I am on my 9th season and 14th First Lego League team for the 2014-2015 school year. I started back in 2006, as a science teacher, because students from my feeder elementary school had done First Lego League, and they wanted to keep doing the program in middle school. Little did I know, that moment would change my life forever. Our first tournament was in a music building at The University of Texas. It was magical, thirty teams from central Texas competing for the most lucrative prize of all, trophies made completely out of Legos. It was seriously cool. I set our goals pretty low, "Let's learn something new, and have fun!" Little did I know, that my team who came up with a way to save the Alamo using Nano Technology, would be able to answer difficult questions from real engineers and educators. They knew things I didn't even realize that they knew! It was a proud moment for me as a coach. From that moment on, I never looked back, I was a robotics coach, and I always will be. We ended up taking home one of those amazing Lego Trophies for that research project too! That was the cherry on top of a very sweet cake.
Throughout the years, I've coached teams that were good, bad, inspiring, and just plain amazing. But my very favorite part of coaching comes from seeing a kid who never speaks, grow to be comfortable presenting their research in front of experts, or eloquently discussing their program strategy with engineers. Patience is needed to observe this sweet moment of growth, but it is worth every long evening, every Saturday, and every moment away from my own family.
This year, I was able to experience my "proud coach" feeling much earlier in the season. I have three veterans, and one of them was running for President of the club. When this kid walked into the doors of robotics his first year at Deerpark Middle School, he was quiet and timid. He was always a grounded student, and has rightfully earned the nickname "The Voice of Reason" in the chaos of meetings. He kept me organized and on task. This year, this student let me know, he wanted to run for president. As he gave his speech, I saw the certainty in him that I sometimes have to wait entire season to see in students. He spoke in front of the entire group with confidence and grace, and although his competition was fierce, he was voted as our 2014-2015 robotics president.
Building robots with Legos is always a cool thing, but building up students is even cooler.