Coaching FIRST Lego League

The mission of FIRST Lego League is to inspire youth though hands-on STEM learning.  That mission is facilitated through participation in the FIRST Lego League program, which guides youth through STEM learning and exploration at an early age.  First Lego League’s youngest group, called “Explore,” is for elementary grades one through three. So this year, my seven-year-old son was finally old enough to join and we immediately signed him up. Shortly after, the school started to send emails requesting volunteers to coach teams. Considering my technical background, lifelong love of Legos, and my 7-year-old son, I quickly made the jump and signed up to coach. Lego League teams are required to have two coaches, so I was paired with another dad who teaches middle school. Thus, our team had a coach with experience working with children and a coach with technical experience. Six kids landed on our team, consisting of five girls and one boy (hooray for girls interested in engineering!). They were all great kids, too.  They worked together, stayed on task, and were always full of ideas.

Most of our team’s weekly meetings were spent going through exercises and builds, which were outlined in our First Lego League activity books. Each week the team was split into two groups to work on that week’s activity, where one group was to program and one was to build. Programming was done using a tablet and the “WeDo 2.0” application. The kids caught on very quickly to the “drag and drop” block style of the programming. They loved experimenting with changing parameters, adding sounds, and making lights change colors.

The last few weeks of our season were spent working on our team project. We all worked together and took our ideas from brainstorming, to design, to build, and finally to presentation. We met virtually for our final group project presentation. Everyone on the team made a small poster and had a chance to speak during the presentation. The two judges we met with were very friendly, helpful, and understanding.

I hope the kids on our team enjoyed the season while learning the basics of STEM and building habits of learning, confidence, and teamwork skills along the way, because I know I did. It was great seeing kids get excited about designing, building, and programming. If I get the chance to coach a Lego team again, it will be hard to say no.