Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ms. Frizzle Does NXT and RCX

She writes on her blog:

"We were in it, today. I split the kids up, a few weeks ago, into an RCX and an NXT team, and pitted them against each other to tackle a challenge: make a robot that can go around the sides of one of our tables as close to the edge as possible, without falling off."

She talks about the real essence of what kids learn in doing this stuff.

I've been urging coaches who have both NXT and RCX to try this. Make sure to check out the Iowa State engineering videos comparing the two. The link is posted on the sidebar.

Read the full piece at:

The Ridder Kids With Trophy from Riverbank

Sam Freedman on Robotics in the Bronx

January 30, 2008

In the South Bronx, Robotics and Rebirth

Joyce Dopkeen/The New York Times

At robotics team practice at Herman Ridder Junior High School, from left: Carl Jules, Azeem Yousaf, Gary Israel, Harold Smith and Sabrina Fletcher.

Not being the obedient sort at this point in his scholastic career, Abdoulie left behind the dean and the chair to check out the hubbub, he recalled recently. He saw on the tabletop a sort of motorized cart made mostly of Lego pieces.

“I want to play,” he said, shifting from tough guy to eager child with no intermediate step.

“It’s not a toy,” one of the students at the table answered. “It’s a robot.”

The dean begrudgingly gave Abdoulie a five-minute parole to watch the robot scoot to and fro across the tabletop. And in those five minutes, Abdoulie’s life changed.

What he was seeing, he soon learned, was a practice session for the robotics team at Herman Ridder Junior High School in the Bronx. There was practice every afternoon, and more practice or a competition on most Saturdays.

By now, two years later, Abdoulie is a veteran of the team. Last year, he traveled with the Ridder Kids, as their matching T-shirts proclaim them, to a national Lego robotics championship in Atlanta. At the end of this April, the squad plans to go to Japan to participate in an exhibition.

In the process, Abdoulie has solved the mystery of himself: How could a boy smart enough to disassemble and reassemble the family television be messing up so badly in school? The answer: Nobody at school had noticed that talent until the Ridder Kids encouraged Abdoulie to fit together every intricate part of a robot. For the first time, he felt success and approval.

“I used to be hard-headed,” Abdoulie explained at Ridder one recent afternoon. “Now I’m not that way anymore.”

Some version of Abdoulie’s story could be told about nearly all the dozen Ridder Kids, immigrants from Haiti or Pakistan or Gambia, the children of parents toiling on construction sites or in bodegas. An accident of geography delivered them to Herman Ridder, a school with a sad history.

Decades ago, this school, in a turreted castle of a building on Boston Road, admitted only the most gifted of children based on an entrance exam. It was a little bit of Stuyvesant for the Irish, Italians and Jews of the tenements beside Crotona Park.

Generations came and went, and the neighborhood slid into notoriety. When Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan made their respective visits to the abandoned hulks on Charlotte Street, they were within blocks of Herman Ridder. No longer selective, it had become the last resort for families too poor to afford escape.

With the rebirth of the South Bronx, symbolized by the tidy split-levels that now line Charlotte Street, has come at least a bit of rebirth at Herman Ridder. Under its new principal, Claralee Irobunda, Ridder earned an A on its first progress report from the Department of Education. The department’s Quality Performance Review lauded Ms. Irobunda for providing “leadership that continues to take the school forward at a remarkable rate.”

Before taking over at Ridder, Ms. Irobunda led the guidance department at Morris High, a school a dozen blocks down Boston Road that was so troubled its own faculty once advised it be closed. The Education Department finally did the job, turning the building over to five mini-schools.

One of Ms. Irobunda’s colleagues at Morris was Gary Israel, a social studies teacher and would-be engineer who discovered competitive robotics in the late 1990s. It reminded him of the two extracurricular passions — tennis and clarinet — that animated his own school years at George Washington High in Manhattan.

“It’s the hands-on that’s so important,” he said the other day. “When kids are in classrooms all day, they need outlets. They need more than academics. Robotics can be like the old shop class.”

Both before and after retiring from Morris in June 2005, Mr. Israel has introduced almost 60 schools in the Bronx to robotics.

Officially, he does so now as a paid consultant to the Education Department, but he easily exceeds the 80 days of work specified in his contract. He gets up at 4 a.m., goes to sleep at 11 p.m. and spends many of his 19 waking hours with robotics teams. Each spring, his wife makes him sign a letter, which she posts on the refrigerator, promising to really retire; each fall, he annuls the vow.

At Ridder, Mr. Israel has found a kindred insomniac in Harold Smith, a teacher of technology education. Even after 30 years on the job, Mr. Smith rises at 5:15 a.m. to drive to Ridder from his home 45 miles away in East Brunswick, N.J.

Before classes begin on most mornings, the robotics teammates flock to his room: Travis Williams and Azeem Yousaf, Amado Sanchez, Sabrina Fletcher and all the rest. Having built their robot over the first semester, they now are programming a computer to operate it. In every competition, the robot must perform 13 tasks, all related to a theme of energy resources.

For many of the Ridder Kids, the involvement in robotics has transformed their attitude about school. It has given education purpose and utility, something no standardized test can supply.

“TV doesn’t brighten you,” said Carl Jules, an eighth grader on the team. “The robotics team brightens you.”

Mr. Smith concurred. “I believe they are all geniuses,” he said. “Our job is to tap into their genius.”

At the moment, though, even geniuses face obstacles. The Ridder Kids, who won the citywide robotics prize for elementary and junior high schools last year, finished eighth of 82 teams in this year’s final round. Their trip to Japan, which is part of the international robotics program sponsored by First (an acronym standing for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), will cost $30,000. So far, Mr. Israel has only $400.

“I always feel the money will come through somehow,” Mr. Israel said. “These kids are such great ambassadors. Imagine them going to Japan to show what an ‘inner-city’ school can do. Because we get such a bad rap.”

Samuel G. Freedman is a professor of journalism at Columbia University. His e-mail is

Monday, January 28, 2008

NYCFIRST Citywide Award Winners

Champions Award
1st Place 1409 St. Clair School SI Transformers 2
2nd Place 1408 St. Clair School SI Transformers 1
3rd Place 1996 I.S. 75 SI Panthers 2
4th Place 4084 Bronx Latin M. S. Bx Architecti
5th Place 948 Bric-2-Bots Qns Cyberbots Techs

Project Award
1st Place 6292 Cambria Center Qns Warbots
2nd Place 845 M.S. 302X Bx MS302 Tech Squad
3rd Place 1822 M.S. 118X Bx Pacers
4th Place 199 Staten Island Tech Tech Knows
5th Place 1634 ESMT I.S. 190X Bx Team X

Robot Design
1st Place 2132 I.S. 98X Bx Ridder Kids
2nd Place 1995 I. S. 75 SI Panthers1
3rd Place 4850 Manhattan Academy of Technology
PS 126, Chinatown YMCA MATobot
4th Place 198 Staten Island Tech Tech Knights
5th Place 2627 Little Red School House Manhattan LREI Knights

1st Place 1435 Packer Collegiate Institute Bklyn Pack-A-Watt
2nd Place 1965 I.S. 72 SI Rocco Laurie
3rd Place 332 I.S. 24 SI Rogue Leaders
4th Place 5501 I. S. 49 SI Powah Playaz
5th Place 2880 Benjamin Banneker Academy Bklyn RoboWarriors

1654 PS 21K Bklyn Crispus Attucks Panthers

Against All Odds
3107 Bedford Academy Bklyn BedBots

Judges Award
196 PS/IS 123 Bx Solargy

Performance Award
1st 1409 St. Clare's SI
2nd 3840 Bric-2-Bots Qns
3rd 1411 St. Clare's SI
4th 948 Brics-2-Bots Qns
5th 1965 IS 72 SI

A better idea what Gracious Professionalism is all about

As for the competition, it was another fine showing. I must commend Randy and everyone on the committees for listening to our past complaints. Finally, rubrics that can not tell a lie and let you know why and how you won an award. Sure, I had a perfect score in 2 categories and received a 4th place plaque, but other teams had perfect scores as well. By showing my kids this and explaining, they had a better idea what Gracious Professionalism is all about.

