This 2023-2024 FIRST ® season, follow along as we hear from four FIRST® LEGO® League, four FIRST® Tech Challenge, and four FIRST® Robotics Competition Diary of an Innovator teams about their season experience and the culture of innovation their team has created.        

This post is by Team Dragon Racers from Huntington, NY, USA.   

Q: How has your team’s season been going so far?  

A: We have a new teammate, Monalina – she loves ice hockey and swimming.  We are enjoying having her on our team and teaching her the ins and outs of FIRST LEGO League!

Q: Tell us about your team’s Innovation Project. 

A: Swap Step is a shoe that you can play multiple sports or dance in. All you need to do is slide off the sole and add in another. There is a built-in track system between the upper part and the sole.  The Swap Step shoe allows you to do multiple things while keeping the cost low. Some of the bottoms are adjustable so that they can grow with the kid’s feet.  To lower cost we are learning Onshape to 3D print cleat and hard sole attachments.  Additionally, the sides of the sneaker will allow kids to pick their favorite colors for the shoe in one version or in another version have interchangeable panels to make it more customizable.   

Q: How did your team pick a topic?  

A: First, we equally divided into groups to think of different ideas. Then, we all got together to present our ideas. Once we finished showing our ideas, we voted on which idea would be best. Whenever we couldn’t agree on a project, we tried to find a way to put them together, if they work well with each other. Last year we ended up putting 2 of our ideas together because both ideas together worked great. This year we’re putting sports and arts together for our project, Swap Step.  We got inspiration from siblings who did not want to play sports because cleats and dance shoes were not comfortable.  We learned this was not an uncommon problem. 

Q: How has your team iterated on their Robot Design/Project?

A: This year we built our robot from scratch, and we wanted a box robot.  Initially, we had a good robot because the motors were all connected, and the robot drove straight. We thought we were good.  However, we realized in our design there was lots of movement in the attachment motors and that prevented a heavy attachment from lifting.  We took off the sides of the robot and connected the motor in lots more locations. Now, the robot is a lot more solid and cannot be twisted at all.  We also added weight blocks to each side of the robot. Finally, when we were building a box robot the goal was to double support the wheels, but we turned the motors in and only singly supported the wheels.  So, we added support for the wheels on the inside and now the wheels are more stable.  Now our robot “spikey” is much stronger. 

Q: What tips do you have for new teams that are getting ready for an event? 

A: Some tips that we have for future teams are don’t talk over each other, put work first, make sure to have fun, it’s okay to take breaks, interact with other teams, make friends, give it your all, try your best to improve.

The Dragon Racers show their team spirit!


Q: What’s the most surprising lesson your team has learned together this season so far?  

A: We must focus on precision. If things are not in the right position, the mission will not work. 

Q: How did your team get their robot competition-ready?  

A: We’ve split into groups, and each prepared a run. Every week each group comes to work on their specific run. Then we practice together, fixing things along the way. By competition we have everything ready to run with.  

Q: How did you prepare for judging?  

A: We expand and innovate our Innovation Project every day. While we are preparing for the Robot Game, we are taking pictures and documenting robot design. The whole time we are enacting the Core Values and documenting them. Once we are done with these presentations we practice and practice. 

Q: What was your favorite part of the day?  

A: We all had fun meeting new teams. We talked, competed, and learned about the other teams and how they do their runs. 

Q: What was most challenging?  

A: The scrimmage didn’t go as planned. We had trouble with the transitions between different runs. We didn’t have enough time to do all our runs so for a few matches we couldn’t run our last run. So, we know before the qualifier we need more whole-team practices.   

Q: Are you attending any other events?   

A: We just did our scrimmage, and we have our qualifier in February.  

We had an amazing experience introducing the FIRST LEGO League program to the Henry Viscardi school on Long Island.  We helped teach students of all abilities about LEGO robotics and we can’t wait to help them start their own program!

The Dragon Racers showcased their robot at the Henry Viscardi school.

Stay tuned for our next post from the Dragon Racers later this year and learn more about the other FIRST LEGO League Diary of an Innovator teamshere

Learn about the FIRST Tech Challenge Diary of an Innovator teamshere, and the FIRST Robotics Competition Diary of an Innovator teams here