In the Classroom  |  Wonder League Robotics Competition  |  

Teacher leads K-5 Robotics Team to 1st Place in National Wonder League Robotics Competition

Sep 29, 2016

Before she had ever heard about robots Dash & Dot, Shann Griffith, a K-5 Media Specialist at Head Elementary in Lilburn, Georgia, filled out a simple questionnaire from Wonder Workshop. It asked, “what would you do with Dash & Dot if we sent them to your school?”

Though Shann fills her days teaching students web 2.0 tools and creating multimedia assets that inspire kids to read, she didn’t have any experience in coding and robotics. She answered the questionnaire accordingly, writing that she would use the robots to help introduce her students to coding.

“Much to my surprise, five Dash & Dot sets arrived at Head Elementary,” Shann recalled. “From the moment I powered them up, it was love at first sight. I was excited to add robotics to my teaching, even though I wasn’t sure how to make that happen yet.”

Head Elementary participated in Hour of Code, an annual, one-hour introduction to computer science basics held nationwide during Computer Science Education Week by the non-profit

“One of my colleagues had facilitated the Hour of Code, but I had no idea what it was,” Shann said. “A Google search sent me to, where I wrote my first ever line of code. I quickly recognized that computer programming could be personalized to each student, and provided hierarchical self-paced learning modules where students could analyze errors, get feedback and try again.”

With five sets of Dash & Dot to share with 537 students, Shann designed an incentive to select the students who would have the first opportunity to learn to code through Dash & Dot. She announced that the first five students to complete the accelerated course at would receive first access to the robots.

“Even though my experience is limited, I see coding and robotics as important 21st-century skills. I want my students to be prepared for current tech jobs and for jobs that have not yet been created,” Shann said. “The kids love the robots, and coding with them is something they look forward to every day.”

The Path to “The Unconditionals”

When Wonder Workshop announced the Wonder League Robotics Competition, a series of coding challenges that attracted over 1,100 teams nationwide, Shann wanted to see if her students could learn the Wonder programming language, and then program Dash & Dot.

“After monitoring the progress of all 537 students at, it became apparent that some of them possessed a real propensity toward coding,” she said. “I brought a copy of the missions to one of my students and asked him if he thought he could come up with solutions. He said he could, so we put a team together.”

Another task was naming the team. Using a glossary of coding terms, they decided on the word “conditional,” a computer programming term based on true-false statements and if-then-else constructs. But the name, “Conditionals” soon morphed into something better.

“To illustrate a real Mission Control scene in one of our videos, I invited all students wearing blue shirts to be in our video,” she said. “All of the kids came running up, blue shirt or not, wanting to participate. I took one look at their eager, hopeful faces and decided everyone could be in the movie, no matter what they were wearing. Our team captain pointed out that I didn’t follow the conditional I had set. But rather, I was being ‘unconditional.’”

The moment left an impression on Shann and presented an opportune teaching moment.

“I told him that conditionals are extremely important in robotics, but, when working with people, sometimes it’s important to be unconditional. I explained that I had the opportunity to make all of my students happy, and that superseded the need to create a stellar scene in the movie. Our captain gave an agreeing nod and responded, ‘then we should call ourselves The Unconditionals.’ I thought that was a defining moment and an important life lesson. We’ve been The Unconditionals ever since.”

Creating a Better World

The Wonder League competition was rich with challenges. The team’s experience was driven by questions, 21st-century skills, student engagement, revision and reflection.

At one point, the Unconditionals inadvertently missed the deadline for Mission 7, jeopardizing their chances of winning. One team member, nicknamed “The Calculator,” figured out how many points the team would have to earn in each mission to recover ground, and the team worked together on every challenge to make up those points.

“The students learned that even though disappointments and setbacks occur, triumph is still possible with perseverance,” Shann recalled.

Creativity in the team’s videos possibly added the much-needed flair points, Shann theorized. The humorous nature of their creativity was a risk, and as one student put it, “They (the judges) are either going to think we’re absolutely out of our minds or they’ll laugh, and we will win the whole thing.”

The final challenge was to propose an idea for a robot in space that would make the world a better place. At first, Shann’s students were perplexed by the task. They came up with numerous ideas, but none that solved or alleviated any of the world’s problems.

“Try starting with what breaks your heart in this world,” Shann suggested.

One student said the recent attacks in Paris broke his heart. Everyone on the team agreed and began working collaboratively to devise a plan to use robots to create an early warning system.

Much like a GPS device, the Unconditionals’ robot would warn people if an individual with weapons was approaching a facility where weapons were not allowed. The warning could be sent to cell phones so people could evacuate or avoid the area. Shann opined that the relevancy and practicality of the team’s focus, combined with extensive research, helped the team triumph and take first place in the competition.

Lifelong Lessons

The Unconditionals went on to win the Wonder League Robotics Competition, and the grand prize was a trip to Silicon Valley and Los Angeles to visit Google, Facebook, EA, Wonder Workshop, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and to meet the creators of The Minions.

But according to Shann, the lessons learned throughout the competition were the real prize.

“My students learned how to value the opinion of others, demonstrate self-control, and apply time management skills,” she said. “They discovered that failure was an important part of learning, and they met failure with persistence, resilience, and determination.”

Since the pilot was successful, Shann is extending the program to as many students as possible.

Shann is currently in correspondence with a colleague at a neighboring school, sharing tips for incorporating Dash & Dot into the classroom. Additionally, she plans to use Dash & Dot to improve reading comprehension and fluency in struggling readers.

“There are many standards that can be taught through Dash & Dot, and I’m looking forward to using the robots with other classroom teachers.” She explained. “As a college and career readiness facilitator, I want students to discover the wonderful world of coding and robotics. They might really enjoy it and learn that they can be exceptionally good at it.”