Thanks again for your time and dedication.


Steve Raile
Staten Island Tech


That's all I can say right now (look for a list of teams that won awards soon) about Saturday's FIRST LEGO League tournament at Riverbank State park in Manhattan. About a 1000 teachers, administrators, kids and parents as active participants and high school and college students joined by people from the business/corporate world as volunteers and contributers, plus around another 1000 there to support them and cheer them on. We were on the edge of capacity and victims of our own success. We are already talking about next year.

We had cooperation in getting the word out from the DOE publicity department at Tweed. Due to their efforts, look for a profile of a team in the NY Times this week.

Everybody is in a good frame of mind at FLL events and here I schmooze with the principal of Bronx Latin HS, which won 4th place overall.

Hōs successus alit; possunt, quia posse videntur.
('Success nourishes them; they can because they think they can.')

Photo by Gary Israel

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Lego Mania Hits NYC" from NY 1

From NY 1
January 26, 2008

(Thanks to NY 1 for doing an amazing job in covering the tournament by doing reports from throughout the day. Look for follow-up updates on NY 1 and watch the video.)

Eighty teams of grade-school students fought it out in Riverbank State Park Saturday in the city's first Lego League Citywide Championship.

Hundreds of students displayed their Lego skills by building robots and other science projects.

The theme was using energy more efficiently in the real world. As a result, kids added solar panels and other energy-saving technologies to their Lego robots.

Organizers say the project helps the students prepare for their future.

"The world of work has changed," said Randy Schaeffer, regional director of the program. "Work is done globally. Technology is the key to our being able to compete in the global marketplace. These kids are going to work in a world that's entirely different than the one today."

To get ready for this competition, the students, along with a coach, spent the last four months months working on their projects.

"We went around in Woodside and asked the pizza store manager how much he pays monthly and he says he pays like around $400 and we asked the 99-cent store and an average building and then we told them how to save energy," said participant Imran Sajiv. "You can use a dimmer or turn off lights in the house and people saved $200 to $300 a month."

Parents say they are happy their children are involved in this activity.

"It's awesome; it's beautiful," said one parent. "I'm learning along with my son about solar paneling and the world of energy. I'm glad I'm here today."

Winning teams will move on to the international championships in Atlanta this April.



A big thank you to all for what you and everyone else did for the kids this weekend! Our team had a great time at Riverbank. The kids were really impressed by everything, but especially by the tone of collegiality and good will that existed amongst the teams. As a parent, I wish there was just a fraction of that spirit in youth sports. I realize all the work that goes into setting such a tone and into making everything run as smoothly as it did. What a feat!
Our team would like to go to The Javits Center on April 4. Could we attend as a group? If you could, please let me know how that gets arranged.

Kate Coen
Team Parent
Team 2235
Microbots, Staten Island


Greetings Everyone,

I also would like to congratulate the incredible team of organizers, committee members, sponsors, volunteers, coaches and teams on an amazing event!

It was an overwhelming experience for me this year as a second year coach, but I am glad to see that all of our hard work and dedication paid off!

I look forward to collaborating with everyone on the FLL Planning Committee and NYCNJ FIRST to continue our mission to promote and share the spirit of what it's all about!

The kids and their parents had a wonderful time!

I wish all of the FRC teams this season good luck!

See you all at the Javitz Center in the Spring!

Very Truly Yours,
Keith A. Wynne

Elementary Science Specialist
Grades 2-5
P.S. 58 The Carroll School
330 Smith Street
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11231

"Educating students from around the globe since 1996."

Congratulations and Thanks to All!

Hi everyone --

What a wonderful year it has been! Yesterday's Championship was amazing. The fun, the energy, the learning. Absolutely incredible. All made possible through your efforts.

Our successful transition to qualifying tournaments marks another milestone in the continuing growth of NYC FLL. Our FLL planning committee reached new highs as an organization.

Through your contribution of time, energy, and creativity you have positively impacted the lives of hundreds and hundreds of kids around the City. That fact was so very evident in the faces of the kids throughout the day.

Thank you so very much for all that you do.


Letter from Mary Lee from St. Clare's Elementary School

Hi Randy and Norm,

I write to you because yours are the faces most familiar to me when I walk into the Riverbank State Park facility each year. But I know there are countless others who are involved in making the F.I.R.S.T. LEGO League citywide event -- and all the components and qualifiers leading up to this venue -- a success. St. Clare's would like to congratulate you on another great year and thank you and all your staff for the incredible work they do for our youth.

As for my team getting the overall Champion's Award this year, I have one way to describe it ... Wow!
Like any coach who was there, I was proud of how my students performed throughout the day. I was happy for any awards we received, but I did not expect to win something of this magnitude this year since this was to be a rebuilding year for us. I was on the other side of the room with another one of my teams to congratulate them on an award at the photo area when the final award of the day was being announced. And as the speech progressed about the winner, I started to think, "Hey, that sounds like us!" Then I thought, "What a coincidence! Another team here has adopted a pond? And did a zoo research project?"

The heart started to race. Then I heard talk about the nice performance and teamwork the team displayed. I never actually heard the part when they named St. Clare's the winner because the noise level around me started to grow. The next thing I remember were the parents and kids around me jumping screaming, "We won!" I literally could not move for a minute, which is why I was delayed walking down to thank the judges, referees and tournament directors. It was surreal. When I finally made my way back to the photo area where my whole team had gathered to celebrate and they group hugged me, then it finally hit me. Amazing!

Please convey to your staff how thrilled we all are to have received this bid and how thankful we are for the enriching opportunities the FLL program has provided us. Your programs enable students to think outside the box, to work as a team to solve problems, and to see they can make a difference in this world. Each year I am more amazed by what I see at this venue and in my own classroom. Many of our research projects do not ever end. We are still involved in projects from past years and have become active members of the community because of them. I can honestly say that there is nothing I do as a teacher that is as rewarding.

When things settle down, please send me the contact information on the nationals in Atlanta so we can try to make arrangements to bring our team. Also feel free to pass my information on to the FLL representatives who are running this event. Since we have never done this before, I would appreciate any help, support, advice, suggestions you can give.

We consider it an honor and a privilege to represent New York City in the nationals. It has been a dream of ours to earn this spot, and we will do our best to make it happen and to make you all proud. Thank you for making so many dreams come true every year for so many children.

Here are two links to media sites that report on St. Clare's team and their accomplishment in the citywide robotics tournament for the blog.

New York 1 - Video on St. Clare's getting bid to World Festival

Staten Island Advance - Online story on St. Clare's winning the FLL citywide robotics tournament


Mary Lee
St. Clare's Elementary School
Contact information
St. Clare's Elementary School, 151 Lindenwood Road, Staten Island, New York, 10308

Friday, January 25, 2008

Staten Island 'Robotics' group goes for LEGO League Championship

Friday, January 25th 2008, 4:00 AM

Oates for News

Members of Intermediate School 72’s Robotics team are setting their sights on winning the city’s FIRST LEGO League Championship.

