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. NZ Team Anti-matter at 2012 NZ Championship.
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.
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 ensure your team has a spot.
• Review Challenges from past seasons to see what FLL teams have done before
• Review the FLL Participation Rules and download other resources. Read the Coaches' Handbook.
• 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 8 to 16 . 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 1.2x2.4m playing field, and a computer with internet access.
Once you know that you will have a team (you do not need all team member names yet), register your team on kiwifirst.org.
There are three (3) basic items every team needs: Team Registration (in New Zealand this also covers entry to the Championship tournament), 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).
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 firstlegoleague.org. 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.
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.”