The Germans Have Landed!

TeamXchange launched its first international partnership between FLL teams on August 26, 2010. After nine months of emails, phone calls and Skype conferences, Da Steam from Oberhausen, Germany (a tiny town south of Munich) arrived in Kansas City to work with LEARN Science and Math Club's three FLL teams.

The intrepid travelers - five kids plus their coach - braved the long trip, an over-stimulated security dog who mistook a half-eaten apple for contraband and a customs officer who threatened to dissect a treasured stuffed animal to ensure there was no bomb inside. (For more on their traveling travails, see Da Steam's blog.) Da Steam landed, weary but excited after 20 hours of travel, to meet their host families and begin an exchange that will last throughout the year.

Da Steam's two and a half week visit was a mix of work and fun. The work, like FLL itself, was pided into two focus areas: the project (to solve a biomedical engineering problem) and the missions (to build a robot to tackle up to 14 missions on the FLL playing field). To get their juices flowing for the project, the kids visited Cerner Corporation, ProScript Corporation, Children's Mercy Hospital and Kansas University's Biomedical Engineering labs. And, they conducted a Science Fair to share their ideas.

The kids did a great job! The Fair produced ideas any think tank would be proud to claim. Over the next few months, the kids will work with industry experts to refine and prototype these ideas.

Much to the kids' excitement, Da Steam was in Kansas City for the announcement of this year's missions. They opened their kits and checked out the new mats together. (Think Mission Impossible and Christmas all rolled into one - it's that exciting!) Da Steam - who will compete in their regional tournament in mid-November while LEARN Science & Math Club's teams have 'til the end of February - leapt immediately into design and prototyping of their robots. It was inspiring and exciting for the American kids to see their rapid-fire development. The kids will continue sharing design and development strategies by email and Skype.

The trip wasn't all work. The kids went to Worlds of Fun, the Zoo, a car show, Bass Pro Shop and much more. To catch up on all the activities, check out LEARN Science & Math Club's blog.

In just the first few weeks of TeamXchange, the teams learned so much from each other. Beyond shaing many useful insights into the ways they tackle FLL, they learned about each other's cultures, homes and families. They learned that they have much in common, and they learned that the differences make life more interesting. As they ran, jumped, swam, played tag , chortled and climbed everything in sight - they learned that the language of kids is the same the world over.

Here, at LEARN Science & Math Club, we feel so fortunate to have met and worked with Da Steam. We look forward to a fun, productive partnership and to building TeamXchange into a thriving community.