Life and LEGO

Xeno assists with the work at hand.
Xeno assists with the work at hand.


Maybe it’s because I’ve been writing about witches, but I’m feeling superstitious these days when it comes to saying anything about my current novel in progress. The work takes up the bulk of my waking hours and has seeped into my dreams as well. These are good things when it comes to writing and revising (hurray!) but it also means that there will be periods of radio silence in my online presence from here on out.  Blog posts and social media updates will have to come in dribs and drabs until the book is finished. (But I promise there will be lots of stories and news to share when I’ve gotten to the other side of it. Wish me luck!)

the Flying Manatees review a robot run at the Nova Scotia Championship.
the Flying Manatees review a robot run at the Nova Scotia Championship.


If you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter, you may have noticed several posts about “the Flying Manatees.” One of the ways I’ve beaten the blahs this long nasty winter is by spending time with the Flying Manatees First LEGO League robotics team based at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. I’m proud to be a mentor to this amazing team of three unschooled-independent learners and have learned much about creativity, determination and the joys of collaboration by hanging out with them and watching them work.

Full disclosure, Mr. McKay is their coach and my younger son Jonah is a member of the team along with his identical twin buddies, Eamonn & Macky Schwartz. Aside from my obvious connections to the team, I find I’ve been constantly wowed by the mandate of FLL (First LEGO League) and the way the program is run. Not only has the team learned loads about robotics (engineering, programming and problem solving,) but they were also required to choose a real-world problem that arises from a natural disaster and then propose a solution (via research and innovation) to correct that problem. Coaches and mentors are tasked with giving encouragement without presenting the team with their own ideas or solutions. Above all else, as the teams participate in competitions at the regional, provincial and international levels, they carry with them the spirit of “coopertition,” displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.   

I’m pleased to report that in their rookie season, the Flying Manatees have qualified to attend the First LEGO League International competition in Toronto this June. They’ve scooped up awards for innovation, robot design and programming, as well as earning the highest provincial robot score along the way. Currently, they’re refining their robot and their presentation as well as looking for support to help them get to Toronto.

The Flying Manatees chat with Stephanie Domet on CBC Radio's Mainstreet
The Flying Manatees chat with Stephanie Domet on CBC Radio’s Mainstreet

Here’s a recent interview with the Flying Manatees on CBC Radio’s Mainstreet in Halifax. It’s an entertaining listen that covers the highs and lows of caring for their robot, “Manatee.”

 If you’re interested in learning more about the team and their journey to the first international competition in Toronto, please visit the Flying Manatees IndieGogo Page.

PS There are a couple of perks on the team page for avid readers who choose to donate. (Signed copies of “An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth” by Commander Chris Hadfield and signed copies of “The Birth House” (by yours truly.) Thanks to Random House Canada and Commander Hadfield for their support and generosity!

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