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Every year, FIRST LEGO League releases a Challenge, which is based on a real-world scientific topic.

Each Challenge has three parts: the Robot Game, the Project, and the Core Values. Teams of up to ten children, with at least two adult coaches, participate in the Challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (Robot Game), developing a solution to a problem they have identified (Project), all guided by the FIRST LEGO League Core Values. Teams may then attend an official tournament, hosted by our FIRST LEGO League Partners.

Past Challenges have been based on topics such as nanotechnology, climate, quality of life for the handicapped population, and transportation. By designing our Challenges around such topics, participants are exposed to potential career paths within a chosen Challenge topic, in addition to solidifying the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) principles that naturally come from participating in the program. Team members also learn valuable life and employment skills which will benefit them no matter which career path they choose.

Participation Rules

Like other team activities, FIRST LEGO League has basic ground rules.  Failure to abide by these rules could result in ineligibility for awards at a tournament or other consequences deemed necessary by Judges, Referees, Tournament Organizers, FIRST LEGO League Partners, Headquarters, or their designated representatives.  Additional rules and awards criteria may be found through the links below. 

General +
  • Team members must make all decisions and do all the work on the Robot Game and Project. This includes deciding on strategy, building, programming, researching, choosing a problem and innovative solution, and presenting at a tournament.
    • Anyone who works with the team (Coaches, Mentors, Topic Experts, Parents, etc.) may teach team members new skills, handle logistics for the team, ask questions to get team members thinking, and remind them of the FIRST LEGO League rules. Adults play an important role in coaching and supporting their team, but the team’s robot and Project should be the work of team members.
Team Members +
  • A team must have a minimum of two (2) and a maximum of ten (10) children. A team with more than ten (10) children will not be eligible for awards at an official tournament.
  • Children may be members of only one (1) FIRST LEGO League team per season.
  • No team member may be outside the maximum allowed age in your region prior to January 1 of the year the Challenge is released.
    • Allowed ages in most countries: 9-16 years
    • Allowed ages in U.S., Canada, and Mexico: 9-14 years
    • For example, in the United States, a student who turns 15 in May of 2016 would be eligible to compete in the Challenge released in August of 2016, whereas a child who turned 15 in December 2015 would not.
Robot Game +
  • Each team's robot must be built in accordance with all allowable parts, software and other rules.
Project +
  • Teams must demonstrate completion of all three (3) steps of the Project (identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and share with others) as part of their presentation, and fulfill any other requirements as defined in the annual Project document.
Tournaments +
  • All teams must be officially registered and paid before they will be allowed to participate in official tournaments.
  • Many regions have multiple levels of competition.  While teams may attend other events for fun (if space allows), they are only eligible to win awards at the first official event of each level attended during the season.  Teams may not receive multiple chances to advance to the next level of competition.  Please contact your FIRST LEGO League Partner with any questions about how this works in your region.
  • At a minimum, each team should have two supervising adults responsible for only that team.
  • Teams must participate in the robot performance rounds as well as all three (3) judging sessions (Core Values, Robot Design, and Project) in order to be eligible for any Core Award.
  • All team members present at an event are expected to participate in all three (3) judged sessions, in addition to showing up as a team for the Robot Game.
  • FIRST LEGO League expects teams and those associated with the team to uphold and display Core Values at all times, not just during Core Values judging sessions.
  • Only tournament officials (Judges, Referees, and other tournament workers) may direct team members while judging sessions and robot matches are in progress.  Any other person instructing, prompting, heckling, or otherwise interfering with a team or tournament worker during judging sessions or robot matches may be asked to leave by tournament officials.  In severe cases, these activities may also affect the team’s eligibility for awards and/or participation in the tournament.

Updated Participation Rules - going into effect for the 2018/2019 season



On your mark, get set, flow! Drink in the 2017/2018 HYDRO DYNAMICSSM season and learn all about water – how we find, transport, use, or dispose of it. In the 2017/2018 FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge, students age 9 to 16* from 80 countries will make a splash with HYDRO DYNAMICS. What might become possible when we understand what happens to our water?

FIRST LEGO League challenges kids to think like scientists and engineers. During the HYDRO DYNAMICSSM season, teams will choose and solve a real-world problem in the Project. They will also build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® technology to solve a set of missions in the Robot Game. Throughout their experience, teams will operate under the FIRST LEGO League signature set of Core Values, celebrating discovery, teamwork, and Gracious Professionalism®.

*Ages vary by country


HYDRO DYNAMICS Challenge - Letter


HYDRO DYNAMICS Challenge Guide:

HYDRO DYNAMICS Challenge Guide - Letter

HYDRO DYNAMICS Challenge Guide - A4

HYDRO DYNAMICS Challenge Updates  (updated 12/18)

Welcome to the Season Videos:

Mission Model Building Instructions

Field Setup Guide - Letter

Field Setup Guide - A4

Overhead view of field

Coaches' Handbook


Download ALL Challenge-specific Files - Zip File



Judging & Awards

FIRST LEGO League is known around the globe not only for what we do (the Robot Game and Project), but also how we do it, with Core Values at the heart. The rubrics used for judging reflect these three equally important aspects of FIRST LEGO League.