On Saturday morning, Staten Island's Rocco Laurie Intermediate School 72 Robotics team will head back into "The Pit."

Looking to return to the winner's circle for the first time in two years, the 13-member IS 72 squad will face off with teams from 79 other city schools at Riverbank State Park in Manhattan in the New York City FIRST LEGO League Championship. FIRST is an acronym for For Recognition and Inspiration in Science and Technology.

The winning team will represent New York in the international championships, to be held in Atlanta's Georgia Dome in April.

The championships "are very exciting," said Nicholas Anderson, a 13-year-old eighth-grader who was on the school's 2006 Robotics team (the school also won the citywide competition in 2004) sent to the international championships in Atlanta.

"You spend all day running around doing things and meeting people," he said.

This year's competition already has had lasting benefits for some Staten Island residents, and could have even more.

As part of the community service requirement of the competition, the Robotics team, in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard, this month collected 5,000 pounds of old computer equipment for recycling, said team coach Randi Huss, an IS 72 school counselor.

Robotics research team members Thalia Collazo, 13; Eileen Diih, 13; and Heather Platt, 12, also have mounted a program to convince a host of sponsors to financially back an effort to help Staten Island's 60-year-old Jacques Marchias Museum of Tibetan Art go completely green.

Under the proposal, created after students conducted an energy audit of the building, companies would install solar panels, energy-efficient double-paned windows, a windmill and a rainwater recycling system system at the museum.

"Right now, the museum has to close in January because it costs so much to heat the place," said Diih, part of the team of students that did the energy audit of the institution last year.

"We asked the Andersen Window company if they would replace the museum windows with double-pane glass for free," Platt explained. "They are considering it. We estimate that new windows would save them 25% to 50% on their heating bills."

Built of fieldstone to resemble a Tibetan monastery, the museum at 338 Lighthouse Ave. contains one of the largest collections of Tibetan Art in the country and has been visited by the Dalai Lama.

"This is a wonderful building that needs some upgrades," said museum director Meg Ventrudo. "The windows are one of the capitol improvements that need to be done."

She said Andersen has not committed to replacing the windows yet, but added, "We'd love it if that were the case."

IS 72 Robotics team members include sixth-graders Branden Collazo, Rohan Patel and Kevin Weedagama, seventh-graders Kevin Sheridan, John Guarco, Matthew Cassidy, Andrew Neil and Louis Matrone and eighth-graders Anderson, Collazo, Diih and Mayuran Sivakumar.

Besides Huss, team coaches and science teacher Olympia DiSpigna, social studies teacher David Colasanto and parent Christine Anderson - Nicholas' mother. Assistant Principal Peter Garein is also a big team supporter, Huss said.

Several high school students who were on the winning 2006 team also act as advisers to the squad, Huss said.

First LEGO League competitions are intended to improve students' critical thinking, design and problem solving skills.

Using LEGO's "mindstorm" system, the teams design, build and program LEGO robots to perform 41 different tasks within 2-1/2 minutes. Instructions for each task are downloaded from a computer into the robot's control module.

The robots have to work within the parameters of a community grid laid out on a table top - the dreaded Pit. Each event is timed, with points being awarded for speed and degree of difficulty of the assigned task, such as moving a bridge so it straddles the river, or removing nuclear waste barrels from the local power plant.

"It's a lot of fun," said Sivakumar, 13. "I had so much fun on the team last year that I wanted to come back this year and do it again."

Two team members operate the robots while a third observes the competitors, who are performing the same tasks on a nearby table. Best times move on to the next round, with winners named after three rounds.

Competition is spirited and, well, intense. The IS 72 team asked that this article remain vague on any robot manuevers this writer observed for fear of tipping off their competition.

Expect more of the same tomorrow.

"Bring earplugs," Huss said. "You can't believe how loud it gets in there. The kids are really into it."

NO MATTER the outcome tomorrow, Huss said, her team has already won big.

"I am so proud of these kids, who come from all ethnic backgrounds and intellectual levels," she said. "They all work hard on this team and for the team."

The New York FIRST and First LEGO League championships will kick off at 8 a.m. tomorrow with registration and robot inspections at Riverbank State Park, 145th Ave. and the Hudson River. Awards ceremonies are scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

For information about the competition and the LEGO league, go to

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

St. Clare's LEGO Robotics team from Staten Island held a public forum on energy called "Transforming Power"

St. Clare's LEGO Robotics team from Staten Island held a public forum on energy called "Transforming Power" on January 8. It was great night. We not only presented our FIRST LEGO League Power Puzzle research to over 100 guests from the community in an interactive, entertaining and informational manner, but we also invited experts to speak to the public about energy. Representative from the sites we audited also attended and they are now considering implementing some of the ideas the students recommended. Thank you to the FLL for showing these kids that they can make a difference!
Our story appeared in the Staten Island Advance newspaper with photos. Here is the electronic version of the story itself. It was on the Staten Island Advance's website but was also was posted by the Government Innovators Network, which is affiliated with Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government).
The links to the story are below:
Link to Harvard University site
Link to Staten Island Advance site
Thank you, Mary Lee (St. Clare's coach)

Monday, January 21, 2008

IS 10Q Urges You to Save Your Energy


A newsletter for the NYCFIRST robotics community in New York City and the surrounding area.

Jan. 21, 2008


NYC/NJ FIRST web site
Team Info:

or directly at:

Program Guide:

All of this information can be downloaded from the NYC FLL Tournament page:

This will be the last Update before the tournament.

Check the blog for late-breaking news.

I hope you're all enjoying your day off. Four days left to get ready. Have fun with the time. No matter what happens, Saturday will be great.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Daily News looking to visit this week

A reporter from the Daily News would like to visit some teams in Brooklyn or Staten Island that will be practicing this week for Saturday's event.
Respond ASAP if interested. I'll send in the first 5 responses.

Information on events at the Javits Convention Center in April will be forthcoming a few weeks after Riverbank.

The full list of 82 teams with the up-to-date information is posted at:

The program guide has been sent off to the press today.
A pdf will be made available for downloading at the NYC/NJ FIRST web site:

A map of the parking underneath will also be available at
It is a bit of a trip to get there so check it out.

When you arrive at Riverbank

The doors open at 8.

Make sure to have the Team Information sheet filled out in advance.

If you forgot it, don't panic. We'll have some blanks.


The form is also located at:
Downloadable from:

You will need to know your team number and team name. We are also asking you to list the names of your team members.


1. Take your team to the stands (not the pit area) and get them seated.
They cannot leave the stands until you have been assigned your pit table.

2. Get on the line to register – only one person on the line – do not bring your kids to the line.
If you are the only adult and are uncomfortable in leaving you kids in the stands alone, ask me to help find someone to keep an eye on them.

3. You will be assigned a pit number when you register in the order of registration. It is irrelevant what pit number you get. But schools with 2 teams should make sure the teams are separated and placed in an area where you cannot keep an eye on them. There are maps of the layout at the registration table.

4. Gather your flock and take them to the pit table to settle in. Then fasten your seat belts.

5. Robot inspections, research and technical presentations will start around 8:15 and run till 9:30 when opening ceremonies will take place. Matches begin at 10.

