Beechen Bots at FLL OEC, Pamplona

So I have already documented my son’s team’s experience of the UK FLL championships in Loughborough this year, and made a post about the inspiring aura of the FLL OEC championships in Pamplona, Spain. I feel I have to describe the emotional journey of the Beechen Bots’ experience in Pamplona.

Baluarte, Pamplona

Day 0

I’ll describe the intense first day as a soup of energetic teens and pre-teens from all over the world, each determined to demonstrate what makes their country unique and their own team great. Among a lot of noise, the teams assembled some pretty whacky interpretations and customisations of the 3mx3m stands each team gets for their pit area. The Beechen Bots pit is typically British: Competent, informative, quietly proud but not ostentatious. I’ll let you image where Mexican and Brazilian teams went with their use of space. And Sound!
The sense of purpose and pride among the youngsters was phenomenal. They know they have done well to get here, but they also know they deserve to be here, and they are proud to be geeks.Team prep with pizza
Today was purely about setting up. The practice sessions and the opening ceremony kick off tomorrow. We had a meal this evening with all the team and parents to seal the start of our Pamplona experience, and none of us really know what to expect at the event. I guess we will soon find out.

Day 1

All the teams have a practise session on the competition tables today, on the main stage. This does not go as well as hoped for the Beechen Bots. There are some elements that work fine on the practise tables that fail on the competition tables. Team captains Wes and James take this in their stride and resolve to make improvements. These set-backs are The UK teamssoon forgotten during the opening ceremony. This kicks off with a mustering of teams with their  banners behind national flags. The noise is phenomenal, but calms when the teams parade into the auditorium. We are treated to some inspirational words from local dignitaries and some fancy Robot dancers, fitting for this event. The young folks are then treated to a welcome party (while some of the adults retire to a safe distance in a local bar).

Day 2

Beechen Bots pit area

Judges at the pit


The first day of real competition with two robot rounds plus some intensive judging of the teams’ robot design, project solution, and their core values. The judging went well we feel, but the two rounds went badly, with success in the practice tables being hard to reproduce on the competition tables. It remains impressive though just how much youthful, directed energy there is in this building, and a tremendous spirit of friendly competition. The teams are kind of competing against their own expectations  and pride as much as head to head with each other. The Beechen Boys take their failures well ,and take solace in good work in the judging rounds.

FLL Competition tables

Day 3

The Soul of FLL

The boys are feeling good for their final round today. This one has to count!
Whatever happens it will have been an amazing experience for all. There are so many nice touches with how the event is organised and there is little time to dwell on either success or failure. What is also great to see, at least for the Beechen boys, is such a great presence and support from parents..

…Well, the final round is over. A good start on the first two tasks for the robot but then problems with calibration hit the team yet again, despite a good run on the practice mats, and Beechen are not even close to the final eight for the quarter finals. The Spanish went crazy when the local team took the lead with 600 points. There is some amazing robot engineering going on here. The team coach, Ernst Bakker, is already working on material for a display board for the school entrance on return next week.  And there is still the final, the closing ceremony and the recreation of the San Fermin festival to come. Can’t wait.

Waiting for final round

…The final came down to a close call between Robot Masters from Greece and Mechatronic Ants from Spain the host nation, both scoring into the high 500’s. Tense stuff, and not helped by the fact that the final results are not to be announced until the awards ceremony later in the afternoon…

…Well I didn’t go in for the 2.5 hour closing ceremony as it was my turn to look after the stand. But watching the live stream I saw our boys won 2nd prize for entrepreneurship, which is defined as…”the team that has shown initiative and confidence during the tournament, that has faced challenges with maturity  and found effective solutions to adversity over the FLL.

The closing party seemed to be a bit disappointing as the promised recreation of Pamplona’s famous San Fermin festival did not properly materialise.IMG_0350

The boys from Beechen Cliff were justifiably proud to have been part of this wonderful and crazy event. They were happy to have got a prize, but just looked fatigued by the whole wonderful, crazy experience.  Time to go home, happy, exhausted and proud.

Entrepreneurship 2nd prize

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