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Homeschooled Robotics Competitors

March 19, 2010

Scientific American happily reported on the FIRST Tech Challenge championship in New York City. While there are many championships across the country, I’m sure they chose to focus on New York because it was near their publishing headquarters.

Unfortunately for them, the real excitement is happening closer to the Midwest.

Last September, a brand new team received a load of parts and built their very first robot with them. They competed in December, then in January and again in February. Surprisingly, in those three short months, they started winning awards and even qualified for the World championships competing April 14 through 17. In the process they beat out a host of more experienced teams. Oh, and all the team members are homeschooled.

Of course, homeschooling allowed them to put in time on the project that their publicly schooled peers couldn’t hope to match. And of course, their more individualized and self-initiated mode of learning served them well in meeting the challenge. AND, of course, the proven quality of home education in general helped as well. AND, of course, their willingness to tackle challenges allowed them to make hard choices for extra advantages in the long-term – like, for instance, their choice to pass over easier programming languages for more powerful, but more complex, robotC for their processes. AND, of course, lacking much of the pressures to conform to the expectations of their peers, they were ready to think creatively, try solutions, fail, learn, try again and succeed, which is a MUCH better learning process than listening to an authority figure and mindlessly doing what they say.  Given all of this, of course, they did well.  But I’m still cheering at the news that they are going on to the world championships – I think it’s great!

I should note that our family knows the family of one of the competitors – I won’t say which one – and so my opinion may be a little biased.  But then again, they got to the championships based on their own achievements, not my opinion.  So my views can’t be THAT far away from reality!

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