Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.
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Each year in August, FLL releases a challenge for teams, based on a "real world" scientific topic. The competition involves three parts: Robot Game, Project, and Core Values. The robotics part of the com- petition involves designing and programming LEGO MINDSTORMS robots to complete tasks. The Project section requires researching a topic related to the current real world challenge and creating an inno- vative solution. For the Core Values assessment, teams are asked to demonstrate how they used Core Values throughout the challenge, and, must perform a timed teamwork exercise at the actual competition. The students meet for regional tournaments to share their knowledge, compare ideas, display their robots, and earn points across all as part of a competitive environment. Core values are an important part of FLL and include teamwork, "gracious professionalism," and "coopetition" (a neologism coined to describe coopera- tive competition). Participants learn that friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals, and that helping one another is the foundation of teamwork. FLL started with its pilot challenge in 1989. In 1999, there were 975 teams and 9,500 participants. By 2016, this number had skyrock- eted to over 32,000 teams and over 255,000 participants competing in 88 countries. Wellesley parents Robert and Alexa Plenge were inspired to start a FLL team in 2014, when their daughter Molly was a rising fourth grader. She had an interest in technology, and they wanted to foster that. They opened it up for classmates to join, and the "Bates Bots" team was in business. The first year as group leaders brought a steep learning curve for the Plenges. It was both more involved and less structured than they'd expected. "The LEGO League directives say 'Here are the missions. Here's what your robot should do. Figure it out.' " Robert notes. There were no instructions to guide programming or recommendations on how a 172 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s p r i n g 2 0 1 7 top: Caroline Jolley and Lucy Kim set up their robot in preparation for one of several matches; bottom: The Robot Raiders are moving up the scoreboard. Scores are cumulative throughout the day as robots compete in five matches P H O T O S C O U R T E S Y O F R O B E R T P L E N G E