Schedules of when you are due and where will be posted near the entrance. This process takes some time so be patient. Someone will come to the pit and get you for each event.

Many teams bring their mats and field-set up to use as an alternative to the practice tables. Please set these up out of the main paths. And share with your neighbors.

Plugging in: You cannot run extension cords across the space. There will be recharging areas along the back wall.

Last year there were reports that some parents planted themselves there and told people it was "their" space.

I will be walking around with a stun gun if this should occur.

I will be your point person for any issues you might have during the day. My cell is 917.992.3734. I probably won't be able to hear the phone so leave a message with a return number. We will also use the Volunteer Check-in table at the entrance as a place for you to go to ask any questions and they will round me up. Or ask another coach for info. Most are vets and know the ropes.

Make sure to have spare food and drink to keep the troops from getting edgy.

Confirming you are attending

We have received responses from 72 teams who have confirmed they are attending.
Why we asked for you to confirm when you were automatically entered:

Here are the top 5 reasons we asked:

5. Just making sure things are going ok – some of you are too shy to say if there's a problem.
4. We need to know if for some reason you will not make it. (You won the lottery and retired to Hawai).
We are very tight for space and if some teams are not coming, we can remove some tables to make things less "cozy."
3. I have been working on the program guide and wanted to get the team names and coaches listed (I have some very old data – like some teams are still using Nanobots from last year and coaches are listed from 5 years ago.)
2. We wanted to get an idea of the numbers you were bringing to get a rough count that we are not going to get too severely overcrowded and have to ask people to limit their numbers.
1. I get lonely when I don't hear from you.

The teams that have not yet responded (it is too late to change the program guide):
NOTE: I was away for a week and some email responses may have slipped by.

Please include the team number and your school/organization in the email and check the accuracy of the information for your team(s) listed by borough:

Team # School/Organization Team Name Coaches' name(s)

1654 PS 21K Crispus Attucks School Panthers Carla Arnold
1673 PS 195X Molecules Zelma Torres-Rosado
2132 IS 98 X Ridder Kids Harold Smith
2880 Benjamin Banneker Academy K RoboWarriors Imani Fischer
3107 Bedford Academy BedBot Cluny Lavache
4084 Bronx Latin MS Architecti Eddie Branchaud
4795 Manhattan Youth @IS 289 M Cougers Annie Xu Theseus Roche
5499 IS 49 SI Robo Spartans Carol Obler
5501 IS 49 SI Powah Playaz Carol Obler
7203 IS 126 Q 126Q Stingers Stephan Linardic

The I.S. 75 Lego Robotics Team will be on the cover of the Middle School Principal Association (MSPA) Magazine
Coach Donny Swanson sends this along.

My principal informed me of great news. The I.S. 75 Lego Robotics Team will be on the cover of the Middle School Principal Association (MSPA) Magazine. After my principal was contacted, I sent information about the Lego Robotics program at I.S. 75, some background on inspiring students, and some of the unique points of the F.I.R.ST. Lego League Tournament many are not aware of at first.

The full letter on at:

IS 72 Rocco Laurie Press Release
from coach Randi Huss

The IS 72 Rocco Laurie Lego Robotics Team would like to announce their partnership with Hewlett Packard in the successful completion of a Consumer Electronic Recycling Saturday Project.

On Saturday January 5th from 9am - 2 pm Hewlett Packard sent the We Recycle Truck, bins, pallets and brochures to 33 Ferndale Avenue and the team provided the person power. NY 1 was on hand to document the event as well as to interview the students. The piece ran that weekend on Staten Island News Now.

Full press release posted at:

If you want to be removed from this list type "unsubscribe" in the subject area and hit return. If you already asked and it didn't happen yet, ask again as sometimes I get behind in paperwork.

Compiled by Norm Scott
NYCFIRST Registration coordinator

Have a good day


IS 72 Rocco Laurie Press Release

The IS 72 Rocco Laurie Lego Robotics Team would like to announce their partnership with Hewlett Packard in the successful completion of a Consumer Electronic Recycling Saturday Project.

On Saturday January 5th from 9am - 2 pm Hewlett Packard sent the We Recycle Truck, bins, pallets and brochures to 33 Ferndale Avenue and the team provided the person power. NY 1 was on hand to document the event as well as to interview the students. The piece ran that weekend on Staten Island News Now.

The recycling project was another part of the teams effort to reach out to the community in the spirit of this years tournament theme of "going green". Schools from as far away as Teaneck and Englewood , New Jersey showed their support with generous contributions. The local Chinese School housed at IS 72 also showed their support.

Over five thousand pounds of computer accessories, monitors, keyboards and CPU's were collected, as well as ink cartridges and printers. The curbside drop off manned by the team helped to keep donations moving smoothly. The team had their project on display offering information to local residents on the Tibetan Museum's highlights as well as visitor information. Brochures were given out sharing information on recycling, solar energy and other energy saving measures locally available.

The Team recently won first prize for their research project at the Borough Wide Robotics tournament held at Staten Island Technical High School in December. Their research project gave the recently sixty year old Jaques Marchais Tibetan Museum, a birthday "energy makeover". The challenge was to both preserve the authentic integrity of the museum as well as making it energy effective. Proposals for solar power, wind mills and energy efficient windows are currently being developed by local and California based companies.

The project will be installed at the museum beginning in February after a reception for museum members, sponsors and students. Meg Ventrudo,the Museums curator made the enthusiastic initial donation of some outdated equipment to clean out their garage and start the project.

The two time New York State Champions will go on to the State finals on January 26th to compete once again for the chance to attend the National/International Competition in Atlanta in April.

Randi Huss Lego Robotics Coach I.S, 72

Teams Going to Riverbank - Jan. 26, 2008

0394 MS 67 Energize67 Ruta Dave
0573 IS 125 Mr. Roboto Rudy Vera
0948 Brics-2-Bots CyberbotsTechs Veryl Greene
1863 IS 119 TopGearz Chris Dudin
2395 IS 192 Robo Fusion Eric Greene
2728 IS 10 Q IBest 3000 Pat Shubitz
3126 JHS 185 (Bleeker) Stars Primal Dhillon
3840 Bric-2-Bots Cyberbot- Eng. Veryl Greene
3874 MS 216 Ryan Lions Peter Xanthus
4113 Resurrection Ascension R.A. Titans Janna Valente
5517 IS 119 Q TopGearz Chris Dudin
5618 Louis Amstrong IS 227 Lamchops 1 David Mabrey
Richard Akalski
Joshua Blum
5619 Louis Armstrong IS 227 Lamchops 2 Same as 5618
6292 Cambria Center Warbots Sheryl Liles
7203 IS 126 Stingers Stephan Linardic

0160 MS 51K Generals James Hoffman
0447 PS 372 K Static Fanatics Rita Fasano
Vicki Holland Haiva Albuliwi
0844 St. Edmund School Nerd Herd Christine Zaremba
1435 Packer Collegiate Inst. Pack-a-Watt Maureen Reilly
1472 The Carroll School Black Hornets Keith Wynne
Roger Levy
1475 PS 58 The Carroll Sch Robot Shockers Keith Wynne
1654 PS 21K Crispus Attucks Panthers Carla Arnold
2070 PS 11K Mission 11 Rasheda Lyons Vlad Kop
2090 PS 261K The Energy Freaks Chris Peyser
Scott Howard Jennifer Lindauer-Thompson
2880 Benj Banneker Acad RoboWarriors Imani Fischer
3107 Bedford Academy BedBot Cluny Lavache
3628 IS383 Philippa Schuyler M.S. Skybox Lindrick Outerbridge
4949 Brooklyn Tech HS Brooklyn Tech Knights Gordon Williams
5090 PS 282 K RoboWarriors Aisha Marsh
5100 MS 88 K Masterminds2 Andy Singh
5101 MS 88 K Masterminds3 Andy Singh
5689 PS 81 PS 81 Everbell Bishop
Diane Moore

