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!