Children at FIRST LEGO League tournament

FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) UK and Ireland

Solve real world problems with the help of a robot!

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For more information email: firstlegoleague@theiet.org

Frequently asked questions

 

If you're new to FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL), you probably have a lot of questions about how the programme works. If you have a question that isn't answered here, please feel free to contact us at firstlegoleague@theiet.org.

 

Getting started

What’s the essential kit that I need to take part in FLL?
I’m on a shoestring budget – will I still be able enter?
I’ve registered a team. What should I do next to get them started?
Is it mandatory to construct a robot game practice table?

 

Working on the challenges

What’s more important, the robot game or the project?
As the coach, do I have to know how to program the LEGO robots myself?
Do we have to complete all the missions on the robot game field?
I’ve seen some FLL robots on YouTube scoring hundreds of points. If my team’s robot can’t do that, will they feel demoralised at the tournament?


The rules

There are a lot of rules! Do we have to know them all inside out?
Why does FLL allow such a wide age range?


Tournament day

What happens on tournament day?
My team are new and don’t think they’ll be ready to compete at the tournament. Can we pull out?
Do new teams ever win prizes in their first year?

 

 

 

Getting started

What’s the essential kit that I need to take part in FLL?

  • A LEGO MINDSTORMS brick (any version is acceptable: RCX, NXT or EV3)
  • Some extra LEGO with which to build the robot
  • A computer that you can run the MINDSTORMS software on
  • Basic stationery for the project

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I’m on a shoestring budget – will I still be able enter?

Just like when setting up a new sports team, you’ll need to invest in a bit of kit (see above) to get the ball rolling. However, there are various options you could explore to keep these costs down. For example:

  • Approach local engineering-based companies to see if they’ll sponsor you as part of their CSR work. As well as helping with your costs, they could provide team t-shirts containing the company’s logo, and feature in any local media coverage of your team’s work – students competing with LEGO robots makes for a good news story.
  • Contact your local STEMNET contract holder to see if they know of anyone in the area who has a spare MINDSTORMS kit that you could borrow while you get started
  • Hold a “LEGO Amnesty” by asking parents to donate unused LEGO to your team with which they can build their robot

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I’ve registered a team. What should I do next to get them started?

The challenge is released at the end of August, and your Challenge Set will be sent to you soon after this as long as you’ve paid your registration fee. If you have some time available before this, get your team to investigate their MINDSTORMS kit and the programming software, and encourage them to look at the previous year's project challenge document so that they know what sort of thing to expect (you may want to break this into bite-sized chunks for them).

When the challenge is released, your initial role is to focus your team on digesting the information in the documents and helping them to organise their time. It’s important that they make the decisions on what they do, but you can make sure they’re not getting too absorbed in one side of the challenge at the expense of the other two.

A group of FLL participants helped us put together this video with tips on getting your team up and running.

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Is it mandatory to construct a robot game practice table?

No. It’s useful to have this because the team may want to use the walls when tackling some of the missions - but many teams do very well without it. If you want to build one, instructions are on the global FLL website. If you have a practice table, you don’t need to bring it to the tournament event unless you want to (in which case please check with the local organisers first). The event organisers will provide the competition tables on the day, and usually a couple of practice tables for the teams to share.

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Working on the challenges

What’s more important, the robot game or the project?

The project, robot game and the core values are all considered equally important parts of FLL. The most successful teams are those who perform consistently well across all three categories. Hear more about the three parts of FLL.

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As the coach, do I have to know how to program the LEGO robots myself?

No. It’s not difficult to pick up the basics of the MINDSTORMS software, and it’s up to the team members to find the information they need to complete the challenges.

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Do we have to complete all the missions on the robot game field?

No. It’s very unusual for a team to do this. Your team needs to strategically choose which missions to tackle to maximise points over the two and a half minute length of the match. Make sure the team read the rules carefully and don’t miss missions where they can pick up easy points.

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I’ve seen some FLL robots on YouTube scoring hundreds of points. If my team’s robot can’t do that, will they feel demoralised at the tournament?

