First Lego League

What is FIRST LEGO League?

Called FLL for short, it is a collaboration between FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) and LEGO Education.

FIRST® LEGO® League is the most accessible, guided, global robotics competition, helping students and teachers to build a better future together. The program is built around theme-based Challenges to engage children ages 9 to 14 in research, problem solving, coding, and engineering. The foundation of the program is the FIRST® Core Values, which emphasize teamwork, discovery, and innovation. Students emerge more confident, excited, and equipped with the skills they need in a changing workforce.

FLL has proven educational and growth outcomes:

There are 3 divisions starting this year (Jr Discovery is new).

RoboScout Squad competed in FLL for 3 seasons. The FLL experience is comprised of 4 main parts.

  • The Robot Game — We build and program a Lego Mindstorms robot to autonomously complete the mission objectives on the game board. Each mission has a point value. In tournament play, we get 2.5 minutes to complete as many missions as we can. The team with the highest points wins.
  • The Innovation Project — We chose a problem in our community, country or world related to the annual theme. Then we research the problem and come up with an innovative solution. This can be either a new solution or an improvement on existing solutions. We prepare a 5 minute presentation to give before a panel of judges. The judges then have 5 minutes for Q&A.
  • The Robot Presentation — We take our robot and programs into a judging room and talk about our robot with the judges. They may ask us to demo our programs and show them our attachments. The judges are interested in what we learned since last year, where we still need to improve and what we want to learn next year.
  • The Core Values Challenge — We enter a judging room and are given an impromptu teamwork challenge. They are evaluating our teamwork, inclusion, respect, communication and innovation in completing the task. — The Core Values Challenge seems to be on hold, likely due to social distancing concerns and remote competitions.

Core Values

The guiding principals of FLL are the Core Values. We teach them, learn them and strive to live them.

FLL Season

The FLL season starts August 1st and ends with the World Championship in April. For most of us in Montana, our official season ends in late January at the Montana State FLL Tournament in Bozeman. Annual challenge kits arrive in the mail after August 1st. We have from that time until the state tournament to prepare. We generally meet once a week for 2 hours and we usually have a few longer Saturday meetings throughout the season.

Starting an FLL Team

Starting a team is not difficult and coaches/volunteers don’t have to be knowledgeable about LEGO robotics, just willing to learn and guide. It’s not hard. You’ll need at least 2 coaches, and 2-10 kids. Coaches will go through a background check (paid for by FLL).

The age rule in the U.S. is you have to be within the age limits on January 1st at the start of the challenge year. So, as long as a child is 9-14 on Jan 1, 2019, they can compete in the 19-20 season even if they turn 15 before August 1. They must be at least 9 on Jan 1.

Start up costs vary depending on whether you are signing up a single team ($225 annual registration), or a group of teams (they have organization pricing). There are no per child costs. A LEGO Education/eV3 starter kit is about $500. Annual challenge kits are $75 + $15 s/h. Learn more about starting a team here. You’ll also need a place to meet that has room for a 4×8′ game board with room to walk around safely. Internet in your practice space is also helpful. You’ll need a PC preferably a laptop for programming. The Mindstorms software is free and can be downloaded here. There is a mobile app for Mindstorms, but it is lacking some features.

The Robot Game Table

You can practice with your mat on a hard floor (not carpet). If you choose to build a game table, you’ll need some lumber, a 4’x8′ sheet of plywood, six 8′ 2x3s, a saw and a box of screws. You’ll need to saw three of your 2x3s in half for your table ends and underside stabilizers. Most hardware stores will do this for you if you don’t want to mess with a saw. If you want your table elevated, you’ll need something to set it on, like a banquet table or sawhorses. Our team earned their woodworking badge building our table. It sits on 2 plastic sawhorses.

The robot game mat is heavy coated paper and it arrives rolled up in a 4′ box. If you wish the mat can be tacked to the board with 3M dual-lock, but note per tournament rules the mats will not be secured at competitions and missions do lift, so it’s better to practice without the mat tacked down so you can program/build to compensate.

The mission models are attached with 3M dual-lock. If you need to put down your table between practice sessions you can detach your models and put them safely away. We leave our table setup and ready to go all season. This is ideal because we don’t have to worry about our models breaking from handling/storage. Off season, our table sits on it’s side, leaning almost flat against the wall with the sawhorses collapsed against it.

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