Friday, 6 January 2017

Well, Block me Sideways with a Bargepole

man falls down hole in floor funnyUp at 0720! But I meant to, because I was one of the team representing the school at Lego! This has been a running project for the ten of us and our teachers and I've been looking forward to it for ages.
I walked myself to school in some fairly nippy weather and we all sort of arrived together and we walked down to the bus stop by the bottlebank, carrying all the Lego items in our very own dedicated tray from the garage.
We got the normal public hoi polloi bus and arrived 1 1/2 hours early, doh. We were the second group to arrive, which was sensible given that we were the locals, and some teams had to come from as far away as Ringwood, Marlow, Reading and Fareham, so already we were in some fairly heady company. In addition, we were the only Junior school - everybody else was a Senior, practically an adult, in fact, and we were by far the youngest.
We took the chance to get ready, which was handy as the blind man and his dog, the flamingo, gorilla, toad and pig had all been decapitated in the jiggly bus ride. Still, we are all skilled repair merchants and in meedle of no time we were shipshape and Bristol fashion.
We were in a massive Design and Technology hall with ambitious architecture and loads of cavernous space and directly downstairs from Erinsmum's office, so she came to see us, which was nice. There were 2 identical mission tables for the playoffs, and space to relax and set up base camp.
meon junior school first lego league teamWe did our presentation first (which is why we needed our beach towel) and I play the part of 'Conscientious Lifeguard' who objects to litter being thrown on the pristine promenade and this leads us neatly into the robotic recyclable litter clean-up mission. Roving interrogators roved menacingly and asked us questions about our mission, because the teamwork aspect is an on-going test that never ends.
And did I mention, we all got official T-shirts? One of the team designed the front picture and they have our names up the back and everything, like a Heavy Metal tour shirt. We had an hour's break and then demonstrated our programming. Our Dog-Pig mission was our most successful for points, and our most difficult or risky one was the Trainer mission where you could all too easily hit a milk truck or manure spreader, where it would really hit the fan. The peripatetic invigilators and scrutinizers stalked the mission areas asking awkward questions.
portsmouth university lego league regional finalsAs we progressed, we saw that each school had a place on the white-board and you'd get points for each mission but also extra credits for the other competencies such as Teamwork, Core Values (being helpful to others), and Programming skills. Each area had its own trophy, but the one ring to bind them was the Mission Cup.
You do the missions 3 times and score your points in the allotted 2 1/2 minutes. Then, once every team has had their 3 attempts, the scores over the rounds are averaged and compared. In Round 1 we got 88 points, due to extra manure runs we'd fitted in. Some teams had huge multi-functional robots that looked like they could go into orbit, but they risked being so big they'd knock over lamp-posts and blind dudes every time they turned the corner. But our robot was small, simple and single-minded in that it was designed only to complete the mission, not sign autographs later.
lego league robotics challengeIn Round 2 we got - 88! And in Round 3, you'll never guess - 88! We got extra points for consistency, because when you're talking off-world robotic engineering, reliability is the key issue. It's all very well if your robot can sing the national anthem on Mars, but if ours can analyse the soil chemistry 10 times out of 10 without falling over, we'll get the blocking contract. And poo to you, as well.
And once all the squares had been filled in on the whiteboard, it was time for the award ceremony. The lesser cups (core values, teamwork etc) were handed out first and we got nothing, then they looked at the overall mission scores. The Central Scrutinizer mentioned consistency as being of paramount importance, and we still hadn't won a cup, but after all, we were the youngest. We had an 88 point average. The next down had 82. Loads were below 50, one was 35.
lego blind man and seeing eye dogThe entire room fell silent as the Scrutinizer enjoyed his moment of power. Then one word escaped his lips, Meon. And we kicked off like a 15 kiloton device hidden in your earhole and it was Blocking Mental and we went Blocking Nuts and the girl that designed our shirts burst into tears and our chests nearly burst with pride. We got Medals. Heavy Metal ones. And certificates, too.
meon junior school lego robot challenge winnersThe man from the newspaper was there with his big camera so I guess we have to buy the paper again and I took lots of pictures and it was blocking epic and because we were the Blocking Winners and we're through to the next round which is against the Entire Blocking Country. The Head-Teacher said he'll buy us real proper T-shirts and maybe even hats and the Chief Scrutinizer said we should include sensors on our robot so we're going to do a rebuild but for now I feel victorious.
Walked home alone because I was the only one to have a signed thingy from Bud and when I got home there was a pile of 4 Minecraft books for deserving youngsters, including the Mojang Minecraft annual 2017. Well, block me sideways, what a blocking excellent day, we're going to go National on your butt. By the time my bedside light was turned off at knifepoint, I was on page 76 of the first Herobrine fancraft novel.

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