Gambier GigaFlops Globalization Outreach

 Tenorio Waterfall, Costa Rica( not a Honey Run Waterfall, Knox County, OH )

Just as we live in an increasingly technological world we also live in an increasingly globalized world.  Just as becoming technologically knowledgeable has become a key asset to opening doors of opportunity, so too has international awareness, experience and friendships.  Some of my most invaluable personal experiences were while living abroad.  In Latin America, I’ve had the good fortune to live/work/study/travel in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala and Brazil.

GambierGigaFlops has a unique opportunity to add another talented member to our team and/or mentor the founding of a new FIRST LEGO League team in Costa Rica depending upon what FLL rules will allow.  Jean-Pierre and his family are Americans who currently live in Costa Rica for business reasons, but have family in Gambier (which is how we met).  He is bilingual in Spanish and English and is very interesting in FIRST LEGO League.

st-jude-logo1Jean-Pierre travels back to the US at least every 6 months for treatment for an inoperable brain tumor, and his father travels even more frequently for business reasons.  He and his parents have raised over a million dollars throughout the United States from California to Florida as spokespersons for St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital.

Unfortunately, Jean-Pierre lives far from the capital of San Jose (25% of the population) and there is currently no existing local opportunities for him to participate in FLL in Costa Rica.  The entire country of Costa Rica appears to have a smaller FLL participation level such that no teams from the country were invited to participate in Globals this year.

Our goal is to help Jean-Pierre learn with us this summer and coming fall/winter FLL season so he can start his own FLL team in Costa Rica next year.  It would be our mutual goal to see Jean-Pierre lead a competitive Costa Rican team to Globals in 2016 and thereafter lead the formation of a vibrant network of Costa Rican FLL teams in his local community.

Ideally, we’d like to raise corporate funds to sponsor Gambier GigaFlops and Jean-Pierre to lead summer or winter break training camps in Costa Rica.  Due to the timing of the coffee harvest, Costa Rica has it’s main academic holiday during our winter season although there is also sometimes a shorter summer holiday period.

In doing research into this possibility I discovered that last year (June 2014) an older FRC Team (and former FLL team) called Robot Springboard from Pennsylvania has did something similar last year.  They traveled to Costa Rica with at least partial corporate sponsorship (Intel which has a corporate headquarters there) to hold two FIRST LEGO League summer camps in a different part of Costa Rica.  The girls appear to have since continued their good work by focusing on teaching girls STEM via summer camps at Drexel University in PA.

costarica_canopy_walk_med_hrSome interesting facts about Costa Rica (possibly relevant to this year’s FLL Eco-Project):

* One of the smallest non-island countries in Latin America (4.8 million)

* One of only 3 non-island countries without a standing military (since 1949)

* Ranks as one of the highest Latin American Countries in the Human Development Index

* Is the only country to meet all five UN criteria for environmental sustainability

* It is one of the worlds top destinations for eco-tourism

* Is targeting to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021

* Ranked one of the safest country in Latin America

* One of the highest literacy rates in Latin America at 96.3%

* Has one of the largest overseas American retirement communities

Costa Rica Invest - Why Costa Rica - Map (1) Costa Rica Invest - Why Costa Rica - Map (2)


I have been working with Jean-Pierre and his father to explain our FLL season and design a remote training facility for him in Costa Rica.  Our plan is to collaborate over Skype/Facetime as well as coordinate his visits to the US with our summer game programming camp and tournaments.  Ideally, he will have the same robot competition table and identically constructed robot to learn along with the rest of our kids thanks to support from his family.

If FLL allows Jean-Pierre to become a formal member of our team, he would fly out a week in advance of our tournaments to meet everyone on our team personally and we would focus on team-building exercises in the run-up to our tournament(s).

Here is a preliminary budget for setting up a minimal satellite FLL development workshop for Jean-Pierre in Costa Rica (approximately $1100 + laptop).

* 8′ x 4′ competition table ($60)

* Field Kit (mat and mission pieces) ($75 w/$300 team registration or $300 eBay)

* eV3 Core Set ($350)

* eV3 Expansion Set ($99)

* eV3 Extra Large Motor ($25)

* eV3 Extra Color Sensor ($36)

* BrickLink Parts ($200)

* Laptop (Recommend Windows 7, but others OK – requirements)

I’m looking forward towards the opportunity for both Jean-Pierre and our returning kids to expand their horizons both technologically and culturally.  Be prepared to learn un poco español this year and how to electronically collaborate across cultures and long distances in our shrinking world.

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