Introducing FROGS Robotics: An FLL directory of teams, mentors, and experts.

FROGS, the FLL Robotics Outreach Group of Salem (VA), invite you to register for our website directory. We hope to help FLL teams make connections with experts and mentors who can help them, and to help FLL teams meet each other. We'd love to include FRC and FTC teams who support or mentor FLL teams (or would like to!) in our directory. We also invite adults to register to serve as experts. FLL teams need adults willing to share a wide variety of interests and professions -- this can be as simple as a 30 minute Zoom, but it has a huge impact on the kids. Thanks! 

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FIRST Chesapeake is hiring in the NRV/Blacksburg area!


 FIRST Chesapeake is hiring in the NRV/Blacksburg area!

All the details are here:

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Robotics workshops for West Salem Elementary's ACE program

RCROBOTS had a great time this month working with eleven 4th and 5th graders at West Salem Elementary School in their after school ACE program.  We built robots, learned basic block programming, made some robot art, and played robot sumo!  Super fun.  Thanks for inviting us!

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Great Opportunity - Girls Who Code!

Girls Who Code has multiple meetings at local public libraries.  Check them out!  Contact the libraries directly to register.

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Mini Maker Faire

We had a great time at the 2020 Mini Maker Faire at the Science Museum!  Thanks to everyone who came out to build Lego WeDo robots with us, too!

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FRC funding opportunity

FTC Salem Qualifier at Roanoke College

Check out all the media coverage of the FTC Salem Qualifier!

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FIRST Fellowship available at Roanoke College!

Calling all FRC and FTC high school students! Roanoke College is offering a fellowship for students who are interested in continuing their FIRST journey at Roanoke College. Check it out!

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FTC Salem qualifier details for teams

Teams, we're super excited to see you soon!  See below for all the details you need.


UPDATED:  Teams may mail a check or bring one to the event.  Sorry, we won't be able to process credit cards this time.  Check payments should be made out to Roanoke College, with team number on the memo line.  
Whether mailing or bringing a check in person, please place your order here, not later than Wednesday 1/8 at 6pm:  Please only order food you're definitely going to pay for!
Mail checks to:
Cathy Sarisky
Chemistry Department
221 College Lane
Salem VA 24153
Lunch options:
1) Go through the dining hall line at the Commons (building adjacent to Bast center).  $10/person, prepaid, for Brunch from 10:30-2pm.
2) Order boxed lunches:
RC Deluxe Box
Roast beef, or turkey club wrap, fresh cut fruit, pasta salad, potato chips, cookies and water or soda........ $10.00
RC Greek Salad Box with Humus and PitaMixed greens, Kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, feta cheese, Red peppers, cucumbers, Athenian vinaigrette, red pepper humus, pita chips brownies, and  beverages................$10.00
Gluten free option available - please indicate on order form.
Whether your team wants boxed lunches or a trip through the Commons line, please pre-pay so that we can accommodate you! 
Teams are also welcome to bring a lunch from home or send someone out to pick up lunches.  We’ll also have concessions on site, but we need you to preorder as much as possible. 


Parking will be in front of Bast Gym, in parking lot P7.  You may park in any space not specifically marked as reserved.  Don’t park in fire lanes or handicapped spots (unless you have a placard).

Pit space

Pit spaces are 8’x8’ and include one 6’ table per team.  Please pack accordingly.  :)


We will have 36 FLL Jr kids doing their Expo in Bast on Saturday as well, from 1:30-3:15.  If you have team members who’d like to do an activity with the kids (or robot show and tell), please let me know ASAP (   

Interested in Roanoke College?

Admissions will be available on the gym floor in the morning.  They’d love to talk to you.  Campus tours will be available in the afternoon, please sign up on Saturday morning.
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Two teams are better than one!

Salem Montessori is hosting two teams this fall.  Our veteran team is the Robotic Rhinos, and our rookies are the Cyborg Sheep.  In addition to working during the school day at Salem Montessori, these teams are also attending Saturday FLL workshops at Roanoke College.

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FLL workshops

New and experienced teams and coaches are invited to join us at Roanoke College!