The vast majority of teams keep their robot pretty simple. Most teams will be just as nervous as yours before they get to the tournament, but if they do find themselves competing against a very experienced team in the robot game, encourage your team to learn all they can from watching them – and remember that FLL isn’t only about the robots! Tournament staff will be working hard to make sure that your team leave feeling good about what they’ve done, and the atmosphere at the events is always friendly and supportive.

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The rules

There are a lot of rules for the Robot Game! What's the best way for the team to approach them?

At the beginning, you can help your team to digest the rules by dividing the document up into manageable chunks. You can also pick out things that you think will be particularly relevant to your team's planning (based on their level of experience with MINDSTORMS) and bring these to their attention. The rules are carefully worded so that they can be taken absolutely literally - younger participants may need your support to get used to this. It's crucial that the team understands how their robot needs to work from the outset so that they don't spend lots of time working on a design that won't be accepted on tournament day. To pick out a few key things to help them get started:

  • The robot has to be made entirely of LEGO parts
  • The robot has to be programmed, so that it runs autonomously on the board (they can’t control it using Bluetooth)
  • It has to start entirely in base, which is a volume 30.5cm tall above the area on the mat.
  • They can program it to come back to the safety area as often as they like during the two and a half minute duration of the game so that they can restart it with a different program.
  • Anything the robot does (good or bad) stays as it is - they can't reset a mission with their hands during the game if the robot doesn't do what it's meant to.
  • Most of the marks are given based on how the mat looks when the clock stops.
  • If the robot gets stuck, they can bring it back with their hands, but this will incur a penalty which will lose them some points.

NB This list is not exhaustive – it’s essential that your team spends time checking the rules to make sure that their robot design will be accepted on the day.

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Why does FLL allow such a wide age range?

The age range of 9-16 means that students are able to progress steadily over several years, and newer teams can learn from experienced ones at tournaments. If you’re working with younger students, please do reassure them that the atmosphere at the tournament event will be friendly and welcoming. They also have every chance of winning awards: over a third of teams who progressed to the 2015-16 UK and Ireland Final were primary age, and several awards at the Final were won by primary aged teams, including the Champions' Award. The fact that FLL emphasises the project and core values as much as the robot game means that the programme is accessible to a wider range of children than most other robotics competitions.

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Tournament day

What happens on tournament day?

Teams arrive at the venue, check in, and are each allocated their own “pit” area. This is their home space for the day, and will usually contain a table and a power socket (the local organisers will confirm what is and isn’t provided at their venue). There will be time for the team to settle in.

The day kicks off with an opening ceremony, in which the MC will explain the timetable for the day and what awards are up for grabs. Different tournaments use different timetable formats depending on the number of teams present and facilities available. Over the course of the day, your team will compete with their robot in at least three robot games, and be interviewed by panels of judges on their approach to the Core Values and on the design of their robot. They will also need to give a 5 minute presentation on their research project to a panel of judges, who will then ask them questions about their work.

Some tournaments include robot game knockout rounds, and some will run additional activities for the teams while the judges deliberate. The day will end with the awards ceremony, at which every participant will receive an FLL medal. Awards are presented for each category and an overall winner is announced who will be invited to progress to the UK and Ireland Final.

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My team are new and don’t think they’ll be ready to compete at the tournament. Can we pull out?

As long as your team have made an effort at tackling the project and robot game in the spirit of the Core Values, they will learn a lot from attending the tournament and will enjoy the day. The aim of the tournament is to celebrate the work that the students have done. All tournament staff will be working hard to make sure that there is a positive, encouraging atmosphere, so whether the team win an award or not they should come away feeling good about their work. If they’ve enjoyed working on the challenges and have fun at the tournament then you will have completed a successful first year in FLL, and should be well placed to go again next season!

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Do new teams ever win prizes in their first year?

Yes, this happens a lot. A few new teams every year even win the Champions’ Award at their tournament, and this year the top award at the UK and Ireland Final was won by a primary school team who were taking part for the first time. They went on to represent their country at the FLL World Festival in the USA, where they won an award for innovation.

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