A Primer on FLL (First Lego League)

Objectives

Using LEGO Mindstorms robotics as a hook to entice children to start a journey in practicing STEM and teamwork. For kids age 9-14.

Activities

  • A team builds and programs a LEGO Mindsorms robot customized to perform a set of missions. A new game is released each year in August. Each mission is worth some points, and the ultimate goal is to score as many points as possible in two and a half minutes.
  • A team works on solving a real-life problem of their choosing on the topic of the year. The project typically follows well established phases: first selecting a problem that speaks to the team, then working toward a solution, and then presenting their solutions to interested audiences.
  • Team members learn how to effectively work as a team, because just like in real life, STEM is a team sports. FIRST suggests a set of guidelines that encourages cooperation, respect, and mentoring.

Results

For many children, this is the first time that they will participate in a long-term project, as the season typically stretches from September to February. They will learn a lot, both in terms of robotics, programing, as well as team-working skills. They will develop valuable presentation skills as each team gets a chance to present their work (robot, project, teamwork) to a set of encouraging judges at a regional competition.

Mechanics

  • A team consists of up to 10 children and at least 2 adult mentors. For a first season, we recommend starting with a core of 4-6 children.
  • A team typically meet for 2-3 hours per week. Toward the end of the season, some add one more meeting as the competition date nears.
  • Mentors do not need to be overly technical; helping the kids with soft skills is probably the most important contributions from the mentors. We would recommend that one adult learns how to program the robots to be able to provide guidance to the children if the robot does not perform as expected. In general, we have found that each of the parents in a team can contribute valuable skills, from presentation skills, time management, programming, building, technical.
  • We recommend using the LEGO EV3 Mindstorms as a base; having two is recommended to help teammates compare distinct solutions based on performance rather than opinion. An EV3 costs about $400 and will be reused from year to year. Registering a team costs about $300 per season.
  • A team can meet in a living room or basement: the largest item is a 4x8 foot table on which all of the missions for the robot are placed. Building a table is relatively simple, and you may be able to inherit one from a local team. One or two computers (Mac or Windows) will be used to program the robots.

More Resources

We'd Love to Help

For children living in the Westchester, NY area, we are organizing a summer camp once a year, typically at the end of August. This is a great way to checkout if FLL is something that your child is interested in, and we will teach them a lot of robotics skills while solving a set of fun challenges.
Whether you live near or far, feel free to contact us (ftcrobocracy@gmail.com). We are happy to help you start on this fun and rewarding journey.

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