Sunday, 26 February 2017

FIRST® LEGO® League UK and Ireland Final 2016-17

I woke up of my own accord and got dressed at 0531 just as Jof was coming up the stairs to get me up. It was a strangely energizing experience, much like getting up in the middle of the night to go on holiday.
Even though we left the house at 0600, we still had to wait to cross the road, but then the streets were empty. I joined the crowd outside school reception and we waited ages for Lucy and then got in our hired minivans and joined the empty motorway.
In 2 or so hours we got to Bristol, having seen the sun rise and the roadside verges full of magpies, obviously out there getting the worms. I read my book for most of the 120 mile journey.
The conference facilities at UWE (University of Western England) are huge and the carpark was already full when we arrived. We found our little allocated area and got changed into our team shirts and hats, which we get to keep.
FIRST LEGO League UK and Ireland Final 2016-17
There were 48 teams so we sat in the audience seating area for the opening ceremony at 0900. 2 comedy presenters cajoled us into cheering and shouting and passing inflatable plastic animals back and forth and Jof wanted to steal the giraffe.
Then a lady presenter came on and explained the fire alarm procedures and it all kicked off! There were 8 tables arranged in pairs and as 48 teams had to have 3 rounds, it was pretty busy with teams setting up and getting their countdowns and getting sent away again.
We started our session at 1015 and you get a couple of minutes to set up your robots after the Referees had reset the board to ground zero. Then you get 2 1/2 minutes to complete as many missions as you can: some teams were very hot on change-overs with little frantic fingers working away.
It is not all about robots, we had to do our presentations and demonstrate teamwork and innovation and learning and we all swapped freebies with the other teams to fill our goody-bags.
In our first round we forgot to put on the main attachment and then possibly pressed the wrong buttons a bit and it didn't really work at all so we got 9 points, while the top team got 231.
lego ahoy meon junior school team
After lunch it was Round 2 and our drunken robot fell over and trashed some obstacles and maybe the attachment arm was upside down a bit but we got 63 points, a vast improvement. We actually got 3 points but where the other team in the table-pair had turned the rotating device, both teams get the 60 extra points for the rotation mission, and we'll take them because this put us in 27th place. Your points don't add up over the rounds, you just get 3 chances to score your highest score.
Gradually as other teams did their runs, we dropped to 31st place: 'Feathered Fulshaw' had a naughty robot that couldn't be bothered but at least they got off 0 points, there were no Norwegian scores left at the end.
By Round 3 we were worried that we'd been cursed with malfunctions. Because we'd won the regional finals in order to be here, and against a load of teenagers too, we knew we were fully capable. But it wasn't working for us today and when they said volunteers please, who's doing Round 3, we all tried to hide behind each other and become invisible. Ben drew the short straw and we scored 30 which was not enough to get us into the knockout round.
balloon animals competition
Our robot went mad, did a little tits-up dance we hadn't programmed it to do and decapitated a reindeer while falling over again. 8 teams went through to the knockout round but we didn't so we put our bags in the van and watched the balloon challenge which was to dress up as an animal of your choice using those long sausage balloons as props. The emu won the prize (which was the inflatable giraffe that Jof coveted), but I reckon the horse was better. I handed out the cakes that Jof made and they went down very well indeed.
In the end, 'B6 Berellium' won it but 'Tech HEDs' will be going to the USA too. Note, both teams clearly shaved and drove themselves here today, being at least 19. On the way home I got severe leg cramps and we all got back to school at the same time and Jof made us some very welcome supper and she accidentally told me that the head-teacher doesn't mind if we go in 2 hours late tomorrow so you can be very sure I'll be doing that. It was a bizarre and very long day.
FIRST LEGO League UK and Ireland Final 2016-17
So, we might not have won any prizes or set the world aflame with our incandescent performance but we all joined in totally and had a really good time team-working and it was one of those experiences where you're super-glad to have a free T-shirt and some goody-bags and memories and 119 pictures and videos and the only non-staff/governor parents to bother to turn up and support you.

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