Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Back in August Clark came to me and said he wanted to coach a FIRST Lego League team.

I shuddered.

This would be a major undertaking and require a lot of time.  A friend and I had talked about coaching a team the following year, but not this year.  I wanted to savor this one and only year I had everyone at home, before my birdies started leaving the nest.  I didn't want to be stressed out with yet another time commitment.   I somewhat grudgingly agreed to be the official adult coach, but made sure Clark understood that he and his fellow youth mentors would be running the show entirely.  My friend and I helped organize the team, collect fees and get them registered, but then we would be coaches in name only.

I did end up being slightly more involved (but not much) than in name only.
I did have to rally the troops frequently to clean the house for our bi-weekly meetings.
We did have to sacrifice some living space for the huge table the challenge was set up on.
It did take well over 4 hours a week for almost five months.

And yet,  the whole experience was so much more rewarding than I ever anticipated.  In fact, being a part of the team, working together with most of the family, ended up being the means of accomplishing the very goal I hoped for the this most precious year of our lives.
Our regional FLL tournament was this past Saturday.  We gathered at 6:40 AM to finish accessorizing our look and loading up the vehicles. 
Our team name was "Infinity Squared".  Thanks to a talented mom (not this talented mom), the girls all had matching green hair bows and black and green gel nails for the occasion.  
The two people-mover vehicles were decorated and spirits were high!
Abe snapped this pic as we made our way to a middle school in Sandy where the competition was.  Abe had to work during the day, but he was able to be there for the opening and closing ceremonies.
There can only be 10 members on a team, and it would appear we have way more than that.  However, we have four youth mentors-- Clark, Corrine, Ben, and Bethany.  Plus we have younger siblings who are not team members, but are tagging along to cheer the team on.
Darn it, it's kind of blurry.  Oh well.  There was a terrific energy with this group.  There were four sets of siblings and two singles.  The kids responded so well to the teenage youth mentors-- who were fun and inspirational and knew their stuff.  
The team's age range was 9 to 13-- which is the youngest and oldest allowed on an FLL team.
There's a lot of downtime at competition, and our team spent much of it dancing.  
I won't bore you with the details of everything that goes on at competition, but there are four main categories you are judged on-- Project, Robot Design, Core Values, and Robot Competition.  Our kids were very well prepared in all of them.
The mentors keeping their cool while the team was in with the Core Values judges.
As you can imagine, Peter was a bundle of energy all day.  In hind sight, paying a babysitter might have been worth it.
Our project poster and our Core Values poster, along with four team members.
Elinor and Faith were on the team, Clark and Bethany were mentors.
Team Infinity Squared-- plus Pete.
The back of the shirt.
See that tall girl in the green shirt?  Yeah, she's awesome!  Elinor was so amazing!  She worked so hard programming the robot-- which robot was capable of completing some pretty incredible tasks.  At the actual competition it didn't perform quite as well as we'd hoped.  You'd think a robot would be more dependable, but alas-- it is made of Legos.  Nonetheless, it did good enough and that was enough for us!
Notice the guy in the brown shirt and sombrero?  He was on Clark's Lego League team when they were little guys and is currently on Clark's FIRST Robotics Competition team.  It was comforting having Tanner there as a volunteer helping to reset the tables. 
She and I spent a considerable amount of time together  in the week leading up to competition as she programmed and I helped reset the table.  To this day I still have no idea how to actually do the programming.
Sitting in the stands.
Dancing in the stands.
How did we do at competition?  I'd say pretty darn well.
We won the Core Values award (One of the five biggies) and we were one of 6 teams out of 20 that got an invite to the State Tournament in February.  It was more than just a little exciting and very rewarding.  But the season had already been a success in my estimation.  
It was a success because we got to work together as a family, along with other friends and families.  We were focused on a project.  We had thrilling moments when a program worked and the robot did just what we wanted it to.  We had lower points when frustrations ran high and feelings were hurt.  We got excited about ideas, we played games together, we worked together as a team.  The very thing I thought would take away from "my year with my family" ended up being the very vehicle that made it just what I hoped it would be.
To my Clark, I thank you.  You are a force to be reckoned with.  You have vision and leadership abilities that never cease to amaze me.  Thank you for making team Infinity Squared happen.  I love you and will look forward to writing you on your mission to let you know how Team Infinity Squared does next year!


Camille Fox said...

This was a very touching post Betsy. Hats off to you for supporting Clark, and I'm so glad it turned out to give you the very thing you were hoping for. Clark is quite the guy!

You inspire me.

Amy F. said...

Clark is amazing, and you are a fantastic, super supportive mama!!