When you hear the words “Cosmic Wonders,” one cannot help but think of something related to space or about our galaxy. But Cosmic Wonders is actually a group of kids who are a part of FIRST Lego League, or FLL. I recently had the chance to meet this group of kids and got to know more about FLL and their team.
There are seven members on this team, and they are from the ages of 10-13. Sidney Guy, Olive Martinez, Aarush Palmurkar, Maya Prasad, Aarish Reddy, Abdus-Samad Shaik, and Juhi Shah are the Cosmic Wonders, and they have known each other since elementary school. Aside from Abdus-Samad, who is in 5th grade, the rest of the children are in middle school. Most of them have been competing for three years and are currently working on this year’s FLL theme, “City Shapers.”
So what is FLL? According to the FLL, FIRST stands for “For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology.” It is an alliance between FIRST and the LEGO group. There are 40,000 teams, 320,000+ participants, and can be found in 98 countries. 40,000 teams!
Aarush informs me that FLL consists of three parts – Project, Core Values, and Robo game. Project is where you choose and research about the problem based on the yearly topic that is given to the teams. Each team works together in not just coding and building a robot made out of Legos but also coming up with a new solution to an existing problem. This might seem challenging, but not to this group of kids, aka Cosmic Wonders.
Olive, who has been part of FLL for three years, enjoys working on the project part. She likes to research about the given topic because she likes to learn and find different and new ideas/methods to solve problems.
The next part of the FLL is the Core Values, which teach the kids about teamwork, inclusion, discovery, innovation, impact, where the kids explore new skills, and, most importantly, fun. I asked Juhi if it is hard to follow core values while working on this type of project with friends. She replied, “No, because we have learned to listen and respect each other, even though we all have different ideas and opinions. We learn to resolve our differences by listening to each other and realizing that, in the end, our disputes are just silly.”
Robo game seems to be a favorite for all of the kids since they all love to code and program the robot. Aarish informs me that the robo game is about the robot that they have built, coded and programmed to solve different missions on the game mat.
Sidney, Olive, Aarush, Maya, Aarish, and Juhi have known each other for years and decided to work together and try out something new by creating their own FLL team. Last year was the first time they competed together against several other teams. Although they were nervous, they were also excited to meet other teams and to learn from each other. When asked, “What was their favorite part of the competition?” they all answered, “When we found out that we won and that we would be competing in the regionals.”
Each of them not only meet once a week to work on coding, researching, and building the robot, but all of them have extracurricular activities. Sidney is learning tennis, capoeira, and is also part of math club. I was amazed that he has time for not just the weekly Lego meeting, but also for the many after-school activities, and he continues to excel in middle school. He lets me know that by scheduling and managing his time wisely, there is no reason as to why he cannot do all the extracurricular activities that he enjoys. I definitely need his help in scheduling my calendar.
Abdus-Samad is the youngest and the newest member of the team. Although he was nervous at first to be part of Cosmic Wonders, he now enjoys and loves to research and learn to code together with his new friends. Maya is the oldest and wanted to be a part of the team not just to learn something new, but also to help her decide if she wanted a career in engineering or computers.
Their competition is coming up in a few months, and these kids have been working hard in researching, improving their coding skills, and learning from their mistakes when building their robot. It amazes me that these kids are able to balance their school life, extracurricular activities, and also have the time for their Lego robotic meetings. These kids hope to inspire other children to not just learn to code and program a robot made out of Legos but also remind other kids not to give up and keep trying to get better. These kids have encountered many problems and mistakes during their mock mission robo game, but they continue to keep working hard, perfect their coding, learn, and improve from their mistakes. The girls in this team especially hope to inspire other girls to learn something new in the STEM field and hope to see more girls participate in the FLL competition.
To any kid out there reading this article, I leave you these parting words from Aarish, “FLL is not just building a robot out of Legos or coding. It is more than that. It is about inspiring each other, finding new ways and ideas to solve problems, building confidence, and learning not to give up even after many failed attempts to solve a mission/problem.”