Reflection of Worlds! [guest post]

As you’ve read the posts about the team, seen the pictures and watched the videos…I’m positive you’re wondering what actually happened while we were there. Am I right?!

Lets just take it day by day, shall we?

Day 1: So, Day 1 was on a Wednesday. The team had to be at the school by 4:30 and we left at 5 (in the morning, yes). We stopped every two/two and a half hours. It was a very long car ride, least to say. We got there about 11 am. So we had an hour to blow some steam before the FTC would allow us to come in. It was meant to be a socialization time, but I myself had noticed that not a lot of people were doing that. I took advantage of the time I had. I grabbed Logan, Ben, and others who wanted to come and we went all the way down and back up the very long line of teams. We met people from Chile, Mexico, China, South Korea, and a lot of people from almost every state in the U.S! It was pretty amazing, and a lot of teams were really nice. After they let us in we had an hour and a half before judging. During that time we set up our pit area, became familiar with the dome, and updated family members/took pictures. At 1:15 we headed over to judging where we had to wait I’d say a good 10 minutes. Judging this time around was much different than in the past. Usually judging is set up that the team walks into a room, only those judges are there, the door closes and there is silence until you/your team mates start talking. This time we were in a very large room with multiple teams and a lot of judges. The team went in and so did Mr. Dixon. After judging, there was hardware/software inspection on the robot. The rest of us did scouting, looking at other teams, and sitting in the pit area.

Day 2: Thursday. On Thursday the actual qualifying matches happened. Logan, Kazuki, and Collin were constantly back and forth between the pits and the arena. Ben went a long with them because he was media. I (Molly) was at the pit area throughout the whole day. A lot of people stopped by, talked, asked questions and signed our guest book. We offered them stickers, business cards, and candy. It was a lot of fun and interesting to see the different cultures, costumes, and others come by! Kodi was the mascot so she was always at the pits passing those things out. Adam, Cory, Nick and Jeremy were walking around/sitting with me, etc. It was a lot of fun that day, but really long. That night we went back to the hotel and did laundry/watched movies.

Day 3: Friday. On Friday, qualifying matches were coming to a close. We ended with 5 wins and 4 loses. That night we all went back to the hotel room and ordered chinese! It was a pretty boring day at the arena, but the hotel was pretty fun that night.

Day 4: Last day. That day we went and watched other teams, helped support them, watched some of the FRC and FLL games and just kind of took it easy. It was a really relaxed, easy going day. 🙂 That night was so awesome though! We had been told previously that the FTC was going to throw a big after party. None of us thought that it was going to be that cool though. This year it was circus themed. They used up basically everywhere we had been in the dome, so it was a huge party. There was a rock climb, a couple of those bouncy house race things, games, laser tag, dancers, people who were on stilts, roller blades, and bikes, there was a photo booth, a black out room, air hockey, ALL the food and drinks were free and you could win prizes depending on what games you play! It was so much fun. 🙂 Everyone was running around, dancing, getting glow sticks, playing games, eating the food. Mr. Dixon said that he went and watched these guys who were professional jumpers! It was amazing! 😀 Will.I.Am made a speech, and Montell Williams went to the World Championships too! It was so much fun. 😀 The First program is an amazing one, that teaches kids team work, socialization skills, and how to have fun while learning. The reward that myself and my team got for all their hard work was amazing. Everything had payed off and all sacrifices that we made was totally and utterly worth it.

I’m so glad I got to share this experience with you- the reader. If you have children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, anything… I strongly suggest that you find a First program somewhere near you and get them involved! So many people were at this event, it was crazy! This is one of the most amazing, mind blowing things. It teaches so much more than just knowing the math or science of what’s going on. It’s beyond anything else that I believe is currently offered to kids/young adults in the world today.

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More on the team! [guest post]

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This is the team! I am the girl in the back, 7 people in counting from the left.

The order of people are (From back to front, left to right): Mrs. Haage, Mrs. Eveland, Cory, Kazuki, Collin, Logan, myself, Jeremy, Ben, Mr. Dixon. Front row: Kodi, Nick, Caleb and Adam.

