Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lego Robotics and the Circle of Life, or Something

Zack, looking as unenthusiastic as possible
The second Saturday in December my boys participated in the 2013 Idaho Falls Lego Robotics Competition. This is where elementary to middle-school aged kids use Legos to build robots that are programmed to complete specific tasks. Points are acquired by the number and type of tasks completed during two-and-a-half minute time intervals.

First of all, this program is hard-core geek training which, in and of itself, rocks.

Second, it’s a fun and educational activity designed to teach kids teamwork, time management, and critical thinking skills. They race robots, create solutions to a proposed problem, give presentations, and engage in a teamwork exercise, all of which are judged by a panel of intimidating grown-ups.

I’d like to say I wasn’t surprised by the brilliance exhibited by my boys, who competed against each other on different teams. But I kinda was.

I watched as they planned and strategized to get their robots to launch an airplane across the board, activate a tsunami, move an ambulance to a “safe zone,” and relocate little Lego people—and their pets—to a secure location. And with little to no adult supervision.

Kaleb and his team with their trophy
This accomplished by the same boys that sporadically flush the toilet, claim that washing a sink full of dishes is an insurmountable task, and look at the vacuum cleaner like I’ve asked them to perform an alien autopsy.

I would like to know if Bill Gates gave his mother such grief.

But being surprised by our children isn’t a new experience for me. The truth is, our kids are getting older, and there are times when I look at them and wonder if left home alone for 48 hours they might gnaw their own limbs off. And then there are times when I’m blindsided by their maturity, convinced that with the combined force of their brilliance and compassion they could change the face of the planet for the better.

Or the worse.  It could swing either way, really.

At least that’s how it feels right now, with four of our kids in the teen zone, making choices that can simultaneously amaze and terrify us. Like the child who, in just one day, took on a pack of girls bullying a stranger and then, later that night, was identified as the kingpin of Booger Gate, otherwise known as the crystalized patch of snoot behind the basement couch.

Is that a future activist or a career gamer I have on my hands? Time will only tell.

Either way, for now those boys are going to state to race their robots, and I’m giddy with pride.

I’m also wondering how many vending machines might be at the event as that could distract my youngest participant to incapacity. 

Or motivate him to secure the state title.

It could swing either way, really.

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