Behind the scenes: Story of the Ottawa FLL Kick-Off

On September 21st, kids, coaches and parents from 13 different FLL teams headed to the Carleton University Campus for a day of learning and sharing. For some, it was a brand new experience; for other teams, a welcome return to the Ottawa FLL Kick-Off.

Some might ask, how did we land such an event in the first place? And was it the first, fourth or fifth edition? There are many questions, and rightfully so.

The first FLL kick-off happened in Ottawa back in 2015 following a hallway discussion between two work colleagues coaching FLL teams. One of the coaches was explaining how he “attended that Kick-Off in Toronto. It was amazing to see, kids are teaching other kids” and stated that “we should do this next year”. The second one agreed and decided to take charge of the event, how foolish of him…

In the following year, experienced members from different teams in the region were selected and the first kick-off was executed in Kanata South on a dime. The organizing coaches were put in contact with a recent organization of FRC alumni called CU First, with only three members attending at the time. This was the start of a prosperous collaboration.

Having added the role of FRC mentor with 4783 RoboRavens to his credentials the FLL coach went on with a second and third Kick-Off that landed at LDHSS. This brought increased organizational involvement by the RoboRavens members, further participation from CU First, and invitations to local FRC teams to demo their robots and contribute to the event.

Some of these experienced FLL kids who had originally shared their knowledge on the earlier editions have done great work as FRC members/leaders in 2706 Merge Robotics, 4783 RoboRavens, and 7476 EOM Lions.

Last year, the 4th edition had to be canceled at the last minute as tornadoes hit the Nation’s Capital less than 24 hours before the event, leaving the school closed without power for the whole weekend. Ironically, the project session the foolish coach was planning to use as an example was from Nature’s Fury, fitting for our unfortunate mishap.

Becoming slightly wiser, the foolish coach realized that this event was growing exponentially and needed a stable organization to take care of it. 

Finding a good home for this event was fairly simple. Who better than CU FIRST to take ownership, especially after showing they can lobby for and organize an FRC district event. To top it off, the organizer of the 5th FLL kick-off edition – 4th successful and 1st at Carleton University – would be a RoboRavens alumni.

The previously mentioned FLL coach, and now referee, was invited to talk to the new generation of FLL coaches and parents at the kick-off to share experience, tricks, and address the many questions from volunteers sharing their passion for STEM.

The key message here is that a simple discussion in a hallway turned out to be a flourishing event that perfectly exemplifies Coopertition and Gracious Professionalism and has become a great experience for all who attend.

Thank You, CU FIRST for carrying on with this initiative.

Special thanks to Sayf and Madeline for the organization of this year’s event.

The humble yet foolish FLL coach/referee turned FRC mentor.

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