Mrs. Haage is pregnant in this photo! Sadly, she was not able to make it to the World Championship due to her pregnancy. She is filling in for Mrs. Eveland while she is out due to sickness! Mrs. Eveland has been diagnosed with breast cancer so she had to take some time off of school/robotics. She is always there to say goodbye and there to say welcome back. She still comes into robotics. She is doing really well though. 🙂 Cory is a sophomore, Kazuki is a senior – our only one this year! Kazuki is also 1 of 2 drivers for the robot. Next is Collin. Collin does a lot of programming for the robot with Kazuki. He is the “Coach” while the boys are driving the robot and he is a sophomore. Next is Logan. Logan is the other driver and a junior. Then there is me (Molly). I am a junior, and I am community/outreach and I am the group’s PR. Then there is Jeremy. During Pre-Game (before competition) he scouts out. Basically scouting going around to other teams and asking them about their robot and what it can do. Jeremy is also a junior. After Jeremy comes Ben. Ben is a sophomore and does the same thing he does! Then there is Mr. Dixon. He is the only coach we have that is NOT also employed at our school. He works at Paslode and helps us out a lot with the building process and such. First on the bottom is Kodi. She is a junior and she is our team mascot! 😀 She made the whole thing from scratch and she also helps with what I do. Then there is Nick. He is a sophomore and he fixes the motors, etc. that break on the robot. He is extremely helpful in the process of making sure the robot is kept up. He also helps ease the tension between us and a team! He makes introductions funny and is good at socializing. Then there is Caleb! Caleb is a junior and he does the odds and ends of stuff. He helped make trifolds and stuff like that! And finally there is Adam! He is a sophomore and he helped us with the robot building process also. He helps stay in contact with our sponsors and likes to show off some of our 3-D printed parts. 🙂 So that is the team for you! 😀

Team 4443: The Sock Monkeys! [guest post]

Hey guys! My name is Molly Bleything, I am 17, from Oskaloosa Iowa and I am on a robotics team. I don’t know how much all of you guys personally know about us or what we do, but you’re going to find out extremely quick! 😀 Lets start with top 5 most commonly asked questions:

1. Does your robot shoot lasers and fight? – No. Our team runs through the FTC. FTC stands for First Tech Challenge. The FTC is just a branch for the overall First program. There is also the FRC, FLL, and Jr. FLL!

http://www.usfirst.org/aboutus/vision

Check out the website to get more information on us, and the other teams!

2. Are you guys only in robotics? – No! We are not all “nerds and geeks.” Many of us (including myself) are involved with many other things. A lot of us are in soccer, choir, band, art, cross country, orchestra, etc.

3. Are you guys the only team where you live? – No! There are a lot of no’s here, but that is a-okay! Our team – team 4443 – is the younger of the two. The other team we have is Team 3608 the Ninjaneers. They consist of freshman (9th graders) and younger! Team 3608 was the original team at our school.

4. Do you guys do cool stuff? – A lot of times, everyone has a different example. Yes, we do get to do cool stuff. We build a robot, go visit other engineering companies, meet up with other teams, and spread the word about the FTC program.

5. How many kids are on your team? – 10. There is one senior, four juniors, and 5 sophomores.

I encourage you to check out our website at oskyrobotics.weebly.com. It has a lot of information, updates, and pictures of the team. I also encourage you to follow us on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/4443SockMonkeys.

Now, back to robotics. Every year the FTC sends out a new challenge. This year the challenge is called Block Party. There are rules and regulations for you, your team and, most importantly, your robot. They call it the block party because well… it involves blocks. Your robot should be built and designed mainly to pick up cubed, yellow blocks. You are only allowed to pick up 3-4 blocks per scoop. The blocks are placed in opposite corners of the arena. After you get the blocks picked up, you and another driver steer the robot over to the ramp. The ramp sits in the center of the arena and has a bar across the top of it, and off the sides of it, it has a wooden crate with boxes put on it. You get x amount of points for certain things… anyways, the goal is to put the blocks in the pendulum. This is called Tel-op. Because of tel-op, there is autonomous. Autonomous is when the robot drives itself because the students programmed it to do so. The goal is to take a block, drop it in the box and then the robot will drive itself on the ramp. Some teams do not have autonomous at all… Anyways, after autonomous and tel-op comes the end game. The end game is the last 30 seconds of tel-op. In end game your robot should be able to raise a flag, hang itself. The robot can also keep scooping blocks into the pendulum if it so pleases. That is the Block Party this year! As a bonus we can do all of it! 😀

So now that you know everything there is about the block party, lets get blogging!

Let’s stop talking about meaningful global empowerment for youth and start doing it (Online Model United Nations wrap-up)

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Lisa Martin, Kristin Rowe, and their students for taking over my blog for the past week. All of the guest posts regarding Online Model United Nations (O-MUN) are linked below.

