LEGO Robotics feature the LEGO Mindstorms® system utilizing LEGO bricks, electronic parts and software to program the completed project. While FIRST LEGO League (FLL) may be designed for elementary and middle school children, it is an excellent opportunity to combine science, technology and engineering to show how fun this subject can be.
With technology only growing in the future, the introduction of LEGO Robotics allows the students to explore in a hands-on environment. It demystifies the processes computers, smart phones and other electronic devices utilize. It also allows them to combine mathematics, science, technology and even literacy into one program. Explore the Web to find out what FLL entails.
2. Building a community through cooperation.
By participating, you are helping kids learn the same principles other teams are exploring worldwide. Not only do the kids learn to work together as a group to complete their own challenge, they also see others from our global community compete in the same challenge. What other projects / groups can you think of that offer this opportunity?
3. Previous theme challenges.
Explore previous theme challenges to find out about the challenges offered and the popularity of the FLL. Here’s a brief list to get you started.
- 1998 (pilot year) — 210 global teams
- 1999 — First Contact — 975 global teams
- 2000 — Volcanic Panic —1,540 global teams
- 2001 — Arctic Impact — 1,902 global teams
- 2002 — City Sights — 3,001 global teams
- 2003 — Mission Mars — 4,331 global teams
- 2004 — No Limits — 5,859 global teams
- 2005 — Ocean Odyssey — 7,501 global teams
- 2006 — Nano Quest — 8,808 global teams
- 2007 — Power Puzzle — 10,894 global teams
- 2008 — Climate Connections — 12,944 global teams
- 2009 — Smart Move — 14,725 global teams
- 2010 — Body Forward — 16,762 global teams
- 2011 — Food Factor! — 18,323 global teams
- 2012 — Senior Solutions — not yet available
- 2013 — Nature’s Fury — current competition
- 2014 — World Class Learning Unleashed — coming August 2014
4. See them in action!
Check out the LEGO YouTube Channel or the LEGO Blog, both linked to the FIRST LEGO League site. You can see and read about previous challenges.
5. Attend a workshop.
Some schools / organizations have special kits available so kids can try a basic robot and a few programmed moves. Find a workshop that you can watch and / or your kids can try.
6. Find a local experienced team.
Find a local team you can talk to and might be willing to meet kids who are interested in trying out the LEGO Robotics / FIRST program. Set up a meeting with all interested parties and have questions ready to ask.
7. What is a robot?
Define what a robot is. Where are robots used today? Why are robots used? Why would building and programming a robot be important to our youth?
Accept the challenge
Find out about coaching by reading materials available online. You may also choose to listen to the coach support calls (MP3s).
Remember: One coach is required per team. A coach may have more than one team, but no team member may be part of more than one team (kids). You do not need to have technical experience to be a coach. The kids do all the work.
9. The team.
Team members can be ages 9-14 (US and Canada), covering middle school and high school. Other countries accept kids ages 9-16. Teams include up to ten kids. These teams can be from a classroom, club, organization, homeschooled or a group of friends. Typically, registration starts in May, the project is released in September and the tournaments start in November. Make sure your group can work together for a long period of time.
10. Goals for your team.
Review the materials for the program and help your team set and achieve goals. This list will help start you out.
- Find a sponsor or group that will support your team
- Find a location you can meet where you can leave your materials, including a 4’ x 8’ area for the play field
- Create a schedule for working on your project that all team members can make
- Take turns doing the steps so everyone has a chance to fully participate
- Build your robot
- Plan your mission
- Research your project
11. LEGO Mindstorms.
Mindstorms were introduced in 1998. The main parts of the Mindstorms system include:
- RCX — brain of the robot where programming is uploaded
- Motor — can be turned on/off and direction of spin added
- Light sensor — used as an input device
- USB — either a wire or an infrared tower to send programming to the RCX
Check out Mindstorms on the Web to learn about this unique set of blocks.
12. Program a robot.
Download and watch the NXT Programming Tutorial. This programming features graphics instead of coding. You can also check out the PDF for programming tips.
13. Build a robot.
Mini-challenge activities are available to help practice building a robot and programming it. Look through these PDFs to see the Team Practice Activity. Also review the Curriculum PDFs for additional robotic materials.
14. Research project.
Check out the research project with the current challenge. Your team’s research project will end with a live presentation utilizing posters, slide shows, models, multimedia clips or anything else the team thinks of including. In addition to practicing with your robot, practice giving your live presentation to make it more natural for your team to present.
The team / project are judged on teamwork, technical design, research, presentation and completing the mission. Time and precision of the robot are extremely important. Watch competitions on YouTube, go to a free tournament or talk to kids who have participated. Keep notes for things you want to share with your team.
Feel like supporting a team, but you don’t want to do the work of a coach? You can sponsor a team, make a donation or even spread the word. Find a way to support the FLL and do it!
Sites to Explore