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Some thoughts from a second-year FLL coach


Here are some second-year coach (this year with three veterans and four rookies) thoughts/observations/reflections from our tournament. They might be helpful for rookie coaches (since I know many of you have tournaments still coming up). And I'm still processing yesterday.
1. My kids needed to educate the local refs on scoring a couple times. (They use some "over the target" language to park a robot holding mission models where those models need to be at the end of the game.) We practiced this before going, and they got it scored each time, although it had to run up to the head ref once. They also had a great interaction with one of the tournament organizers about a spot where they were concerned their practice round might have been incorrectly scored in their favor. Making sure that your kids know the rules sets them up for this sort of success. We modeled "let's look up what the rules actually say" repeatedly. We also practiced how to ask refs for things - can you verify that space travel is rolling smoothly? Can you straighten the mat? [We also talked about NOT fussing about things that didn't matter. If you aren't doing the mission, don't bug the table setters about it.] All with lots of emphasis on gracious professionalism - at a qualifier, many of the table setters and refs are new to this season's models and rules and all are doing their best.
2. It was clear by the end of the first scored robot game run that one of their missions (that they broke our house-rule to edit three days ago) needed more adjustment. I was able to snag table time for after their second run (it was a /tight/ schedule!), and they successfully tweaked that run. I do NOT like making code changes at the tournament. My goal is to ignore the practice tables and never take my laptop out of the bag all day, but it was the last turn in a standalone mission, so it was a pretty safe change. [One of my rookies wanted to also change a turn in the middle of a complex three-mission run. I pulled out the coach veto on that one.]
2.5 Our house rule that code needs to stop changing about a week before the tournament lets us practice timed table runs and talk strategy. Should you grab (interrupt) the robot? When? How long does the next mission take? Can you run that mission twice (if the first time fails) or not, based on time on the clock? My kids made several very strategic choices on the fly yesterday: three points of interruption penalty to get the robot launched CORRECTLY to do 60 points is always worth it, but grabbing the robot with ten seconds left when your remaining mission scores its first points at 20 seconds is NOT.
3. Our practice in the week before tournament includes coming into judging rooms - who is carrying what, and where does everyone stand? Who holds the door for the cart? Who will give the team info sheet to the judges? We practice in all sorts of bad spaces (too small! too narrow! huge!), and we repeatedly send kids out of the room, move the judging table to a different part of the room, and call them back in. They knew who needed to be in which order, so there was no jostling through the door. They got really good at walking in and ending up perfect position, but they sure didn't start there. Getting the kids in the right spot compensates for a kid with a softer voice, and getting the posters right close to the judges makes it much likelier that the judges will be able to see what's on the poster.
4. At our qualifier, it was ten minutes in the room and (I think?) 5 or 10 minutes between teams. Judges weren't going to have time to look at anything left behind, and we were told during the coach's meeting not to bother leaving anything. We worked a lot on "if you don't tell it to the judges, they can't score you on it correctly", but we still had a few spots where they didn't cover a rubric sub-area, and I can see it on the rubric sheets we got back. I should have had them rubric score themselves again last week, but we got busy and didn't quite get there. Judges asked about one area they didn't cover well in the planned project presentation (and then gave them a four when it was clear they'd totally hit it and didn't talk about it), but the CV judges left the rubric blank on coopertition, discovery, and integration when the team didn't cover it.
5. In robot design, we enlarged the (heavily commented) code they wanted to talk about and put it on posters, along with lots of pictures of the design process. That worked much better than normal-sized code printouts.
6. We like posters, apparently. We brought six posters to robot design judging (with a planned 3.5 minute presentation that wasn't quite scripted, but had every kid with a specific topic to cover). We brought three posters and a prototype on a wheeled cart into project. We make smaller posters (the smallest size in the store) on rigid foamboard, and we stick each one right in front of the judges as we're talking about it, so that they can actually see it. Much easier to pack and maneuver than one big trifold. I suspect it also prompts the judges for which kid to ask which question (if your kids are holding posters they're ready to discuss).
7. I've found it important to let my kids know what's going on in CV judging, and that they can be asked to do more or less anything. We talked explicitly about how you can build the tallest tower and get horrible scores if one kid shoves everyone out of the way takes over the process, but that you can also get horrible scores by sitting in a circle singing a team chant and ignoring the challenge. [They thought both extremes were funny, but its a tricky line to thread for some very competitive kids.] My oldest (and loudest) kid had a specific script he practiced - ask who has an idea and shut up, check that everyone's ideas have been heard, confirm that the team agrees on what they're doing, etc.
8. Things we did at tournament: Sing the team chant a lot, but NOT near the judging rooms. Insist (roadtrip rules!) that everyone pee when you go past the bathrooms. Go outside and run around (even if for only 15 minutes) if you have a break big enough. If your pit area is too small, find a spot to be basecamp, and park the stuff you're not using (and parents and sibs who aren't watching the robot game) there. Take a break in the pits when you can (bring games, madlibs, playdoh, etc). But don't be committed to having to go back to base between events. It doesn't make sense to rush back to pits for five minutes if you could regroup in a hallway and then walk calmly to the next event. [Having a non-coaching parent who is responsible for knowing where all the rooms are and walking the kids (and coaches) there is a good thing.]
8.5 My kids' goal is always to cheer for other teams, and it's hugely fun if you can get another team to play along, but my kids don't remember to do it if not prompted. (The five minutes in the queuing box before robot game is stressful, go figure!) We do "Let's go _otherteam_ let's go!" at the teams around us in the queue, and often they look flummoxed, figure it out, and start cheering back at us.
9. I confiscate fidget items, buttons, stray hats, and everything else except needed props before sending my kids into an event. There's one kid who needs to empty her pockets before judging. Every single time. I have a purse full of plastic rubber ducks, pins, and candy that I'll need to return to the kids tomorrow. Yesterday, they got past me with a new sticker stuck to the back of a nametag lanyard that turned out to be irresistible for pulling on and off during judging.
10. Help the kids prioritize and adapt. It is very important to show up at robot game with all the robot parts. It is very important to show up at judging with all your presentation materials (and all team members!). If you have to run robot game without your rhino hat or while still dressed in an astronaut suit (because we had no break between project and one robot game run), you'll live.
11. My kids DROPPED the robot yesterday. Luckily, our robot lives in a plastic bin with a latching lid at all times when not in active use, so nothing happened. I was surprised to see so many robots without boxes in the queuing area and in the hallways.

