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The Adventures of the Code Crackers – 2018 Wonder League Robotics Competition Winners

Jan 25, 2019

“Shhh, it’s a secret,” the email read. “One of your teams is a finalist.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes. After all our challenges, one of my teams had achieved the unimaginable!

Only a few weeks had passed since our K-6 grade students were reunited after spending 13 weeks at four different district schools. Water damage from a burst pipe in January had caused the closure of our school until April. In order to continue robotics meetings, special arrangements were made to bus our sole sixth-grade participant, Riley, to the third-graders’ host school. Despite the upheaval and the loss of their meeting area and Makerspace, the three teams persevered.

Boys receive their robots.

Boys receive their robots.

I read the email again.  When I saw the live announcement date, I groaned.  The third-graders (who made up the majority of my two teams) were going to be on a field trip.

Despite that setback, arrangements were made and parents invited.  Upon the third-graders’ return to school, they gathered in the library with Riley and friends to watch a recording of the live announcement.  When the Grand Prize Winners of the 9-12 age group were announced, the kids erupted in cheers and congratulations.  The Code Crackers were World Champions! 

Although the announcement brought our seven-month WLRC adventure to a close, it heralded a number of fantastic opportunities for team members Charlie, Aiden, Tommy, and Riley.   

Programming Sawyer at Rethink Robotics

Thanks to parent Paul Botto’s contacts, the Code Crackers were invited to visit Rethink Robotics and tour MIT Media Labs. On a rainy June day, the Code Crackers and families piled into cars for a “field trip” to Boston. At Rethink Robotics, (, the team learned about the history of the company and its cobots, or collaborative robots. Several employees shared their educational backgrounds and roles at the robotics company. The boys posed with Baxter, Rethink’s original two-armed cobot, and Sawyer, and the company’s current cobotic arm. The highlight of the trip was learning how to train Sawyer, with its seven degrees of movement, to perform a variety of tasks using his interchangeable gripper attachments.

After lunch at Rethink, the team headed to the MIT Media Labs (, where they were joined by a film crew from NBC, Boston 4. As part of their tour, the boys saw the results of past research that led to robotic advancements and enjoyed trying out the newer interactive technologies. After the tour, each boy was interviewed individually by the film crew for an Evening News segment.

The team at the CUE conference

When school resumed in the fall, the Code Crackers were in demand. Wonder Workshop invited the team to join Jeff Mao, Senior Strategic Education Outreach Manager, at Mass CUE in October. The team met Jeff at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro to help promote the WLRC and Dash’s features and accessories. The boys talked about the competition and demonstrated the Launcher and Drawing accessories as educators visited between breakout sessions. During a lull in visitors, Jeff, the boys, and I recorded a podcast with Mark Falcon of Robotics for Everyone.

A week later, the team was once again called upon to talk about their WLRC experience. This time, they spoke at an annual district event, the Pentucket Education Foundation celebratory dinner. Each boy was responsible for covering a different part of their experience: Riley – how the team came together, Tommy – visiting Rethink, MIT, and Mass Cue, Charlie – general WLRC data and learning about their win, and Aiden – the mission requirements.

The Code Crackers’ third appearance occurred in November. The boys traveled to Worcester to join Principal Dustin Gray and me at our Mass STEM Summit exhibit, Building a Robotics Program, K-6. While Dustin and I discussed our robotics curriculum with interested educators, the boys, sporting their Top Ten t-shirts, described the WLRC and demonstrated our Bee Bot, Probot, Dash, and Lego Mindstorms robots.

The boys at the MIT Media Labs.

The Code Crackers and I will always remember the amazing and unforeseen experiences generated by their World Champion win. We are grateful to the Wonder League for offering this unique competition to children around the world. The boys resoundingly agree the visit to Rethink Robotics was their favorite part of this whole experience. Tommy said, “At Rethink, we saw the next generation of factory robots.” Aiden added, “We got to see how the robots are made, how they are used, and we got to program them!” Our biggest takeaway? To quote Charlie, “You learn more from failing than you do from succeeding.” Boy, did we learn a lot!

Written by Hilary Seager, WLRC Coach of the Code Crackers, 2018 WLRC Winners.

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.