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team might accomplish the missions. "We had no idea what we were getting into. We learned as we went. As a coach, that's not ideal," he deadpans. He watched a lot of pro- gramming videos on YouTube. Of his team, Robert notes, "Every kid learns differently. You have to work to find each kid's strength and how they can con- tribute. Some kids are patient and focused; others more free spirited but come up with some of the best ideas." He adds, "I have a new appreciation for teachers." In its rookie 2014 season, the team started out meeting once every week for 2 hours. Robert and Alexa quickly recognized that a group of energetic 9-year-olds required more time to build and program a robot. A strategy change was needed. The Plenge coaching duo divided and conquered. Robert took over the robotics responsibilities and Alexa directed the project side of things. Robert acknowledges that the first year, he— rather than the girls—did most of the pro- gramming. The girls agree. "We had no clue what we were doing!" team member Caroline Jolley recalls. A lot has changed since those early days. The team has gotten into a familiar groove, and the overall approach has evolved. This season they met in small groups in two- to three-hour blocks each weekend to work on robotics. Sunday nights they met to work on the project component of the challenge (and to have pizza). Their skills have improved tremendously. Parent Peter Solomon notes, "The girls have now become adept at programming and have taken much more ownership over how to complete the various missions." And as it turns out, the lack of instructions has been liberating. "As soon as you realize that fewer rules mean more creativity and openness to how you do things, you feel released to try lots of different approaches," Robert Plenge says. 173 s p r i n g 2 0 1 7 | W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e education "helping one another is the foundation of teamwork"

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