I Coach Competitive Robotics
"I coach competitive robotics." This phrase is great if you want to confuse the person you are talking with. Their first question may be, "Is it like robot battles?" Five years ago I would never imagine I would be able to speak on this topic for hours; my wife would say days. I love watching the students work for weeks on designs to showcase them at the competition. They have limited time, high-stress environments and quick decision making all at once on a Saturday. They are randomly paired with a partner for each of their 8-10 matches and strategy is communicated effectively and quickly.
I work with a diverse group of students in robotics. Some have never been on a team before, some have never competed, and some have never put themselves in an intense time-limited environment like this. So, how do I motivate these students? Well, here are two ways I am still trying to perfect.
The "I bet you can't" Method
One sure fire way to motivate is to bet they can't. I point out to them a goal, score 100 points or win Tournament Champions, to let them know what I expect. I lay something on the line, most recently it was my hair. I would shave my head if they qualified for the World Championships. I help them work towards that objective but encourage them to set the pace for their project. I want them to learn the "grind" it takes to be really good at something.
The "Facts & Goals" Method
One of the attributes I love about the VEX Robotics Competition is the World Skills Rankings. Students build a robot and have one minute to score as many points as possible. Similar to track or swimming, the event is consistent with its parameters. Official scores are posted for all to see on the website, and I have my students monitor our region regularly. This allows us to measure our performance off a solid number. We want to achieve this score and if we do we are in the top 10 of our state. This is great because there is no question about their achievements. It is official and everyone can see it.
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