When the "Run" button is pressed and the robot leaves its base to execute its missions, the team will find out how well they did thinking through and preparing to solve each of the challenge missions. They will have to effectively teach the robot "next action management," which is what I hope that they will learn in the process.
I call it "Productivity in motion."
The transition from thousands of individual parts to a completed robot that is ready to compete in an autonomous competition requires the same critical thinking and project management skills that it takes to send a spacecraft into space.
As I have shared before, one of the many things that I really enjoy about coaching the U.S. FIRST Jr. Robotics competitions is the opportunity to teach children some of those vital critical thinking skills while having fun building robots. Not only do the kids have to design and build a robot, they have to program it as well.
Since the dawn of computing the success of any programming project has been the ability to break down a tasks into specific next actions. Of the many skills that I model for the kids, a powerful one is the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, by my friend, David Allen. I teach kids the basics of GTD -- often without them knowing it -- simply by modelling its use in action. Early on, the girls become accustomed to asking "What's the successful outcome?" and "what's the next action?" It is this step-by-step analysis that helps the kids learn to break down a complex problem into small but manageable tasks. While I am teaching the kids how to prepare for a robotics competition, I am really teaching them how to prepare to solve many of the kinds of challenges that they will face in the future.
Thanks to this year's sponsors, I will be introducing the girls to various productivity applications, including OneNote, Mind Manager, and ResultsManager. I'm looking forward to giving the team not only powerful thinking skills but excellent productivity tools to use as well.
I have set up a web site where you can follow along as we prepare for the U.S. FIRST Jr. Robotics Competition. The girls will be blogging about their experiences each week and I will blog from time to time (on both blogs) about the various productivity applications that we are using and the lessons learned. It promises to be quite an adventure.
Does this sound interesting to you? If so, here are your next actions:
1. Sign up for the RSS feed for this web site so that you can stay informed of the latest news.
2. Visit the LEGO Mountaineers web site to see the pictures and follow the team's activities.
3. While you are there, be sure to read: Productivity in motion, Part 2.
If you would like to share your thoughts on this topic, feel free to post a comment below.