To help teams learn more about the international events taking place this FLL season, I recently interviewed Sander Ezendam the FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) Operational Partner for Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg (Benelux) who is also the Project Manager for the Open European Championship.

Sander (front and center) at the 2010 Open International Championship

To start off with a fun question, what is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
I am absolutely crazy about Straciatella. It is a vanilla flavored ice cream with little chunks of chocolate inside. Simply irresistible!


What is your role with FIRST® LEGO® League? And what does it entail?
Together with my colleague Manja de Jonge I am responsible for FLL in the Benelux. Primarily this means for me that all events which come with FLL or the other programs of our foundation are my responsibility. You can think of the webcasted Kickoff in September up to the Benelux finale. The absolute highlight of this season will be the Open European Championship in Delft (the Netherlands).

Is there anything unique about FLL in your country?
FLL is organized in the Benelux together with 22 different regional partners. Regional partners can be Universities, Science Centers or other foundations which have the same goals as ours: Making young kids enthusiastic about Science and Technology. For one of the smallest countries in Europe we have over 335 teams this season. We could not have done this without our partners. What is also unique is our webcasted season kickoff over the Internet. All teams are all invited to watch it next September.

Do you have a good story about how FLL has changed someone’s life?
Every year I try to visit all regional finals. When I see the faces of the children who participate I just know we are doing the right thing. Just look into their eyes and you can see the sparks flying off. So I think it changes everybody’s lives including the children, the volunteers or the team coaches and mentors. It makes kids aware of their environment and their influence on the world. It really helps to build their confidence.

What is the best moment of your time in FLL?
I think I had several moments but if I have to point one out it would be my first Benelux final. When, after months of work, it all comes together and you see everybody go home afterward with a happy face I feel so proud to just be a part of it.

You were in Taiwan this past year for the Open International Championship. What did you think of the competition there?

Sander (center) in Taiwan last year

Wow, wow, wow. The Taiwanese Operational Partner did a fantastic job and the only thing I thought was ‘Let’s make this happen in The Netherlands once!’ Well the moment came sooner than I anticipated. Together with our FLL partners from the City of Delft, we are going to make it happen in June 2011. Besides this the people of Taiwan were so friendly, always smiling and willing to help. The most remarkable thing that happened was after the tournament. Over the tournament, we were guided by two Taiwanese volunteers and when we said goodbye to them they just started to cry because we were leaving. They simply had a magnificent time! This simply said enough.

This upcoming year, the Open European Championship is going to be held in the Netherlands, what is your role with that event?
It is going to take place in the Netherlands, from 2 – 4 June 2011. I am going to be the Project Manager for that event. We are in the middle of organizing everything, from hotels for the teams, preparing the venue and all volunteers. Everything that comes with organizing events. We are going to make the stay as comfortable as possible. I will not be doing this alone and I cannot do this without the Delft City Council and Vanderkruit Events.

How many teams are you expecting at the OEC? And, how many countries will they be representing?
We are expecting around 60 to 70 teams from all participating FLL countries. This will hopefully mean 54 countries.

Is there anything else what you would like FLLers around the world to know?
If you are a team and you are invited to come, please try to do anything so that you can come. You are going to love my country and it is going to be a life changing experience. You can also help out as a volunteer, judge or referee. We will broadcast it live worldwide on our website  Come and be part of the world we call FIRST LEGO League!