Let me start by introducing you to the KookaGumJoeys, a group of three little girls ages 8-11 whom I have had the joy of mentoring this year.  While these girls might be tiny, they sure make up for it in their creativity and teamwork!  They met a little over a year ago and since then have become not just good teammates but also the best of friends.  When they aren’t busy researching, building, or programming, they can often be found jumping on the trampoline or playing “Harry Potter.” (Their favourite books!)

The KookaGumJoeys working on the rat

Over this FLL season I have seen each of these girls transform in ways I have never thought possible.  As the judges put it, they have “come out of their shells.”  They have gained confidence, improved their technical abilities, learned how to present, and increased their creative thinking stills.  On the academic side of things I have seen their writing, mathematics, science, reasoning, mechanical, and programming skill vastly improve.  Having said all that, I can’t leave out the pure joy they have through FLL.  They paint their nails, sing, dance, cheer, and so much more!

This past weekend was the Australian FLL National Championship.  Although I have volunteered at this event before, I have never had the joy of coaching a team at this event.  All that changed this year when at the 2nd New South Wales regional, the KookaGumJoeys advanced to Nationals.  Their other coach and I could not have been more proud at that moment.  We never could have dreamt they would have done so well as they did that day.

The KookaGumJoeys in action!

But, at nationals we were shocked.  Our “little” girls did us more than proud.  During the day they became good friends with several students on “Project Bucephalus” last years’ Champion’s award winners. Both teams cheered for each other in the 3rd round at which point their judging sessions were over.

Both teams doing the "YMCA"

During their breaks, they could often be found laughing and chatting with each other.  All the coaches were watching with amazement and joy as these students displayed through their actions the FLL Core Values.

Then came the Award Ceremony.  Due to seating constraints, the teams found themselves at opposite ends of the auditorium but even then, they could be found glancing in each others directions.  Judging by my girls’ faces, I don’t they could have been happier when Project Bucephalus won the Gracious Professionalism Award.  We all knew that this was a team truly deserving of the award.

Hugs and High-Fives

Then, the KookaGumJoeys were presented with an award!  On their way to receive to receive their trophy, they passed by their new found friends who were not only giving them a standing ovation, but hugs and high-fives as well–a joy to behold.

At this point, I was in tears as I normally am!  But, in some small way, I found these tears different.  Although I have received awards before, I have never coached a team like this before.

The KookaGumJoeys after receiving their award

To see these girls go from the shy, quiet, cautious little girls at the start of the season to the bold, confident, friendly girls I saw receiving their award was incredible.  They continue to shock me with their abilities and love for FLL.  They have shown me the joys of mentoring.