FLL, or First Lego League, is a competitive STEM activity that builds skills in communication, research, teamwork, problem solving and more. (oh- and there is a robot in there too!) Teams of up to 10 students ages 8-14 (8-16 outside of N. America) join thousands of other students each year, focused on a specific topic defined by that season’s theme. (See this season’s theme)
There are three components to each season’s challenge, two of which are specifically tailored to that season’s theme.
What Makes Up an FLL Challenge?
1/3 of the FLL experience is the project, which ties directly to the theme. With the project, your team must first identify a specific problem within the scope of the challenge and theme for the year, and then create a unique, innovative solution to that problem.
At a tournament, teams will reveal their solution in a 5 minute presentation to judges, followed by a 10 minute Q&A session.
(In the video below, the Bananas present during an exhibition time at the 2016 Legoland North American Open Invitational)
note: these presentations are typically done indoors, in a smaller room,
and without a mic to a panel of 2-3 judges. The coach is only standing in
here to keep the board from blowing over in the wind.
This judging session and the solution itself is evaluated on the Project Rubric.
Robot: Game and Judging
The Robot Game is the component of the challenge played out on a 4′ x 8′ game table by an autonomously programmed (meaning no joystick or connected controllers) Lego EV3 Robot. The team, via 2 technicians at a time, interacts with the robot when it is in an area of the game table known as BASE, and sends the robot out on MISSIONS where it will interact with MISSION MODELS during a 2:30 time constraint. The ROBOT GAME is scored as a “Performance” score, based on the point values of the completed missions, minus any penalties incurred during the timed runs. Three runs are scored during a tournament, with the best score being recorded. This score is the ONLY score where the “Highest score wins”, and is the basis of the tournament Robot Performance Award.
(In the video below, the team runs one of their final practices prior to a tournament in 2017. Note the multiple technician changes, but that only 2 techs are at the table at any given time)
Robot Judging, Robot Design Executive Summary (RDES)
This element of the Robot component truly proves the work of the team. In a 3 minute presentation, supported by written documentation, the team describes to judges the mechanical aspects, design processes, decision making, and programming that went into creating their robot solutions. This presentation is followed by a 10 minute open question time from the judges where they will look deeper into specific elements of the build, the programming, and the team, as well as potentially ask for a live demo. It is tremendously helpful to have a full printout of all of your programming in a folder for this presentation time! This session is judged on a Robot Design Rubric
If the Project and the Robot are WHAT you do in FLL, the Core Values element is HOW you do it.
Core Values: Presentation
During the Core Values Presentation time, teams are asked to complete three “tasks”. They will engage, as a team, in a brain twisting challenge (think ice breakers meets mind melters…) where the judges will look to assess what tools they use while both under a time constraint and pressure of an unknown challenge. KEEP IN MIND that the goal of this challenge is not to necessarily “solve” it, but more about HOW the team goes about the process, whether they solve it or not. Do they get on eachother? Does one person dominate the conversation? How open are they to ideas? How freely do they offer suggestions? Following this exercise, teams will present a two minute description of what is called the “Core Values Board” ( a template driven presentation board not necessarily used at every tournament – see your tournament rules), and then finally, answer 8-10 minutes of open questions from the judges based on how the team employs the FLL CORE VALUES. (see image)
Core Values Observation Judging
QUITE POSSIBLY THE BEST PART OF FLL!!! This is the secret sauce. It is cloaked in mystery. (Not really, but it sounds fun…) This is the portion of the tournament where literally, people are watching ALL THE TIME. When we were at the Legoland Open, our team saw a judge with a clipboard taking notes on the opposite side of the park from the pits. It is literally the part where you find out if you REALLY walk what you talk, or if you are just a good actor. Judges are roving throughout a tournament, noticing what teams are engaging with other teams, (and which ones are not), who is helping one another, who has an established sense of identity, and how willing teams are to engage, share, teach, and learn. It is everything from what you choose to do with your pit space (like put up a help request board?) to how your team interacts with one another when they are eating lunch (or if they CHOOSE to eat lunch with another team just to get to know them!) This, above all, is one of the most unique parts of FLL. It is also one of the best ways to differentiate your team if personality is your strength, so go out there and MAKE IT FUN!
CORE VALUES is evaluated by a Core Values Rubric.