0083 CS 66 X CS66 B.R.A.T.S Christopher BladesJames Bellon
0196 PS/IS 123 X Solargy Chris Gooding
0268 MS 101X Maritime Academy The Power Solvers Michele Sikoryak Doug Dalessandro
0506 Pablo Casals MS 181x The RoboCopz Terry Buchalter Constantine Kouvatsos
0705 Globe Schl for Environ. Rsrch GLOBE Masters Michael Joyce Paul Riter
0707 Globe Schl for Environ. Rsrch GLOBE Masters Michael Joyce/ Paul Riter
0845 MS 302 X MS302 Tech Squad Sharon Shoatz
1634 ESMT IS 190 X Team X Maribeth Whitehouse Ms. Pernitz
1673 PS 195X Molecules Zelma Torres-Rosado
1822 MS 118 X Pacers Ralph Corvino
1911 PS 76XThe Bennington School 76ers Russell Heath
2132 IS 98 X Ridder Kids Harold Smith
2154 PS 121 X Storm Throopers Kathy BormannMaria Scher
2201 MS 144 xMichaelangelo MS 144 GoBots Victoria Lowe Natasha Balkcom
2269 PS 68 X PS 68 Mind Openers II Andrew Harrison
Margaret O’Donohue, Sallie Williams
2284 HS of Computers & Tech LEGO Devils Stan Bellis
2349 PS 103 x RoboStingers Cathy Wilson-Daly Cristen Delaney 2350 PS 103 x RoboBeez Jarret Jackob Linda Matos
2415 Kezner Academy @IS 192 X Accelerators Jim Love Donna Kinford
4084 Bronx Latin MS Architecti Eddie Branchaud
4785 PS 153 x Nanobots Ms. Pelzar
4815 Frederick Douglass Academy FDA LEGO Raiders Danielle Nunez Alyssa Rosenbaum
4817 Frederick Douglass Academy Junior Raiders Megan Wasserman
Henry Encarnacion
5148 PS 304X DragonBots Sandra Kamelgarn Millie DeGennaro Debbie Varca
5264 IS 174 X Cybernetic Rebels Esteban Vazquez
5744 PS 108X Energy All-Stars Vanessa Jones

0198 Staten Island Tech Tech Knights Mike Siegal Steve Raile
0199 Staten Island Tech Tech Knows Dennis Giurici
0332 IS 24 SI Rogue Leaders Raymond Cottrell
0990 IS 34 SI Techno Eagles Joseph Buro Ann Verderber
0992 IS 34 SI Stell Talons Joseph Buro Howard Leventhal
1408 St. Clare School Transformers 1 Mary Lee
1409 St. Clare School Transformers 2 Mary Lee
1410 St. Clare School Transformers 3 Mary Lee
1411 St. Clare School Transformers 4 Mary Lee
1965 IS 72 SI Rocco Laurie Robotics Randi Huss Danny Colosanto
1995 IS 75 SI Panthers 1 Donny Swanson Andrew Grandner
1996 IS 75 SI Panthers 2 Donny Swanson Denise Carsten
2235 Coen at Home Micro Bots Patrick Coen
2258 IS 27 SI Mustangs 2 Bryan Kilgallen
5499 IS 49 SI Robo Spartans Carol Obler
5501 IS 49 SI Powah Playaz Carol Obler

1447 Trevor Day School The Little Dragons Steven Schechter
2627 Little Red School LREI Knights Sherezada Acosta
4795 Man Youth @IS 289 M Cougers Annie Xu Theseus Roche
4850 Man Acad of Tech MATobot Hau-Yu Chu
PS126/MAT/ChinatownYMCA Luigi Cicala
6047 PS 1 Robotics Seung Won Lee
6115 Man East MS 224 Thing 2 Melissa Cancel LLiana Villegas
6482 Little Red School LREI 2 Sherezada Acosta

IS 75 on Cover of MSPA Magazine

My principal informed me of great news. The I.S. 75 Lego Robotics Team will be on the cover of the Middle School Principal Association (MSPA) Magazine. After my principal was contacted, I sent information about the Lego Robotics program at I.S. 75, some background on inspiring students, and some of the unique points of the F.I.R.ST. Lego League Tournament many are not aware of at first.

Donny Swanson

NOTE: IS 75 was one of the two winners at last year's tournament and took the team to Atlanta for the World Festival.

Information in letter to MSPA

"The Lego Robotics Program at Intermediate School 75 was developed to reinforce skills in mathematics, science, communication arts, and technology through a hands-on collaborative approach. Children are grouped heterogeneously by academic performance to encourage further achievement on all levels.

In the fall of 2006, Paulo Intermediate School 75 created a Lego Robotics Team. The Lego Robotics Team is an extension of the program where children can further develop their understanding of engineering through the New York City F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League. It is a pathway for students of all physical levels to become immersed in an environment of teamwork and fair play as well as an opportunity to experience healthy competition. Our teams consists of 20 students from ages 11 to 14 years old in the sixth through eighth grade. We are proud to say, the team has accomplished more than we could have even imagined.

What makes this program unique is that is gives all children, including those with disabilities, the chance to actively participate in a team setting. Many other competitive activities are not completely inclusive.

One student on the team, has a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). He has excelled through Lego Robotics and is now one of the team’s head programmers. Although he may be confined to a wheelchair, he has proven to play a major role in the success of the group. His knowledge of the subject has inspired many students to look beyond his disability and celebrate his strength.

Another member of our team suffers from a condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which prevents him from physical overexertion. This program allows him to actively participate in competitive events and experience the benefits of being part of a team.

In addition, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. Through this program, I can show the children that a setback is an opportunity to think out of the box and create an alternative solution. This motivation shows the students that despite their disability or weakness, anyone can be a productive member of society when using their mind to focus on their strengths.

The theme of the F.I.R.S.T. Lego League Tournament is, “Sports for the Mind.” This organization, founded by Dean Kamen, encourages people to celebrate intelligence, teamwork and character. We will be purchasing baseball jerseys to proudly represent our school and the theme we are grateful to be a part of."

Thank you,
Donny Swanson
Lego Robotics Coordinator
Intermediate School 75

Start the year off right. Easy ways to stay in shape in the new year.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ridder Kids to Go To Japan

In the LEGO® Education's blog the Ridder Kids are congratulated for being selected to go to Japan this coming April.

Click below for more about the FLL team from the Bronx and their upcoming trip.
Below the Japanese Letter of invitation is a photo of some of this year's Ridder Kids and a photo taken last year accepting their trophy for winning the 2007 NYC FLL Directors Award.

Letter of Invitation

The Executive Board of FIRST Japan delightfully informs you that IS 98 has been selected as an official participating team to the coming FLL Asian Open Championship event which will be held in Tokyo, Japan during period of April 27th to 29th, 2008.

Details of the event will be sent in separate by FIRST Japan, including preparation requirements.

Please kindly send us your confirmation of participating to the event at your earliest convenience.

Congratulations, we wish you the great success in your FLL activities.


