What is First Lego League?
How much does it cost to start a team?
That’s a loaded question. For an independent single team, expect to need $800 to officially get started, and about $315 each additional year. The first year you have the registration fee ($225), annual challenge kit ($90), and the purchase of a LEGO Education SPIKE Prime set ($450) or Lego Education eV3 robotics kit $500 – now discontinued. There are price breaks for organizations to register multiple teams. In subsequent years, you’ll have just the registration fee and challenge kit. At the very least you’ll also need funds for presentation materials (markers, presentation board(s), paper/printouts/photocopies, glue, stickers etc), tournament registration fees and travel costs. A practice table is nice to have, a one time expense to build. Team shirts/hats/costumes, extra LEGO pieces/motors/tires, rubbermaid bins to carry equipment, pit table decorations, and shareable items are all fun to have but not mandatory. Food/Snacks at practices are good as well, especially if you meet right after school or at dinner time. Here is the team basics page.
What is a challenge kit and when does it arrive?
There is a new theme every year. With this new theme every team needs a challenge kit. You’ll get a 4′ long box in the mail, ours have come via FedEx. Included in the it is the rolled up 4×8 challenge mat, all the LEGO pieces to build the mission models, and a sheet of 3M dual-lock (plastic adhesive velcro to secure models to the mat). New this year 10 “Engineering Journals” arrived separately. The Engineering Journals walk the students through the theme, brainstorming ideas for their innovation project, mission models, and provide a space for notes. The kit arrives sometime after August 1st. It varies around the world. You will get a tracking number to stalk it and setup a fun “opening day” for the team to open the box and dig in.
I already have a LEGO Mindstorms eV3 “home” kit. Do I need to purchase a LEGO Education eV3 kit?
No you do not need the LEGO Education eV3 kit. Either is perfectly fine. If you need more parts and pieces you can find them on LEGO.com, amazon.com, eBay.com, or Lego brick sites like Bricklink.com or Brickowl.com. The newest LEGO Education kit called SPIKE Prime is also legal for tournament play and is the standard kit purchase going forward.
We have multiple teams. Do we need multiple robot kits?
Yes you do. One for each team as the kit only comes with one robot controller (“brain”) and enough motors for one robot. You could buy a new controller and all of the extra parts you want to build with separately, but a kit is likely a cheaper way to go.
I’ve never done FLL before, where do I start?
- Read everything on the current season’s resource`page – this page also includes helpful email addresses for answering questions
- Read everything on the team management resource page that you didn’t already read
- There’s an FLL forum, if you are comfortable with and like to use forums
- You can also Google search your questions, trust me someone else has had them too — or search on YouTube for helpful videos. Right now everyone is likely searching for something like “FLL City Shaper Missions”
There were no instructions in the challenge kit box, what do I do?
You are correct! There are no instructions in the kit box. Here is a link to the current season’s resource page. In the box are numbered bags. The numbers correspond to an instruction sheet. Here is a link to the current season’s mission model build instructions. If you have younger kids, put 2 on a bag together to double check each other and make sure the missions are built perfectly. If they aren’t perfect, you most likely will build/program your robot incorrectly as the mission models won’t match those at the tournament. Here is a a download for table build instructions:
I don’t know how to program or build an eV3 robot, where do I start?
There are lots of instructions online for how to build a basic “educator robot”, and I think one comes in the eV3 kit, which is a good place to start. There are many resources out there for building, programming and problem solving, but this page is our favorite: ev3lessons.com
What motors and sensors are allowed on the robot?
You can use 4 motors total in any combination. You can use unlimited sensors in any combination. You cannot use any form of remote control. It is all explained in the game guide.
How do I find and sign up for tournaments in my area?
Once you’ve got our team registered online, there’s a link from your team dashboard to search for tournaments. When you find one there will either be a registration link or a link to the tournament host’s site for more information.
What should we expect at a tournament?
You should get a schedule in advance, or at least know when arrival time is. This is how it works for us in Montana:
- Tournament schedule emailed out in advance (but changes are sent frequently after), a tournament takes a whole day 7:00am-5:00pm.
