one realizes that Dagney (the lead coach for our FLL teams) would have to run back and forth and set up the robot each time. There were multiple times that I wished I could be there to help because trying to set up two fields at once seemed like one of the most oddly challenging tasks for one person to do.

The students did amazing things this year. As a mentor and a high school student, I feel like I was more ready to deal with situations like this, but the members had no idea what to expect or how to do this. Through internet issues and remote learning, the team truly embodied the Core Values of FLL.

-Alanna, FLL Potato Tornado mentor and FRC Team Neutrino member

FTC Team Photon

Team Neutrino sponsored and assisted a new FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team this summer, Team Photon 18050. Team Photon encourages members to try out different areas of the team, whereas Neutrino recommends students gain in-depth knowledge by focusing on a few specific sub-teams. Prior to 2020, there were no FTC teams in Ames. Team Neutrino has talked about starting an FTC team for several years, and Neutrino mentor Dagney Paskach recognized the incoming freshman class would exceed Team Neutrino’s capacity. So Team Photon was started as a second option to involve Ames High students in FIRST. Team Neutrino provided funding for half of the initial registration of Team Photon, and included Team Photon members in Neutrino-led summer training camps to educate them in areas such as graphics, fundraising, and design. With that training, Team Photon has been working on finishing their robot drive base, designing team shirts, and starting a Robot Design Challenge outreach program at Fellows Elementary School.

Lastly, both teams enjoyed integrated small “buddy” groups during the summer that provided a chance to make friends and start a social partnership between the teams. Good luck to Team Photon (@FTC_TeamPhoton on Twitter and Instagram) in all their new opportunities and the 2020-2021 Ultimate Goal season!

FLL Unconference 2020

Team Neutrino is hosting our annual FLL Unconference online this year, open to anyone who’d like to attend! 

What is an Unconference?
Unlike a conference that has planned presentations, each 30-minute session is broken up into discussion topics related to FLL that anyone can join in on. This will provide a way for current, new, and prospective FLL coaches and mentors to share their experiences, questions, advice, etc. as preparation for the coming season. The Unconference will be a great way to connect coaches and mentors, creating a support network for us to help each other before, during, and after the coming season and into future years! This event is open for everyone, parents and anyone else interested are welcome!

This year’s FLL Unconference will be held online via Zoom from 6:00-8:30pm on Friday, August 7th, 2020. You can preview the schedule of sessions here.

“NEW-trino” Meeting 2020

Interested in joining Team Neutrino? We’d love to have you! Team Neutrino is a high school robotics team that competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition. The “NEW-trino” informational meeting will be via Zoom call May 21st (Thursday) from 6-8 pm and May 23rd (Saturday) from 2-4 pm. In this call, there will be a presentation about the team and a Q&A session. This call is for anyone interested in learning more about the team, students and parents alike. Please fill out this form if you are interested!

Virtual Chairman’s Exchanges

The Chairman’s award is one of the most prestigious awards in FIRST, and quite a lengthy process to complete, with four aspects of the submission. To help teams practice and share information, many regionals have Chairman’s Exchanges, where teams can practice presenting and ask questions of each other.

In wake of the 2020 Season being suspended, Team Neutrino is partnering with other teams to host Virtual Chairman’s Exchanges to provide teams that same opportunity in these trying times. Below is a list of all the exchanges happening, their dates, and a form to sign up for the exchange. Attendance is limited to six presenting teams and a total of 100 participants for the sake of time and call quality, so sign up soon!

Teams are invited to watch, present, and ask questions at the exchanges. We ask that each individual that wants to attend to fill out the session form (i.e. instead of one person signing their team up to present, we ask that each presenter must fill out the form). We’ll see you there!

Chairman’s Exchange hosted by FRC 3928 Team Neutrino
Saturday, April 4th from 1:00-3:00pm CST.

Chairman’s Exchange hosted by FRC 967 Iron Lions
Tuesday, April 7th from 7:00-9:00pm CST.

Chairman’s Exchange hosted by FTC/FRC alumna Erin Mitchell
Saturday, April 11th from 2:00-4:00pm EST.

Chairman’s Exchange hosted by FRC 1023 Bedford Express
Wednesday, April 15 from 7:00-9:00pm EST.