Robodogs and the Power of FLL Learning

Another First LEGO League season has come and gone……well almost come and gone. As I reflect on my sixth season as a Robodogs coach participating in First LEGO League I am once again reminded about the power of learning, coding, self exploration, student voice, and allowing students to thrive on their own accord.

Starting all the way back in June of 2015 we hosted our Robodogs summer camp where we developed and built a new set of challenges for students to solve using LEGO EV3. From this camp we identify students who we think could contribute and commit to a long season of robotics. In the end we kept 21 students from grades 5-8 and assembled three Robodog teams. This was the first time we had three teams.

All season long from August until December students work collaboratively on everything. They decided as a team how to build a robot, robot attachments, coding procedures, establishing roles, creating small groups to accomplish tasks, research ideas, expert interview, field trips, prototype building, script writing, costume preparation, rehearsal, team gatherings, and more.

Anyone who has been part of FLL understands the time involved. The season has an ebb and flow that comes from working to bring ideas to life(I am hosting webinar about the season and all of our tips and ideas). Students start off excited and pumped up to build the board. They love brainstorming and coming up with possible solutions. Then it is time to move into action. This is where teams either fall apart or succeed. Missions don’t work. Prototypes of research fail. Robot breaks. Code is lost. Research discovers flaws in original idea. Starting over.

The grind can be tough. The teams that can endure and stick together succeed. This year two of our three teams were successful earning bids to state. All three teams did an amazing job this season and success cannot be measured by trophies and state accolades, but I am also not blind to the fact that if these things did not matter, then we simply would not have them. There is learning in success and there is learning in setbacks. Each moment helps us as individuals figure who we want to become and what really drives us.

This year I watched tremendous growth happen from regionals to state. I watched teams really work hard to enhance their robots. They studied, they experimented, and they came in before school, after school, at night, and more to ensure they would be ready. As a coach I watched them transform a mediocre robot into robots that they could be proud of as a team.

Additionally, these teams cleaned up their scripts. They pushed their ideas from ideas into tangible solutions. They called businesses, they made prototypes, they did testing. It was amazing how many versions of our products were developed in the five months.

And now I process everything that has happened. Both teams brought home trophies for Core Values. Awards that speak volumes to the awesomesauce that these kids embody. They are amazing. They are the future. They are bright. They are hard working. They speak well. They work together. They understand the bigger picture.

As January comes to a close we(coaches) begin to think about camp and another season. It never ends. It is a year long job. A job I love. As January moves into February our work with one team is not done. They qualified to present at state for the Global Innovation Award. They were fortunate enough to win at state. We now enter the next phase to hopefully work to earn one of the 20 semi finalists slots across the nation to compete in Washington D.C. for a prize purse of $20,000 to make the idea a reality.

Who are these students?

#6060 Robodogs Gold


Connor Good, Walter Blackman, Carter Wolf, Callista Baker, Emma Hubbard, Spencer Thiele, Jake Schrader

Awards – Team Spirit at Quad Cities Regional


This team has great spirit and always has a wagging good time. Congratulations team 6060, the Robodogs Gold!

#22480 Robodogs White


Aidan Goerdt, Francesca Stahler, Anastasia Drexler, Aiden Maurer, Peter Hurd, Jason McNab, Braden Like

Awards – Earned an Award for Project at Dubuque Regionals

Earned 2nd place Core Values Inspiration at State

#7418 Robodogs Black


Andrew Crocker, Ethan Shepherd, Maylee Callahan,Haylie Spencer, Aidan Hamner, Ryan Harris. Ty Gross


Global Innovation Award Nominee

This team created an innovative solution to transitioning from plastic ware to silverware and eliminating waste. This team was “DOGGEDLY” determined to eliminate waste. The Red Tournament Global Innovation Award Nominee is…Team 7418 Robo Dogs Black!!


This team “BARKED” their way to the next level. This Red Tournament advancer is…Team 7418 Robo Dogs Black!

At state they earned 1st place in Overall Core Values as well as won the Global Innovation Award to advance to the next level.

I am so proud of these students. We tell them from day one that if they have success it is because of 100% of who they are and what they want to accomplish. If they have do not have success, then that is 100% on them as well. This scares many people because you have to own your actions. Now, don’t get me wrong there are a million moving parts such as school support, parent help, coaching, and more that goes into success, but we strive to make sure the student take full ownership of their journey.

The beauty of FLL is that this is real learning and application. It is the best lesson plan/project/teaching that can occur. They have to endure the hardships. They have to celebrate the small wins. They have to work with others. They have to articulate their ideas. They have to prove their ideas. They have to have gracious professionalism. They have to live life!

As we work to figure out next steps to Global Innovation we still have students coming in before school to document their robots and coding, building websites, and staying united. This is more important than any trophy.

Thank you FLL and all the volunteers who make this journey happen. Looking forward to another year.

And by the way, if you happen to know anyone that could help us with the patent process we could use any help we can get our hands on.

And even more important, best of luck to all teams preparing to compete at Worlds.

And finally, it is time to enter student mode and learn more about programming myself. As a coach it is essential that we wear the student hat when not in coach mode. Go learn, study, build, program, and do all the things we expect of our students so we can remember what it feels like to learn, fail, learn, fail, etc.

If you would like to see any of our work we are currently documenting everything in this OneNote


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