How to Start an FLL Team

Welcome!

Participating in FLL is an amazing experience for both the kids and the adults involved. With your guidance, the children on your team are going to inspire you, and those around you, in surprising ways. If you have no technical background, don’t be nervous. The team members are the ones who do the work. You only need to ask the questions and watch them… GO!

If you’re a new coach, we know this can seem overwhelming. But don’t worry. One of the amazing things about participating in FLL is that you’re now a part of our community. Your team is one of over 25,000 teams in over 80 countries!

FLL is more of a celebration than a “competition.” Coaches help other coaches. Teams help other teams. We want everyone who participates – team member, coach, or event volunteer – to have a fulfilling experience. That’s the reason we built FLL upon a set of Core Values that guides everything we do.

The following steps will give you an idea of what coaching an FLL team is all about. You will need to adjust to your schedule, but you will see that anyone can get kids excited about science, technology and engineering.

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

STEP 1: Learn about what we do

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.

Robot Game

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.

Project

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?

Core Values

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:

HAVE FUN! (Well, you can have fun AFTER the Challenge is released too.)

STEP 2: Form your team & register

You need to recruit up to 10 team members from ages 9 to14. 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 2014 would be eligible to compete in the Challenge released in August of 2014, whereas a child who turned 15 in December 2013 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 4×8 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 FIRST LEGO League Partner closest to you about getting started.

STEP 3: Order your materials

Make sure you check what the process is in your country to order the materials you will need for FLL. There are two basic material items every team needs*: (1) Field Setup Kit – this is the practice field for your robot and it includes an exclusive selection of LEGO bricks, dual lock fasteners, and a roll-out field mat, and (2) a LEGO® MINDSTORMS set to build your robot. Additionally, teams should visit the Coach/Team Resource page where they can download team registration information and tools, such as the Coaches’ Handbook. The Mission Model building instructions are posted online in August.

*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.

STEP 4: Begin working on the Challenge

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.

Tip: Make one member of your team responsible for checking the Robot Game Updates and Project Updates before every meeting.

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 FIRST LEGO League Partner how to register for a tournament in your area.

STEP 6: Attend a tournament and celebrate your season

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.

Tip: Show us how you’re preparing for the Challenge on our YouTube Channel.

Follow us on Twitter to get behind-the-scenes info as we develop our next Challenge.

LOCAL EVENT AND OFFICIAL TOURNAMENTS

If your team chooses to participate in a local event or official tournament, you’ll only have until that event to complete both parts of the Challenge (Robot Game and Project). They’ll feel a time crunch just like in the real world! Events are great opportunities for teams to interact with and learn from each other, whether it’s the first year they’ve participated or the third.

Local events follow their own structure. At officially-sanctioned FLL tournaments, teams are judged on theirProject Presentation, Teamwork, and Robot Design, which is the strategy they used in programming their Robot. Teams will also compete in three rounds of the Robot Game, plus one practice round. Only their best score that day counts! 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.”

Tip: If you are attending an official tournament, make sure you have a signed parental consent form for each member of your team and a completed team intro form.

What do I do once the Challenge is released?

Your team needs to carefully read all the documents that pertain to the Robot Game and Project. They are only available on our website! To get a sense of what these look like, you can see past Challenge documents here. You will need to download one document which explains the Project, plus some optional resources, but the Robot Game has a few components:

  • Missions
  • Rules
  • Game Rulings

The Missions and Rules are what your team needs to begin strategizing how to play the Robot Game. The Game Rulings are updated continually throughout the season to clarify questions we’ve received from other teams. It is important that you keep up with these rulings as they could affect how your team programs their robot.

Tip: Make one member of your team responsible for checking the Game Rulings and have him/her check the page at the beginning of every meeting.

What can I do with my team before the Challenge is released?

  • 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
  • Put together the Field Setup Kit
  • Begin researching the Challenge theme
  • Learn the FLL Core Values
  • Host a Jr.FLL event or mentor a Jr.FLL Team
  • Learn about the FTC and FRC programs for high school students.
  • Help promote FLL and the FIRST mission
  • HAVE FUN! (Well, you can have fun AFTER the Challenge is released too.)

How do I explain what I’m doing to others?

Here’s some things that are unique about FLL:

Anyone can coach. We really mean it! There’s no technical background needed.

Yearly Challenges are based on “real world” scientific topics like Nanotechnology, energy, transportation, and accessibility. Teams are actually tackling the same issues as today’s scientists and engineers!

Sure, children develop technical skills as a result of participating in FLL. But they also develop those important life and employment skills that will benefit them no matter which career path they choose. Brandeis University studies have shown that children who participate in FLL learn critical thinking, time management, collaboration, and how to communicate effectively, all while becoming more self confident.

Many children become interested in a career path related to one of the Challenge themes, in addition to sparking their interest in becoming the next generation of scientists and engineers. Teams also raise funds (Development), create a team name and identity (Marketing), and promote their activities (Advertising).

Teams can choose to participate in official tournaments, which are organized by our amazing volunteer network of Operational Partners around the globe, or in local events, which are organized by their community. These events are celebrations of their accomplishments, both technically and personally.

Team activities are guided by a set of Core Values, including: We do the work to find the solutions with guidance from our Coaches and Mentors.

Please send any general questions about the FLL program to planning@fllnigeria.org.

OPERATIONAL PARTNERS

Operational Partners are amazing people who VOLUNTEER to run the FLL program in a specific region. Please contact the Operational Partner in your area with any questions pertaining to official Tournaments and to be connected to a veteran coach. And please thank your Operational Partner for all they do!

Good luck!

Thank you, again, for coaching an FLL team. At the end of the season, we will send you a survey to gather feedback on your experience. We truly listen to what you have to say!

With High 5’s and Admiration,
FLL Headquarters – Manchester NH USA

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