Instructional Material: Tournament Preparation

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--What I think a team needs to keep in mind as it goes to tournaments--

The greatest thing kids need for preparation for the tournaments is time.  But aside from that there are some key things I found were very important at the regional and state competitions.

Mission Budget    This is a budget of time.  The competition round is only two minutes and 30 seconds.  For most teams this means they need  to choose which missions they really wish to accomplish.  A good way to approach this is to create a budget which outlines which missions are priorities.

For example, there are always missions that provide quite a few points for a relatively easy mission.  This should be a priority.  Students would place this mission high on their list of missions they wish to achieve.  They should then determine how much time it takes and keep a clear record of it.

Each additional mission should be clearly listed in the order it will be performed, how much time it takes, and how many points it earns.  

Such a plan might look something like this (taken from the 2005 Ocean Odyssey Challenge).


Mission Points Time
Release the Dolphin 25 20 sec.
Service the Pipeline 40
Sample One Species from Among Others 35 15 sec.
Conduct a Transect Mapping (at least 1 flag) 30 55 sec.
Protect the Pump Station 40
Clean Up Cargo Shipping Accident 30+
Artificial Reef 40 15 sec.
Find & Recover Archaelogical Artificact 35 20 sec.
                           Totals: 275+ 2 min. 5 sec.
Deploy the Submarine (if time) 35-40 25 seconds

Times should include any time needed to make adjustments to a robot, position it, and start it on its mission. 

Note that the trickier mission (Deploy the Sub), is put at the end and is not included as a part of their primary goal, but is an "extra" they will attempt if everything goes well.

The point in having my students make up this budget is for them to clearly think out their approach to the challenge and have a clear understanding of the choices they need to make.

Team Work    Middle schoolers do not know how to work in teams.  They need to be taught.  Team work is a major component in how they do at the tournaments.  

I put together teams by having each student rate themselves in several categories: leadership, engineering, programming, creativity, all on a scale of 1 to 10.

I then go over each self-evaluation with each student and match up the teams so there is a generally even distribution of skills.  I choose captains and ask them who they think would make a good "second-in-command".  Once this is done I give them 15 minutes to see if they wish to trade team members with other teams.  The rule here is that it is ony permitted if the individual asks to be traded.

Print the Programs    Two of my teams forgot to print out their programs so they had to "wing it" before the judges.  Not good.

 Rehearse!    Have your teams practice what they will say.  They need to figure out who will talk and in what order before they step in front of the judges.  They should remember to look orderly, professional, and give off an aura of being a team.

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