The FLL-team “FLL-4xS” is on its way now for two weeks and we already are facing the reality of time and resource limitation. We have a lot of things to do before November 24 and we realize that we have less than 30 team-hours to go in the schedule. (two afternoon sessions of 1,5 hour per week with a break in the Fall holiday).
The team has to make up their mind what can be accomplished to score points in the challenge and where to spend effort. Here I see the first overlap with real design and engineering processes: “the quality-cost-time” or “scope-cost-time” triangle of project performance.
Like in real design and engineering projects, the team has to decide what they want to accomplish. In the FLL robot challenge the team can try to solve 14 missions.
To design, build, program and test the robot to do so does not seem to be realistic. The game designers of FLL deliberately built in one element that even ensure that not all missions can be accomplished within 2,5 minutes. Therefore the team has to choose missions they believe are easier to solve within the available time and material (LEGO pieces).
For the research project part (which has a much more open set of requirements) it is even more difficult to define a realistic working plan that can be accomplished. The risk of scope creep is always around the corner when people are inspired…
Fortunately the children do not have to worry about money (the grown-ups are taking that burden away from them), but they have to work with limited material. According to the rules they can only use one robot control unit, three motors (servos). There is no limit in number of sensors, as long as they are made by LEGO, but the control unit only has 4 ports to connect sensors. Beside that, we do not have unlimited LEGO available for every “crazy” idea.
This is the most apparent constraint that we feel from the start. The team has to divide time between working on the team, robot missions, research project, public relations, reporting, etc.
Here the parallel with real design projects is the most visible. There is a clear need to start dividing work between different team members and find out who is best in what. We might even need a junior project manager who can plan, monitor milestones and give feedback about progress.
I am sure they have to make some tough decisions later on when some deadlines are missed and they have to sacrifice some of their plans in favor of finishing others. I am looking forward to watch this from close-by and see how they will deal with that…