- Driving directions, parking directions and venue instructions are also emailed and provided on our tournament website
- Make sure you have all of your equipment, snacks and water bottles/drinks
- Arrive at check in time — each kid carries something from the car so we don’t make multiple trips
- Coach stands in check in line, checks in, verifies pit table assignment and collects final schedule
- Team goes to pit, sets up pit table, reviews schedule
- Coach goes to coaches meeting
- Team visits other teams in the pit, shares encouragement, swap small trinkets with other teams (stickers, bookmarks, candy, buttons, etc), asks questions about other teams projects. They can stand in line at a practice table and run their robot through a time or two. They can also practice their presentations (memorization and preparedness are good things). Sitting around playing on their phones/tablets is not what the roaming judges want to see. They want to see them engaged with their teammates and other teams.
- Coaches are not allowed to touch the robot or even a laptop at the tournament. If a robot or program needs tweaked, the kids need to be doing it. Adults are hands off.
- Team must be in line about 15 min early for every scheduled event.
- Have a lunch plan based on your schedule — our tournament is at a university, so we walk to the student mess hall/food court
- Awards are at about 4:30pm — if we have time we get all packed up around 4:00, so that once awards are over, we can pick our rubbermaid bins and presentation boards up and go.
What is “the PIT”?
The “PIT” is the place where all the teams hangout. Each team is assigned a table to setup their presentation display. We usually have a plastic tablecloth, our presentation boards, robot and something to share with kids that stop by our table. Everyone is welcome (even parents) to walk around and see all of the teams’ projects. The pit is the only place food is allowed.
What are coaches and parents allowed to do at the tournament?
Cheer on their team and provide encouragement. Make sure they are where they are supposed to be at the right times with all of their equipment. Keep them fed and hydrated. That is it. Coaches are allowed on the sidelines at the robot game, and not interfere at all. Parents must sit in the viewing area. No one is allowed to accompany the team to the event judging. We say “good luck” and watch them walk through a door and come out 30 minutes later after they’ve had all 3 judging sessions.
How are FLL tournaments scored?
The rubrics for the events are listed on the current season’s resource page but here are the rubrics for this year. The judges all sit down together, discuss the teams and their rubrics and decide on awards. The robot game winner is awarded based on score alone. Here is the robot game score sheet. The kids need to be well versed in robot game scoring and prepared to review the robot game score sheet with the judge, a kid must sign it, coaches have no input. If there are questions about scoring, a kid must ask, and escalate to the head judge themselves if there is a disagreement.
What awards are given and how are they decided?
There are several awards given out a tournament. Teams must participate in all activities at a tournament to qualify for awards. There is usually a first and second place awarded in each of 6 categories (there are 4 optional categories as well). There can also be special categories at a tournament (ie Overcoming Adversity). The big award is the Champion’s Award and that team goes to the World Championships in April. At least that’s how Montana works, we usually only get one bid to Worlds, every state is different. There is also an Outstanding Volunteer Award. You can learn more about the challenge and judging here and learn more about each of the awards here. A team can only get one award in a tournament. The exception to this rule is Robot Performance, this goes to the team with the highest score in the Robot Game, that team is eligible for the other awards as well. Winning teams receive a trophy made of LEGOs. They are neat, we have been awarded two. All participants get a medal.
Our season is over, now what?
- Have a party to celebrate their accomplishments, invite family and special guests. Have your board/robot available if possible and have the kids show off what they’ve be doing. Let them talk about their season, their challenges, favorite things, what they want to work more on next season, etc.
- See if there are other activities you can do with your game board (we go to the local maker faire).
- When you’re all done with your game board it’s time to pack it up. Take apart the mission models. Remove all of the dual-lock. Sort your LEGO blocks however you wish for use next season. Roll up the mat and figure out what you’re going to do with it (sell it, donate it, recycle it, keep it). Some teams resell their whole challenge kit, mat and mission model pieces.
- Work on recruitment of new team members/volunteers in the off season.
- Host robotics camps/events in your community.
- Work on fundraising if needed.
- After May 1st, register your team for the new season and order your challenge kit.
- Plan your next season kick off for when your board arrives after August 1st.
- Do it all again! 🙂