Wonder League Robotics Competition FAQ | Year 8

Hello, robotics enthusiasts! If you’re here, you’re probably as excited as we are about the 8th Annual Wonder League Robotics Competition! To help you and your teams have the best possible experience competing this year, we wanted to share answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Who Can Compete:

Any kid, anywhere in the world, ages 6-8 (Innovator Cup) and 9-12 (Pioneer Cup). There are two age brackets: 6-8 and 9-12 and team members have to fall within the age category at some point during the competition. Participants must be the qualifying age for their bracket on the last day of the competition, but if they gain a year during the competition, that’s OK. They won’t age out! 

Competition Brackets:

  • Innovator Cup (Age 6-8)
  • Pioneer Cup (Age 9-12)

What Makes a Team:

A team is made up of a supervising adult coach, and one or more children (up to 5). That’s right, kids can compete solo, but a coach who is 18+ is needed to help with the submission process. For multi-kid teams, each member must be in the same age bracket. Coaches may have multiple teams and can register all their teams after registering as a coach. Please keep in mind that each team will need a separate Class Connect registration.

Note: Younger students may participate in the 9-12 age category, but please be aware that the missions have been designed with older students and advanced coding skills in mind.

What a Team Needs to Compete:

Class Connect subscription

The team is made up of a supervising adult coach and one to five members

  1. Compatible device
  2. 5′ x 8′ mat of 30cm squares and basic prototyping materials
  3. Teams in 6-8 & 9-12 age brackets will need a Dash robot
  4. Internet access to download and upload materials

Teams will need one Dash robot:

Check Device Compatibility here:

We will be offering a mat image that you are welcome to use and print with your local printer, but teams are absolutely encouraged to make their own if they prefer. For more on how to make your own mat, check out this blog post.

Coaches will, of course, need internet access to download the apps and keep up with the competition as it progresses, and may want to print out some kid-facing materials that we will provide at each stage.

Class Connect Subscription:

To register for the 8th Wonder League Robotics Competition requires a subscription to Class Connect, providing additional resources like standards-aligned content assignable right inside a student’s Blockly app. Learn more about Class Connect here.

If you already have a Class Connect subscription, you have access to register a team, based on your student license amount. If you have more than one team of 5 students, you will need to purchase another Coach Success Pack or consider a larger subscription to accommodate more teams and students.

  1. A Coach Success Pack provides:
    Participation in the WLRC for up to 5 students
    Access to all Missions
    Full access to Class Connect, (including Math Activities and Dash’s Neighborhood), for 5 students and 1 teacher for 7 months
    A discount code for a Dash robot from our online store at

Please note: Teams will need a physical Dash robot to complete the Missions.
The Coaches’ Dashboard in Class Connect will help our coaches register and manage their team(s). The dashboard will be your one-stop shop for all Wonder League Robotics Competition management. You will be able to access the Coaches’ Corner–where all competition-related content and resources will be hosted–the Heartbeat community forum, and all the submission forms right there on the Dashboard.

Accessing Missions for the Innovator Cup and Pioneer Cup:

Once your purchase is completed for Class Connect, you will receive an email to activate your Class Connect license.

Once this license is activated, you will be able to register yourself as a coach and register your teams. This is done on your portal page under the Robotics Competition tab.

Once your team/teams are registered, you will get an additional email from CoAssemble, our partner hosting the missions this year. This email will state you have been registered for the “2022-2023 Coaches Corner Course”.

Click on the link to be redirected to the CoAssemble website, and you will see the course and can access the Coaches’ Corner Guide as well as the Missions (available November 3, 2022).

Still having trouble accessing all the resources in the Coaches’ Corner? If you have previously had a license to Class Connect and registered as a coach, and have not seen Coaches’ Corner added to your CoAssemble list of courses, please email us at, and we will provide assistance.

Last Year’s Missions:

Taking a peek at last year’s missions might help you get a sense of what the competition is like. Just sign in with your Class Connect subscription and register as a coach to take a peek at the previous years by going to the Coaches’ Corner and selecting the desired year.

2022-23 Wonder League Robotics Competition Milestone Dates:

Here are important milestone dates to keep in mind as coaches develop timelines for teams competing in the 2022-23 Wonder League Robotics Competition.


  1. October 21, 2022: Student Team Registration Opens
  2. November 3, 2022: Round One Opens + Five Mission Released
  3. January 13, 2023: Student Team Registration Closes
  4. January 27, 2023: Mission Evidence Submission Closes 
  5. January 28-March 5, 2023: Invitational Round Notification 
  6. February 6, 2023: Invitational Round Opens + Final Mission Released
  7. March 24, 2023: Invitational Round Submission Due 
  8. April 10, 2023: People’s Choice Voting Opens 
  9. April 21, 2023: People’s Choice Voting Closes 
  10. May 4, 2023: 2022-23 Wonder League Robotics Competition Winner Announcement

NEW Award Category: WLRC People’s Choice Award

Teams may opt in to participate in the WLRC People’s Choice Award category by creating a :30 second video explaining the Team’s Invitational Round Final Mission solution that will be shared with the community at in an “online crowd vote” competition. The WLRC People’s Choice Award allows teams to share and celebrate their work in the WLRC and encourage community support in voting for their team. This is an optional category for teams to enter and will not impact scoring of the Invitational Round submission as they will be judged by STEM and Coding experts using a published rubric.

Children’s Privacy:

We take our participants’ privacy very seriously and comply with COPPA when collecting any information. In the invitational round we ask only for the students’ first names, and request parents’ permission. For those that make it into the Invitational Round, we ask for full names, again with permission. We are never marketing, selling to, or corresponding with children. All contact is through the proxy of the coach.