Dr. Haruhisa Ishihda


First Japan

Waka bld 4F 1-3-4 Kamiasao

Asao-ku Kawasaki-city


Saturday, January 12, 2008



So far, 46 teams have confirmed for Riverbank on Jan. 26, as per our request in update #20, posted at The list of the confirmed is also posted on the blog.

If you have not done so, send an email to Norm, confirming. List the names of the coach (es) and include the number of team members and the number of adults and other children attending from your school.

The deadline has passed to change the information in the program guide as to team names and coaches.

Recent articles posted on the blog:

Pack-A-Watt to go to City-Wide Tournament
Organizing Your LEGOs

This bulletin will also posted on the blog.

The Team Information Form that must be handed in upon registering which is being attached as a pdf (see details below), is posted at Google docs:

From Randy Schaeffer, Co-director, NYCFIRST

Jan. 13, 2008

Hello NYC FIRST LEGO League Teachers Coaches --

The 2008 New York City FIRST LEGO League Tournaments are almost here!

You are all terrific to devote the time and energy to make it possible for your kids to participate in the FIRST celebration of young people working smart in science and technology! Thank you so very much for all your courage and hard work.

This is a long e-mail with a lot of information to help you prepare for your participation at the 2008 New York City FIRST LEGO League Tournaments. Please be patient and read it though to the end. There may be additional bulletins coming your way in the days ahead. Be sure to check your e-mail regularly.

Please contact us if you have any questions or we can help in any way: Norm Scott at Or call 917-992-3734.

NOTE: We are short of volunteers, in particular judges. If teams can find one interested parent or teacher each that would be of great help. Contact Elizabeth Almonte:

*** *** *** *** *** ***


Please download, print, and complete the attached-pdf "Team Information Form", bring it with you to the tournament, and hand it in at the registration table. Having it complete when you arrive will speed you and your team to your pit table and avoid unnecessarily long waits in line. If you have trouble downloading let us know and we will send you the form inserted in an email.

The form asks for information we will use in introducing your team to the public, assigning your team a pit table, scheduling your team's research and technical presentations, and scheduling your matches at the game tables.

If you have multiple teams, PLEASE COMPLETE ONE FORM PER TEAM participating in the tournament.

The form asks for your TEAM NUMBER -- that's the 3 or 4-digit number you were assigned upon your FLL on-line registration. IF YOU DON'T KNOW YOUR TEAM NUMBER, check the list at the bottom of this e-mail.

Please list the names of team members attending!


Riverbank State Park
679 Riverside Dr. (at 145th Street)
New York, NY 10031

The entrance to the park is on Riverside Drive at West 145th Street in Manhattan. Go down near the end of this e-mail for travel directions and VERY important instructions about PARKING.

For directions, go to:


If the weather causes Riverbank State Park to close, we will cancel the tournaments. You may call 718-260-3383, 973-596-3234, or 973-596-3572 for a recorded message regarding our status.


8:00am - 9:00am Registration, Robot Inspection
8:15: Research and Technical Presentations begin
9:30am - 10:00am Opening Ceremonies
10:00am - 11:00am Competition Round I *
11:00pm – 12:00pm Competition Round II *
12:00pm-1:00pm Lunch
1:00pm - 2:00pm Competition Round III *
2:30pm - 3:00pm Award Ceremony

8-9am, 10:00am - 2:00pm - Research Presentations (see below)
8-9am, 10:00am – 2:00pm – Technical Presentation (see below)

* These times are approximate. Depending on how quickly we progress through the matches, there may be a 4th round. Announcements will be made throughout the day to keep you informed.

(As noted in previous Updates, there is a better chance for this to occur on Sunday due to fewer teams. There is still time to switch from Saturday to Sunday.)

If you are arranging for pick-up at the end of the day, our experience has been that the event should be completed no later than the 3:30-4pm range.

BE SURE TO ARRIVE EARLY. Teams that do not complete Registration and Robot Inspection before 9:30am may not be permitted to compete. We strongly recommend that you arrive NO LATER THAN 8:30am. Parking, registration, and getting your team set and ready to go are all going to take time -- so give yourself enough time. Doors will be open at 8:00am.


At approximately 9:00, there will be a coach's meeting where details of the competition day will be discussed and rule questions can be asked of the head referees. Please make sure that one coach from your team or adult representative is present at the meeting to ensure that your team receives the latest information about how the day will run.


Every effort will be made to avoid having matches scheduled for your team at the same time as your team's research and/or technical presentation. There will be times however when these schedules overlap. In such an event, make sure that your team attends the research and/or technical presentation and skips the match for which they are scheduled. We will be having make up rounds around lunchtime and before the end of the day to make sure that any team which missed their match has a chance to make it up and therefore have a score on the board for each round (whether it is 3 or 4).


Please ensure that there is at least one team representative at your pit table at all times. This person should be aware of where the team is in case any judges or queuers come to get your team. Queuers will be coming around to get your team for the robot matches, research judging and technical judging throughout the day. It is therefore very important that a representative is at your tables at all times.


If your team is working with the NXT Ultrasonic Sensor, we remind you about the warning on page 25 of the NXT User Guide: "Note that two or more Ultrasonic Sensors operating in the same room may interfere with each other's readings." Use of this sensor is at the team's own risk, since tournaments cannot control this interference and cannot conduct rematches. If you do use this sensor, LEGO recommends that you mount it as low as possible on the robot, that you do not use it while aimed at the other team, and that you use it for as little time as possible


Be sure to bring extras, and importantly, when changing batteries remove and replace batteries one at a time in as short a time as you can to avoid losing your programs on the RCX. If you are using an NXT robot with the rechargeable battery, make sure that you bring the appropriate charger and spare batteries in case you need to swap out your existing battery.


There will be nine power stations with electrical outlets for computers in the pit area. We are not able to provide outlets at each team's pit table. Everyone's cooperation in use of the outlets will be very important. Please come with well-charged computers and know how to put your computer on stand-by mode.

We have been informed that some teams have occupied these areas for long periods of time. If you have trouble getting access to these areas inform our representatives at the Volunteer Sign-in/Team Info table across the way from Registration sign-in and they will send someone over.


There will be practice tables set up. These tend to get crowded. Though you do not have to bring your field set-up kit and mat, some teams find some space to set up on the floor to avoid the crowds at the practice tables. People involved in FLL are very accommodating so feel free to ask someone to share their mat.


The lighting in the Riverbank Park gym is bright and uniform throughout. The pit, the practice tables, and the game tables are all going to be in the same gym subject to the same high-level, uniform illumination. Therefore, we will not be providing fluorescent lighting over the game tables. If your team's robot is using the light sensor, you will need to recalibrate to the ambient lighting at the practice tables upon your arrival.


The park snack bar will be open. It is small, the selection is limited and the lines were VERY long last year. The park has also invited outside street food vendors to be on site. However, cold/bad weather will cut down on their participation. There are a number of eating places a few blocks walk away on Broadway. Teams may bring their lunches and refreshments and eat in the stands or at their team pit tables.

PLEASE urge your team to dispose of trash in the containers that are to be available throughout the gym.

We will have a list of local eateries available for you.


Teams that indicate that they are making a research presentation on their "Team Information Form" handed in upon registration will be scheduled for a research presentation. The presentations will be made in the Cultural Education Hall, adjoining the gymnasium. Teams will have 5 minutes to make their presentations to the judges. Every effort will be made to avoid scheduling a team's presentation at the same time as their robotic match. You might consider, however, having a one set of kids be presenters and another set be robot drivers – just in case. The schedule of matches and presentations will be posted throughout the venue.

