STEP 1: Learn about what we do
STEP 2: Form your team & register
STEP 3: Order your materials
STEP 4: Begin working on the Challenge
STEP 5: Apply for a tournament
STEP 6: Attend a tournament and celebrate your season
Each year FLL releases a new Challenge for our teams. The Challenge is released in late August and focuses on a different scientific topic or question each year. You don’t need to wait until August to get started though. Knowing what to expect will help your team hit the ground running. The Challenge has three parts: the Robot Game, the Project, and the FLL Core Values.
In the Robot Game, the kids build and program an autonomous (no remote control) LEGO MINDSTORMS® robot to score points by performing mission tasks. These missions will be inspired by the Challenge theme. Missions require the robot to navigate, capture, transport, or deliver objects on a printed mat (the Field). The robot has 2 ½ minutes to complete as many missions as possible.
Through the Project, teams learn more about the science behind the Challenge theme. The kids use their creativity to design a solution (or modify an existing solution) to solve a real-world problem. We even give you a head start – we tell you the theme months ahead of time! Even though you will not know the exact details of the Challenge, you can begin researching the theme with your team as soon as it is announced.
Why a Project in a Robotics Competition?
While FLL teams work on the Robot Game and the Project each year, they are guided by the FLL Core Values. The Core Values are part of what makes FLL so special, because kids compete like crazy against the game but still respect their teammates, coaches, and even their “competitors.” Don’t forget, our last (and maybe most important) Core Value is “We have FUN!”
If you have time before the Challenge is released, you may want to:
• Register your team for the season (see below). We recommend registering early to insure your team has a spot.
• Review Challenges from past seasons to see what FLL teams have done before
• Review the FLL Participation Rules
• Create a team identity – name, logo, team shirts, mascot
• Fundraise or apply for grants – to pay for team shirts, any tournament fees, registration fee, etc.
• Learn how to use the MINDSTORMS Robot Set and software through online resources or the tutorials included with your FLL Robot Set
• Follow @firstlegoleague on Twitter
• Check out the videos on our YouTube Channel
• Read about other team experiences that our official correspondents are reporting on our blog
• HAVE FUN! (Well, you can have fun AFTER the Challenge is released too.)
You need to recruit up to 10 team members from ages 9 to16 (9 to 14 in US/CAN/MEX). Team members must not exceed the maximum age on January 1 of the year the Challenge is released. For example, in the United States a student who turns 15 in May of 2013 would be eligible to compete in the Challenge released in August of 2013, whereas a child who turned 15 in December 2012 would not. Keep in mind that children can only be on one (1) team, but a coach is allowed to coach multiple teams. You will need a meeting space that has room to set up the 4x8 playing field, and a computer with internet access.
Note on Team Size:
With growing interest in FLL, some coaches have more than 10 children wanting to join the team. If they are not in a position to form a second team, they must make the difficult decision to select the final 10 members. We recognize this is not an easy choice, and appreciate the care and thought given to making this final decision. As such, we remind coaches who may have chosen not to make this selection to respect all those coaches globally that did. We must enforce our 10 team member policy at all FLL events. Teams attending an event with more than 10 children will be informed by the event organizer that the team is more than welcome to participate in the event to gain the valuable experience, but they will not be eligible for awards. See also FLL Participation Rules.
Once you know that you will have a team (you do not need all team member names yet), register your team at your national level. The registration process varies by country, so visit your country's website for more details. If your country does not have a website, feel free to contact the Operational Partner closest to you about getting started.
Make sure you check what the process is in your country to order the materials you will need for FLL. There are three (3) basic items every team needs: Team Registration (which in the US and Canada provides you with a copy of the Coaches’ Handbook, some helpful DVDs, and 2 coach pins), a Field Setup Kit (this is the practice field for your robot – it includes an exclusive selection of LEGO bricks, the instructions to assemble your mission models, and a roll-out field), and a LEGO MINDSTORMS set (to build your robot).
Don’t worry though. If your team already has a LEGO MINDSTORMS set, you are not required to buy the FLL Robot Set. Also, you will need a new Field Setup Kit each year, but you may share your Field Setup Kit with another team if you wish. Just make sure you work out a sharing schedule that works for both teams. Remember, it would be very hard for two soccer teams to practice on the same field at the same time – the same is true for the FLL field.
Once the Challenge is released in late August, you will find all the documents you need on this website. These will include details of what the team is expected to complete this season as well as information about how your team will be judged at a tournament. Then your team can begin working in earnest. Most teams spend about eight (8) weeks preparing for a tournament. Many new teams start by meeting twice a week for one (1) to two (2) hours. See how that works, and then you can adjust your meeting schedule if you need more or less time.
Some teams work on both the Robot Game and the Project for part of each meeting. Others devote one meeting per week to each part of the Challenge. Work with your team to find the right balance. Just remember that you will need to have both your robot and your Project ready before you attend a tournament.
STEP 5: Apply for a tournament
If your team chooses to participate in an official tournament, the tournament day is your deadline to complete the Robot Game and Project. Your team will feel a time crunch just like in the real world! Tournaments are great opportunities for teams to interact with and learn from each other, whether this is the first year a team has participated or the sixth.
The tournament registration process is different in each region. Check your country's website, or ask your Operational Partner how to register for a tournament in your area.
At FLL tournaments, teams are judged on their Project Presentation, Core Values, and Robot Design. Teams will also compete in three rounds of the Robot Game. Teams have the opportunity to win awards in each of these categories, but the FLL Core Values remain the focus. “What we discover is more important than what we win.”
Whether your team decides to attend a tournament or not, take time to celebrate your season. Teams grow and learn together throughout the FLL season, so it is important to take a little time at the end to recognize each team member and celebrate all they accomplished together.