Creativity and innovation

Creative play leads to innovative solutions – this post is written as a storyteller and coach of a robotics Lego team.

I have been silent on the blog for a while. Work and life tick away and continue to offer me opportunities, surprises and much joy. One of the new adventures I have embarked upon is Robotics Lego.

Robotics Lego is pretty much as it sounds. Making robots from Lego MindStorms Kits. It is a worldwide activity and the official name of the competition is FIRST Lego League – you can learn more here

A brief overview, for those whose life hasn’t been overtaken by FLL. 20,000 teams worldwide. Approximately 250 teams in Australia and growing fast. Think AFL for the mind. The kids design build and program robots from MindStorm kits (Lego). That’s the super fun bit. In our club we meet once a week and have a range of activities lined up for them to work on – build a sumo robot and then compete against each other – build a road runner, ladder climber, catapult and then pitch them against each others. The kids are hands on engaged, receive immediate feedback from the robot, not an adult. That is they see the robot fail. Then they race to repair/redesign/rebuild/reprogram till they get the success that they are aiming for.

The link between a storyteller and a robotics coach is – creativity. Our group of kids age between the 8 and 13. They are open creative thinkers and I encourage any and all ideas to be tried out. Anything. Basically I see it as the perfect opportunity to fail, laugh, even enjoy the spectacular nature of the failure and then work for the recovery. Love the recovery.

I am one of the coaches of the competition team – Komplete Kaos Inc (– these are a core group of kids that have competed at national level for the past two years only. In year one they won the rookie of the year award. In year two they came second in the country and received an invitation to compete at The Open European Championships in Pamplona. We fund raised like crazy, worked as hard as we could and these kids earned a first place for innovation.

The competition has four categories overall. One; the robot game (how many points their robot scores on an international table), two; the robot judging. The kids ONLY answer any question about the robot design and programming when faced by 3 judges. Three; a innovation or research project. Every year there is a theme. This year was Natures Fury and the kids have to choose a real world problem (floods for us), research it and create an innovative solution. Komplete Kaos Inc designed and created a working prototype of a smart phone app to assist people to prepare and stay safe in a flood emergency. They also designed and created the social media campaign to go with it. (Because for kids – these are all immediately connected). The fourth category is called Core Values which means how they work as a team and within/amongst their community.

At the Open European Championships there were 95 teams from 47 different countries and our team achieved a first place and in innovation! For me, this is a huge achievement and one to be very proud of as they have been recognised for their creativity, a way of thinking and an approach that will serve them well into the future. After a long trip there were many reasons to feel proud as a coach (and a mum of two team members) but in particular I wanted to note the beauty of an artists approach to science and learning and the ability of kids to flourish under that approach.

I put it down to creative play, the artist’s approach – where nothing is wrong. Give it a try, fail, redo, retry, persist. This approach will give us creative thinkers and innovations in the future. Heres to the importance of the arts in all life – including programming, robotics, science and design amongst 10 to 12 years olds.