Cathy Sarisky is a second-year FLL coach, biochemist, robot enthusiast, and parent of two.
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New FLL Jr teams at the West End Center

Roanoke College is sponsoring five FLL Jr teams at the West End Center, with special thanks to sponsors Line-X of the Blue Ridge and Trustcare for generous financial support.


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First FIRST event at Roanoke College

We had the first FLL Jr Expo and FTC Scrimmage at Roanoke College on Saturday.

Super big thanks to everyone who made the Expo a success!

Thanks to the Andrew Lewis Wolverines, Cave Spring High School Robotic Rampage, and Tuxedo Pandas for coming to scrimmage.

Thanks to the Tuxedo Pandas for serving as FLL Jr reviewers and bringing some hands-on robotics activities.

Thanks to all the volunteers who came early, stayed late, and otherwise made this a great event.

We hope to see you again soon!

If you're already missing our robotics playlist, here it is!

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Oh so many books to look at!

We'll be using this section of the website to share reviews of books that might be suitable for Mission Mars (FLL Jr, 2018-2019 season) or Into Orbit (FLL, 2018-2019 season).

To see additional books that look interesting but we haven't reviewed yet, visit our list on Amazon.  Book ideas for Mission Moon and Into Orbit

Loving the reviews?  Please help us support teams in the Roanoke Valley with a book purchase!  RVR4Y's wishlist

Click here to see all our reviews!

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Salem Montessori teams at the Robotics Week Extravaganza

We exhibited FLL and FLL Jr (and a little sumo) at the South County Library.  Thanks to everyone who visited with the kids or exhibited.  We had a great time!

It was fun talking with other kids and parents about FLL and FLL Jr.  If we've inspired you to start a FIRST team in the 2018-2019 school year, let's talk!

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Please support our FLL Jr teams


RVR4Y will be supporting a total of seven FLL Jr teams at the West End Center and Boys and Girls Club of Roanoke in Fall 2018, with coaching provided by Roanoke College students.  We'll be serving students who wouldn't otherwise get an FLL Jr opportunity.

To best support these deserving students in their STEM journey, we need your help!  Please help us build a STEM library for these teams by shopping our wishlist:  RVR4Y's Mission Moon Wishlist.  Any print format, new or used would be a wonderful addition to our book collection.  Thank you!

To enjoy our FLL and FLL Jr resource list for other uses (for example, your own team), use this link instead: Resources for Mission Moon and Into Orbit

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Spartans captain a winning alliance

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FLL Jr team report

There three FLL Jr teams running at Salem Montessori this Spring. They’re learning to program on the LEGO WeDo and learning about the human water cycle. They’ll be showing off their work (and their LEGO building) at FTC scrimmage / FLL Expo at Roanoke College on April 28th.  Please come say hello!

No photos yet, but the shirts are on order!

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Botetourt 4-H robotics team finishes robot, prepares for competition

The Botetourt 4-H robotics team had a problem — the robot wasn’t working.
The 110-pound, metal robot could glide across the floor, but it couldn’t pick up a cube, something it was specifically designed to do.
The team sprung into action. They attached an air pump to refill the tanks, checked the pressure gauge and looked at the battery levels.
Read the rest of the article at the Roanoke Times.

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