This is the kind of powerful, global, student-driven learning that is possible if we adults are willing to make it happen. As school leaders, we say that we want meaningful, collaborative, cross-border interactions for our youth. We say that we want to empower students to make a difference in the world. Let’s stop talking about it and start doing it. As the O-MUN movement shows us, our children are willing and able to step up and help us…

  1. Connected global youth and the Online Model United Nations movement
  2. The nuts and bolts of online debating
  3. Palestinian-Israeli citizen calling for peace, making her voice heard through Online Model United Nations
  4. Online Model United Nations: Raising our voices
  5. Junior Online Model United Nations: Connecting masters and apprentices
  6. Why do teachers have an excuse when it comes to technology in the classrooms?
  7. Making connected learning the norm: What will it take?

Making connected learning the norm: What will it take? [guest post]

On this almost three-year-long journey that has made up the development of Online Model United Nations (O-MUN), I have returned time and again to two overriding questions: What does it take to nurture this kind of innovation  among students and educators, and what role do we want schools to play in making this happen?

Educators need both the recognition from their school leadership and the time and support to do innovative work. Much as we know that students need time and space to be innovative in our classrooms, this also holds true for teachers. School leaders themselves run on a deficit of time so I am sympathetic. But how many great projects and truly innovative ideas are simmering in the backs of teacher’s minds, dabbled on over weekends or in the 20-minute downtimes before heading to bed? Educators need the luxury of time, supported by their schools and funded by their districts.

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I think about this a lot. What would Online Model United Nations have looked like had I been given one class period to develop this from within my school? Would my core global leadership team have been less diverse, pulled more from my school and less from the rest of the world? Perhaps. But what could have been gained by classroom students had they been given this opportunity? Would my website nightmares have been worked through more quickly had I been able to go to tech support down the hall? Could I have connected with regional thought leaders to expand O-MUN into our school’s professional conference network had I been given the necessary support? How would the school have benefited from that exposure? Without recognition from within my own school, these are moot points, wasted opportunities, and, for me personally, drivers that led me to search elsewhere.

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How can teachers tap into funding or partnerships when ‘initiatives’ are only supported if they are narrowly defined as ‘Common Core’ or ‘STEM?’ What if you are a teacher in search of funding, recognition, or exposure but are not tied to a district – or the form you are trying to complete won’t advance because you are not tied to a physical school? How can you find working partnerships with teachers who cannot find the time and space to do something that’s not benchmarked to the standards or covered in standardized tests? How can you work across disciplines when the boundaries between them have become so entrenched that they feel insurmountable? This is where enlightened leadership comes into play, because tearing down these walls is something that cannot be done by teachers alone, particularly teachers consumed with building something new. If the work crew for O-MUN had included a few more key adults in positions of support, perhaps my program would have developed more quickly, or with stronger foundations, or with added benefit to my own school. Regardless, once the program was built, would there be an administrator on the other side willing to take the time to give it a look, give it an endorsement, and give it time and a place within the school culture?

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I think these questions are indicative of this unique time and place in education. The experiences and spaces that we want our own students to build cannot be done without teachers and administrators having gone through the process too. You can’t buy off-the-shelf, organic, collaborative, student-driven programs. If this is what we say we want for education, how will we get there? Who will support it? What has to change within the culture of a school to bring ideas to fruition and, once ‘ripe for the picking,’ incorporate them in meaningful ways so that programs can develop and mature within a school’s culture?

One thing O-MUN has taught me is that students are more than capable of developing and driving major educational initiatives. These initiatives will take place because they can, because technology makes it possible, and because they often are more meaningful than what happens in a traditional classroom. Can they become part of a school’s repertoire or will the real-world, student-driven initiatives be left outside of it, further widening the gulf between schools and real-world engagement? For every multi-million dollar education company pitching a high-tech way of doing the same thing we’ve done for years, how many countless organic initiatives in need of nurturing and support are simply wasted and, by extension, become lost opportunities for students? As frustrating as this seems, I am excited for all of us as we begin to see the truly great things that connected, collaborative learning can bring us.  Spend a bit of time in the O-MUN universe and you really will believe that anything is possible!

Please visit the Online Model United Nations website for further information. If you are involved in Model United Nations, please consider joining the Model UN Leadership Initiative to discuss ideas, research, and innovations within the field. O-MUN also is developing a number of national-level programs. If you are a teacher and think that you would like to oversee one of these country-wide programs, contact Lisa for more information.

Previously in this series

Lisa Martin is a 20+ year educator who has worked in places as far flung as the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, San Diego, and, now, Amman, Jordan. She is the Co-Founder and Director of Online Model United Nations and would love to connect with like-minded educators. You can find her just about everyplace online, including FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.