If sacrifice is the measure of devotion, FIRST® LEGO® League parent Dr. Patricia Nguyen has truly demonstrated her dedication to the home-based Massachusetts team she and her husband coach.
Tricia – an engineer, historic textiles expert and inventor in her own right – has given up her dining room, living room, family room, summer vacation and even sleep for the Brainstormers, on which her two oldest sons are members. And the older boys aren’t even the most driven competitors. That would be her 8-year-old, who will move up to the FLL team in another year.
“My husband and I realize we’re in this for 10 years because of the time frame,” she says. Calling true dedication a matter of being “all in,” Tricia confesses, “We are so all in that we’re buying a bigger house. We need a basement.” The basement, of course, is future Brainstormers headquarters.
The six-member team is in its fourth season and is preparing for the 2012 Senior SolutionsSM Challenge with an Old Person Simulation Suit, for which the team has even shared its design with others.
“They spent two weeks at my home over the summer. That’s when we did the old person suit,” recalls Tricia, who balanced her multiple careers from home while working with the team. “One of the dads took them one Wednesday so I could have a day off,” she laughs.
Having now simulated the mobility challenges that aging brings, the team is working toward developing solutions. (One team member’s comment after wearing the suit while running errands and trying to put on a seatbelt: “I really understand now why old men are so grumpy.”)
As they prepare for the Challenge, the members are so “all in” that they are determined to win the top slot at the state championship, a commitment that requires working year-round and up to 40 hours a week. The team parents – who include programmers and a project director for a local robotics lab – are also all in.
“We all looked at these kids and said, ‘These kids are at the age where we have to push their noses to the grindstone and teach them that hard work pays off,’” Tricia shares. When the parents pushed, the team moved from the lowest ranking in its state to seventh.
But no Brainstormers parent lives and breathes FLL quite as much as Tricia and her husband. “My dining room is entirely LEGO® robotics four months of the year. My living room is set up for it. My family room is a meeting area. I may have 16 people in my home every Friday night with random work sessions over the weekends,” she says. In between, her “robot genius” son works on perfecting the robot in the evenings. And for Tricia, none of it ever gets old.