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Preparing for and going to a tournament


  • Core Values. Core values overlap a great deal with social skills and are necessary throughout the day at a tournament. In the Core Values judging room, judges present an extremely challenging task and observe how well team members plan and work together (or not) to tackle the task. Following about 5 minutes of work on the task, judges may ask the team members questions.
  • Project/Research. Students have 5 minutes to give a creative presentation of their research and proposed solution to the real-life problem addressed by the theme of the year. Following the presentation judges question them for 5 minutes. Any coach assistance may disqualify a team.
  • Robot Design. Students bring their robot to a panel of judges who ask them questions about how they designed the robot and how they programmed it.
  • The Game. Teams have three matches in which their robot has 2.5 minutes to perform tasks on a 4’ x 8’ table set up representing the real-world problems related to the theme of the year. The robot must be preprogrammed and only the team members can stand near the table with only two of them at the table.

Plan and prepare for to smooth social integration

  • To help sighted judges question individual team members. For the three formal judging sessions, a team member handed judges supporting documentation with a cover sheet displaying a picture of the team with each members labeled with their name. Below the picture were the words, “Dear Judges: Please call us by name if you want to ask one of us a question. Thanks! The Dot Bots”.
  • To help Robot Design judges understand the differences in coding language, the Robot Design judges packet included large print and braille versions of some of the code that the team members had written for the robot game tasks.
  • To help peers and adults from other teams start conversations with team members. The Dot Bots chose to wear name tags with their first names printed in large print.
  • To appear available and interested in other teams, Dot Bots left their portable electronic devices behind.
  • To initiate conversations with other teams, our team brought bookmarkers with the team name in print and braille. Between judging sessions they distributed these popular small gifts to other teams throughout the Pit area.
  • To interest others in conversation, the team brought braille writers, slate and stylus, and index cards to demonstrate braille and help peers write their names in braille.

Explicit instruction and regular practice on challenging social and blindness skills

At a tournament, teams are expected to be independent of direct help from their coaches. In the Core Values judging room, coaches are not even allowed to come in with the team. This was an excellent motivation for students to practice independence, teamwork, and social skills. Specifically, the Dot Bots addressed and practiced:

  • Conversational and Presentation Skills.
    • Turn taking in conversations and in answering judges’ questions.
    • Giving relevant information in answer to questions.
    • Referring a question to a more knowledgeable or not yet addressed team member.
  • How to travel as a team. The Dot Bots paired up within the team: the totally blind students with less developed travel skills walked sighted guide with the students who had more vision and better travel skills. The team practiced walking this way and entering, performing in, and leaving simulated judging rooms. At the meets, the more visual students spread themselves through the group so the team was able to stay together and followed a guide to each of their judging sessions just as the other teams did.