Official tournaments must follow the judging and awards structure determined by FIRST LEGO League. Although the audience mostly sees teams playing the Robot Game at tournaments, teams are also being judged on:

  • Core Values
  • Project
  • Robot Design

The Core Values Poster and the Robot Design Executive Summary are additional tools that may be used to help facilitate discussion in the Core Values and Robot Design Judging sessions at official events.  Your Partner will distribute the instructions to teams outlining the information to be included if your Region plans to require the Core Values Poster and/or the Robot Design Executive Summary at its events. Please contact your Partner for further information. The Core Values Poster and the Robot Design Executive Summary will be used as part of the judging at World Festival.

Rubrics (updated September 5, 2017)

Award Descriptions

About Judging

  • Teams must participate in all elements of a FIRST LEGO League competition including the Robot Game and all three judged areas in order to be eligible for any Core Award.
  • Judges use the rubrics to help them determine which teams will receive awards.
  • With the exception of the Robot Performance Award, awards are determined by a deliberation process, which is formulated around discussions of team performance in each category.
  • If a team does not exhibit Core Values at a tournament, they may be disqualified from winning any awards – including Robot Performance, no matter how well they scored.
  • Adults are strictly prohibited from directing team members or interfering with the judging process or robot rounds in any way.
  • No team is allowed to win two awards, unless one of the awards is for Robot Performance. Robot Performance is the only category based solely on score.
  • While they may attend other events for fun, teams are only eligible to win awards at the first official event of each qualifying level attended during the season.

Judging FAQ

A: The Champion’s Award recognizes a team that “embodies the FIRST LEGO League experience, by fully embracing our Core Values while achieving excellence and innovation in both the Robot Game and Project.” 
At an official event Judges will look for balanced, strong performance across all three areas; this means that all three judged sessions (Core Values, Robot Design, and Project) are weighted equally to determine the initial group of Champion’s candidates.  All candidates must also meet the following requirements:

  • Robot: The team must score in the top 40% of all teams participating in the Robot Game at the event.
  • Project: The team must complete all parts of the Project, including the identification of a real world problem related to the Challenge theme, creation of an innovative solution and sharing their research and solution with others, as well as any other season-specific requirements that may exist.
  • Core Values: The team must adhere to all Core Values throughout the event and the season.

All candidate teams are then reviewed during a deliberative process that considers Robot Performance placement and other qualitative factors.  Final determination of the award winner(s) is based on a vote of the full judging panel.

A: In accordance with the Participation Rules, teams are eligible for awards and advancement only at the first official event of each qualifying level attended during season.  In most cases, event capacity within a region limits team participation to only one qualifying event each season. 

The qualifier advancement policy is based on Champion’s Award criteria.  As described above, Champion’s Award criteria require that the team, performs well in all three judged areas (Core Values, Project, and Robot Design).  Teams are required to be ranked in the in the top 40% of official Robot Game scores to be considered for Champion’s Award and they must be ranked in the top 75% of official Robot Game scores to be eligible to advance.

Contact your local Partner or Tournament Director to find out how many teams will be advancing from the event you are attending. (See the official Advancement Policy).

It is possible for a team to receive a 1st Place Core Values, Project, or Robot Design Award but not advance to Championship if their Robot Performance score is ranked below the top 75% of teams at the event.  A team may win 1st Place in Robot Performance but not advance to Championship due to not having performed well in one or more of the three judged areas.

A: It is not possible to win the Robot Performance Award without doing the Project.  Teams must participate in all 3 judged areas (Project, Core Values and Robot Design) and the Robot Game to be eligible for any Core Awards and Robot Performance is a Core Award. This rule encourages teams to embrace the spirit of discovery and focus on all aspects of the Challenge.

A: The Robot Performance Award recognizes a team that scores the most points during the Robot Game.   Teams have a chance to compete in at least three 2.5 minute matches and only the highest score out of the three matches counts.   While some events may hold elimination or alliance matches for the excitement and fun, these may not be used to determine the Robot Performance Award.  Instead, any awards provided for elimination or alliance matches may only be Local Awards. Note that scores from any alliance or elimination rounds will not be used to determine the Robot Performance bar (at or better than the top 40%) needed to be met for qualifier advancement or Champion’s Award consideration.

A: Some Judges may warn the team that they have gone over five minutes, while others will allow the team to finish. In some cases, the tournament may need to keep a very strict time schedule, so Judges will end the presentation at five minutes. If the Judges allow a team to go over five minutes, that may reduce the amount of time Judges have to ask questions and could affect how the Judges assess your team. Your team should practice timing their presentation before the tournament to reduce the chance they will go over five minutes.

A: As stated in the Project document, teams should plan a presentation that they are able to set up and break down with no adult help. The coach should refrain from helping the team set up any presentation materials or props. There may be rare instances when a presentation prop or other item is too bulky or heavy for team members to carry. In this instance, some tournaments may allow the coach to assist the team, or the tournament may provide volunteers to move the heavy/bulky item. Check with your tournament organizer before the tournament if you have any questions about tournament policies and procedures.

A:  Each official tournament is held to a set of “Global Standards,” designed to provide a consistent experience for teams attending official events.  Some items, including the rubrics, are required to be used by events exactly as provided by FIRST.  Other items may be modified to meet local needs.

Official tournaments will not have any new or additional requirements, such as a binder or video, other than the required items outlined in the Challenge document, Coaches’ Handbook, and FIRST website.

Each region may choose to require teams to present a Core Values Poster or Robot Design Executive Summary.  In addition, some regions may have completely optional additions that are only used for local awards.  These local, optional additions will not be taken into account by the Judges for any Core Awards.

If you have any questions about what is required at your tournament, please contact your FIRST LEGO League Partner or Tournament Director.