Presenters need to be self-sufficient re AV equipment for their presentation-- meaning, teams have to provide any AV equipment they intend to use -- an electrical outlet, however, will be provided.


Those teams wishing to be considered for the ROBOT DESIGN AWARD will be able to present their robot to a panel of judges at presentations during the day.

Teams wishing to be considered for the ROBOT DESIGN AWARD must indicate that they are making a technical presentation on their "Team Information Form" handed in upon registration. The teams will be scheduled for a technical presentation. The presentations will be made in the Cultural Education Hall, adjoining the gymnasium.

A game table will be available so that each team may demonstrate and explain their robot's capacities and how the team arrived at their design. Teams will have 5 minutes to tell the panel of judges about their robots' design and programming as well as demonstrate their robots' operation and answer questions from the judges.

Every effort will be made to avoid scheduling a team's presentation at the same time as their robotic match.


It is our plan to give each team at least three opportunities to complete their missions. Robot performance awards will be based on the highest score resulting from the teams' matches. Additional matches will be used to break ties for 1st, 2nd or 3rd places. If time permits, we may be able to run a fourth round and base winning Robot Performance scores on the best of four matches instead of only three.


FLL is a human endeavor involving dedicated individuals wanting to do the absolute best they can. "Gracious professionalism" is the standard for the day. All scoring questions and disputes are to be resolved by the Head Referee. The Head Referees decisions are final. Team members may ask to review their score sheets before they leave the game table. Video will not be considered for review purposes (this ain't the NFL).

Any team that has received a "Paper Ruling" from FLL in Manchester should bring the ruling to the Head Referee table before the beginning of matches at 10:00am. (Don't worry – if you don't know what this is, you don't have one).


We are told that if two teams are close to each other and attempting to down load programs via their infra-links (RCX), its possible for there to be interference which might scramble a program being loaded on the RCX. We therefore suggest that you bring a small cardboard box with which to shield your robot and tower when downloading programs. If you are using the NXT robot, downloading programs via Bluetooth is strictly prohibited in any competition, judging, or pit areas. Please make sure that you disable your robot's Bluetooth feature in order to make sure that your programs do not get erased or overwritten.


AHHHHH - we saved the best for last -- the directions below will get you to the park entrance at Riverside Drive and West 145th Street.

CARS and VANS -- Drive into the park, past the information booth at the 145th St. entrance, over the bridge and to the circle and a look for a Park Ranger giving out parking permits and maps to the lot located on the lower level, below the park. Then follow the map to the parking lot. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CAR UNATTENDED AT THE CIRCLE – IT WILL BE TICKETED. It is a long walk back upstairs from the lot to the gym. You may want to drop off your stuff and kids (WITH AN ADULT) when you get your parking permit from the ranger on the park level. To get to the lot, you'll have to go back out on to the streets, follow the directions carefully - we do mean carefully –they're not that easy to follow. Assuming you find your way to the lot (a little dark humor there), park your car, take the elevator or stairs (six flights - good aerobic workout to start the day) and walk back up to the gym. THIS WILL TAKE SOME TIME - perhaps as much as 10 minutes. Not an ideal arrangement, but you've made it this far, no need to despair now!!.

BUSES - Drive into the park, past the information booth at the 145th St. entrance, over the bridge and to the circle where a Park Ranger will direct you to the bus unload area. Buses will then park on Riverside Dr. or 12th Avenue, space permitting.



** By bus: From Bronx - Cross-town BX19 to Riverbank.
From Manhattan - M11 Bus directly into the park.

** By subway: Westside IRT #9 (skip service) to 145th Street. Walk one block west.

** By car from the NYS Thruway: Take Major Deegan Expressway South; exit at the 155th Street Bridge, turn right & bear right off the bridge onto 155th Street, continue straight to Broadway, turn left and continue to 145th Street, turn right and continue down the hill one black to the entrance of the park.

** By car from New Jersey: Take George Washington Bridge (lower level) to
Henry Hudson Parkway South, bear left and exit at Riverside Drive, continue South on Riverside Drive to 145th Street, turn right to enter the park.

By car from Long Island: Take Whitestone Bridge to Cross-Bronx Expressway, take Westside Highway exit, bear left to Riverside Drive exit, turn right off the exit and continue straight to Riverside Drive to 145th Street. Turn right into the park.

Have a good day


Pack-A-Watt to go to City-Wide Tournament

By Ava Busto Schiff and Bradley Shapiro

It’s easy enough to know about what’s going on with Packer sports teams like soccer and basketball – ones that are announced about in chapel and are made up entirely of middle-school students. It’s much less common to hear about after-school activities that are the exact opposite. The teams are comprised of middle and lower school students, and their progress isn’t announced in chapel. These are teams like fencing and robotics. The former of this set is pretty self-explanatory: school teams fencing against other school teams much like a track meet or a soccer game. The latter, however, isn’t quite as simple. The Packer robotics team, who have named themselves Pack-A-Watt, is Packer’s representative to the FLL (First LEGO League). This means that Pack-A-Watt builds robots out of LEGO products and goes to a tournament where they plug in a pre-tailored command into their robot’s computer so that it can do a set of tasks based on the year’s theme (each year there’s a new one). This year’s theme was energy conservation, and robots were required to complete assignments such as moving oil barrels, pushing cars and trucks, gathering uranium and corn harvesting plants, and placing power lines, windmills and waterwheels.

But FLL feels that kids should not just know how to make and program robots, but that they should get something out of the experience. That’s why at tournaments like the one held on Saturday at Brooklyn Tech High school, teams are able to advance to the next round, in this case the city-wide, in multiple ways including team spirit, teamwork, robot design, robot programming, how many tasks you do and how well you do them, and research presentation. Before going into the details of each award, let’s examine the hierarchy of the FLL. There are three tournaments. The regional, the city-wide, and the national. The regional is the preliminary tournament that weeds out sixteen schools from each borough, as to narrow the search for the FLL champion. I am happy to report that Pack-A-Watt has passed through this tournament. The city-wide takes out the best of the best and pits them against each other to see who is truly worthy of the honor of going to nationals. Pack-A-Watt will be going to the city-wide at Riverbank State Park on January 26th. The national tournament is the ultimate battle between the ultimate warriors of the FLL. Set in Atlanta, the national will crown the winner, and hopefully, that will be us!

Now let’s take a look at the different awards and, more importantly, the one Pack-A-Watt earned. Robot building: Let’s face it, building with LEGOs is not that simple. The team who makes the best robot – even if that robot doesn’t score a single point! – can go to the next round. Robot programming: A good robot is nice, but it’s not the sword, it’s the swordsman. Programming the NXT or RCX (the LEGO computer) is hard work, and FLL honors that by letting the best programmed robot’s team advance to the next round. Performance: This is what FLL is known for: put your robot on a table and it gets two and a half minutes to complete as many challenges and wrack up as much points as possible. The top five point-worthy teams get the honor of the next tournament. Team spirit: Sometimes that best way to not be beaten is to accept defeat. If you are a real mascot for your school, or just shrug off defeat as a learning experience to be applied next time, you may well win the spirit award. Despite Matthew’s chicken dance at the end of the tournament, Pack-A-Watt strangely did not win this award. Teamwork: The twin sister of team spirit, this award goes to whoever’s team supports each other the most, even when someone doesn’t get a single point (because there’s always next round! [Each team gets four tries to get as much points as possible]). The last – and in many coaches opinion, hardest – award goes to whichever team a) chooses an interesting topic to research relating to the annual theme (we did “How much power does an average four-person brownstone use and how do you use less?”), b) spends the most time and effort into this research project and how factually correct is it, and c) how creatively and effectively you display this information (Pack-A-Watt did a skit in which a dog becomes an environmental superhero so that he could help the MacIntyre family become green with little financial disruption). Pack-A-Watt won first place for their research, and we hope to see many people on January 26th at Riverbank State Park to help push Pack-A-Watt into the national tournament.

