Not the Droids You Are Looking For
Not the Droids You Are Looking For is a community team from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA that competed for seven years in FIRST LEGO League. The team was founded in 2011 by two brothers, Arvind and Sanjay. “The Droids” as they are commonly referred to, have been to World Festival three times, winning Champion’s, First Programming and the Coach award. They are also the Champion’s Team from the Razorback Open in Arkansas. They were a semi-finalist team (top 20 out of 35,000 teams for the Global Innovation Award) and also the First Place Innovative Solution winner at the International Open in Toronto. In 2018, they were the Champion’s award winner at World Festival Detroit. They are also renowned for their FIRST LEGO League 2014 project, EV3Lessons.com, and its impact on the entire FIRST LEGO League community.
How did you come together as a team?
We went to visit the Body Forward championship in Pittsburgh in December 2010 and we were really inspired by what we saw. The next fall, we founded a team with kids from the school we attended.
What did you do after FIRST LEGO League?
Our team retired after World Festival in 2018. However, we continue to support all 55,000 FIRST LEGO League teams through EV3 Lessons and our newest site, FLL Tutorials. We want to share our knowledge and help the next generation of teams have a successful FLL journey. We create the most popular and trusted robot game scoring tools used currently by teams, and continue to collaborate with teams world wide to translate these tools into different languages.
We also continue to participate in other STEM competitions such as science fairs, inspired by our FIRST LEGO League experience.
What is one unique thing about your team?
We took our outreach activities to a global scale and, as mentioned by others, we brought people and teams together through all the resources we created. While we have won numerous awards in FIRST LEGO League, what we are most remembered for is for giving back to the FIRST LEGO League community and creating ways for teams to collaborate together (EV3Lessons, FLLTutorials, FLL: Share and Learn Facebook Group)
Which FIRST LEGO League season was your favorite, and why?
World Class. We found the challenges on the World Class mat to be the most diverse. You also had to navigate well that year to complete all the missions. That was the first year in which we set a personal goal to finish every mission (which we accomplished). We even maximized the scoring on the multiplier model that year.
The project question that year was also one of the most interesting we have seen and gave rise to EV3Lessons.com. Despite not making the Global Innovation Awards that year, our project became “real”. Today, we have more than a quarter of a million users in 175 countries. EV3Lessons is recognized globally and has resulted in many speaking and demo opportunities.
Other seasons have had their memorable moments as well. For example, in Nature’s Fury, we got a walkthrough of US Airway’s airplanes and Operational Control Center. In Hydro Dynamics, we got to demonstrate our robot to the owner of LEGO in Denmark.
You really never know where FIRST LEGO League might lead you. Anything is possible. Keep your mind open.
Share one tip about your robot design process or robot
We popularized the box robot design with our TARDIS in 2014. TARDIS stands for Technically Advanced Robot Designed in Style. The robot was a blue box. Our robot design handout that year also looked like a TARDIS. The box style robot is not needed to win a competition, but does help put attachments on quickly. Try to experiment with passive attachments. Rubber bands, pneumatics and gravity-based attachments can set you apart while teaching you new skills. Focus on reliability first.
Don’t build to impress a judge. Build the way you do because it helps accomplish something you could not otherwise or it is something you are passionate about learning and trying.
Share one tip about the doing the research project
It is extremely important to be thorough in your research project and then be able to communicate what you have done in the 5 minute presentation. You should not wait till the Q&A to communicate any major points that are required for judging and laid out in the rubric.
Share one tip about Core Values
Be yourself! There are many teams that want to win and want to adopt the ideas and style of other teams. Come up with your own team personality and style and you will thrive. Also remember that FIRST LEGO League really is a journey. Expecting to win and skipping the steps involved in learning and growing as a team will only result in you not getting the most out of the program. You don’t have to be a large, loud team to win Champion’s. You have to just embrace the entire FIRST LEGO League experience and be yourself!
Things don’t always go the way you want. But that is okay. They are lessons learned. They make you improve and they make you get better over time. Remember that FIRST is a jouney.
What is something you wish you knew when you started out in FIRST LEGO League?
We wish we knew how many hours it takes. Our first season, we thought just two hours a week on a Friday was enough. Most of the students didn’t know how to program and even one month into the season, everyone was still learning to program, much less working on missions. Knowing in advance would have helped. By the time we retired, we were investing 10-15 hours per week into FIRST LEGO League (including outreach efforts). The more time you are able to invest in FIRST LEGO League, the more you get out of the program.
What is the best memory you have from FIRST LEGO League?
Perhaps the single most memorable moment was being part of the Showcase event at both World Festival Houston and World Festival Detroit in 2018. We were greatly honored to be selected as speakers to share the stage with Dean Kamen, Woody Flowers, Governor Rick Snyder, and Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada. We were honored to be able to share our FIRST LEGO League journey with everyone. We are FIRST!