The Bowmar Builders are an FLL team associated with Bowmar Elementary School. The purpose of this blog is to help other students interested in robotics to learn from what we have learned. As an FLL Robotics team we use the Lego EV3 robotics system and the Mindstorms graphical programming language.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Goals are for Losers

By Aaron Byrd

Recently I read the book "How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life." by Scott Adams. One of this personal mottos is "Goals are for Losers. Systems are for Winners." While I don't agree with this 100%, there are several good application of this to an FLL robotics team.

First, why are goals for losers? Inherent in setting of a goal is realizing that you have not succeeded. This emotionally puts you at a disadvantage. Clearly, you need a direction to aim for, but the process of traveling the path in the direction you want to go is the key, not where you finally end up. Applications of this are many - do you memorize math facts or learn how to use math to solve real-world problems? Do you get a team presentation done by yourself at the expense of learning how a team needs to come together to make a presentation?

For example, you can set a goal as "Score 200 points on the robot game by December 1st." This is certainly a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. However, it doesn't actually get you to the goal - coming up with how to get there is a separate process. However, the point of FLL is to inspire students and to help them begin to develop the skills that will help them succeed in STEM fields. From that viewpoint, is having one brilliant programmer work on the robot the right choice, or have a process where everyone can build, program, debug, and learn how to build a system that works in the real world, taking an idea from concept to application? Clearly, the system that helps the team members grow personally is actually the real goal.

What about the project? The real "goal" is to help the team members learn about the process of researching a field, narrowing down to a specific problem, creating a solution, taking that solution to a real-world application, if possible, and sharing your results. What is the system for that? Do you spend a few minutes each meeting talking about how they are doing at the research process? Where do they get stuck and struggle? How can they learn from each other and use each other's strengths to help them move forward? It is important to create a system that gets you where you want to go, not simply pick a goal and say "run!"

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