Teams Confirmed for Riverbank

The following teams have confirmed their attendance at Riverbank State Park on Jan. 26, 2008.

If your team qualified for Riverbank but you are not on this list, send an email to Norm, confirming. List the names of the coach(es) and include the number of team members and the number of adults and other children attending from your school.

0083 CS 66 X CS66 B.R.A.T.S
0196 PS/IS 123 X Solargy
0268 MS 101X Maritime Academy The Power Solvers
0332 IS 24 SI Rogue Leaders
0394 MS 67Q Energize 67
0449 PS 372 K Power Punks
0506 Pablo Casals MS 181x The RoboCopz
0573 IS 125 Q Mr. Roboto
0705 Globe School for Environmental Research GLOBE Masters
0707 Globe School for Environmental Research GLOBE Masters
0844 St. Edmund Elementary School Nerd Herd
0845 MS 302 X MS302 Tech Squad
0948 Brics-2-Bots Cyberbots-Techs
0990 IS 34 SI Techno Eagles
0992 IS 34 SI Stell Talons
1435 Packer Collegiate Inst. Pack-a-Watt
1447 Trevor Day School The Little Dragons
1472 PS 58 The Carroll School Black Hornets
1475 PS 58 The Carroll School Robot Shockers
1634 ESMT IS 190 X Team X
1822 MS 118 X Pacers
1863 IS 119 Q TopGearz
1911 PS 76X The Bennington School 76ers
1995 IS 75 SI Panthers 1
1996 IS 75 SI Panthers 2
2070 PS 11K Mission 11
2154 PS 121 X Storm Throopers
2235 Coen Micro Bots
2258 IS 27 SI Mustangs 2
2349 PS 103 x RoboStingers
2350 PS 103 x RoboBeez
2395 RMS @ I. S. 192 Robo Fusion 192
2627 Little Red School House LREI Knights
3126 Edward Bleeker JHS 185 Stars
3628 IS 383 K Philippa Schuyler MS MS Skybox
3840 Bric-2-Bots Cyberots-Engineers
3874 MS 216Q George Ryan Ryan Lions
4815 Frederick Douglass Academy FDA LEGO Raiders
4817 Frederick Douglass Academy FDA LEGO Junior Raiders
4850 Manhattan Academy of Technology PS126/MAT/ChinatownYMCA MATobot
5148 PS 304X DragonBots
5517 IS 119 Q TopGearz
5689 PS 81 K PS 81
5744 PS 108X Energy All-Stars
6115 Manhattan East School for Academics and Art MS 224 Thing 2
6482 Little Red School House LREI

Organizing Your LEGOs

Marc Couture from Wisconsin asks:

Do any of you who have NXT kits and use them to teach robotics to classes have an organization system for keeping parts in order?
Has anyone developed sorting guides for different trays?
I would appreciate knowing about any experiences and suggestions from those who have had to deal with this.

Responses on the FLL Partner Listserve:

Tom from Maine:
Hi Marc,
We've been sorting/organizing for years. First with the RCX and then with the NXTs.
We use the large boxes for large items (wheels/long connector rods/basic bricks/NXTs and chargers/motors).
Then we use Plano or Shimano lure boxes (clear plastic, rectangular boxes of varying sizes, with adjustable dividers). We've gotten them online, from WalMart, from Dick's Sporting Goods, and from local fishing supply stores.
The medium size (8-1/2 x 14 x 1-3/4") and the larger (9-1/4 x 16 x 3") seem to suite best.
We use a boxes for:
axles and barrel connectors
angle connectors
small bricks (1x1, 1x2, up to 2x2)
small plates (up to the 2x4 plate)
NXT connectors (not sure of the names...)
Misc (people/flex tubes/doors/windows...)
Shimano website for their utility boxes:
Plano website for their utility boxes:
Hope that helps,

The large boxes I was referring to are the ones the NXT or RCX kits come in. They are a good size and stackable.
We use them for:
large 2x plates
large plates (bigger than 2x)
bricks (bigger than 2x4)
Connecting arms (larger than 5 hole)
Beams (larger than 1x4)
We've got about 25-30 kits and we only use the trays (from the kits) when we have to sort. Since they are prone to disruption and hence need for resorting, we don't use them with groups or kids.
The Plano/Shimano (or other brand) boxes are not very expensive. If you buy more than a few kits you should invest the 40-60 dollars it would take to get a small pile of these utility boxes.
If you go looking for boxes locally, I recommend that you make sure the lids can fold back all the way (so you can put another box on top of the lid). We got a few one time that would only open slightly past vertical and then you have all your parts laid out with lids sticking up in the air (not very neat).

Thomas Bickford
Maine Robotics

Thanks, I've picked up some Plano trays as well. What I was thinking about doing was to create new templates (like what come in the NXT kits) for the Plano boxes that show students what goes where and the proper inventory quantitiy so that any child at the end of a program can conduct a quick sort and inventory of what they have. Does this seem practical? Of course once I move parts from the NXT kit into other trays the original templates are no longer accurate and should be reworked for the revised items and counts. Just trying to determine if it is worth it. Seems like in the long run it would pay off. Also looking to see if anyone out there has a system they have tested and proved efficient.

Hi Marc,
I've been using such a system for RCX classes and summer camp for several years, and more recently for NXT classes. You can see the system I use at:
I also have building instructions with parts lists keyed to the storage system, so the kids can find their parts quickly. I've found that having a storage system like this makes it possible for kids to complete an entire robotics project (and put it away) in a 2 hour class period, which is important for many of my classes.
Steve Putz

I see lots of good methods folks have answered with already and I have some comments below. I would like to say when I instituted 'points' for each team this made more difference that the details of the sorting method, although a good sorting method was necessary too.
There were points available at the end of each session for teams that got all the parts back in the correct bins, enforced by a scan by me at the end of each class. And then I had small rewards for the team with the most points after a few sessions. The competition to get a perfect cleanup score was fierce!

I had a system with printed pictures for each compartment, similar to Steve but not as advanced. I love Steve's small boxes in a big box so you have small bins for small parts. The key to those systems I found after about 4-5 iterations was 1) Similar parts together in a bin, but what is similar is the key. Group by function for parts that the kids know what they do like wheels. Group by type for most 'vanilla' LEGO, but sometimes you need 2 bins, separated by size so a 2x2 isn't lost at the bottom underneath 2x10s. And group by appearance parts that
kids won't know what they do at a glance (or like most LEGO has multiple functions); for example all the shaft connector pieces. Also, note that the box you choose should have shallow compartments, ideally with rounded corners so fingers can get small parts out.

And finally, maybe a better solution is to click similar pieces together but so they come apart eaily, I just found this gem of an article about sorting LEGO. This would allow much more accurate estimate of what was missing each time too since the height of stacks would be consistent.

Will Scarbrough