FIRST LEGO League does a great job on preparing you for competition. There are numerous phone meetings, endless emails, and on-site scrimmage meets that are made available to participating teams.
There are three (or four) judging rounds (Core Values, Project, and Robot Design, and Competition). The reason I’m not quite sure if there are 3 or 4 is because I don’t know if they group Robot Design and the Robot Competition together or not. Regardless, the tournament can be very overwhelming, and the FIRST team does a great job in preparing you for it.
Don’t Forget These Things!
After you walk in to your tournament, you’ll notice a couple things you didn’t know to bring. Since our team, the MindBlasters, just got back from Lorain’s FLL competition, I wanted to recap some things that we need to bring next year, which we forgot this year.
- Personal little giveaway item for other teams (bracelet loom, magnet, candy with core values on them, etc). We had 17 teams competing in Lorain, so about 20-25 items would work.
- Parade sign with team name and colors. Look at the picture on this page with the Bovine Warriorz holding their team sign. They used this twice during the tournament. Once at the beginning during the opening ceremony parade. Second at the end when they are calling everyone up at the end of the competition.
- Lunch, snacks and drinks in a cooler. It’s a long day at competition, and kids get hungry and thirsty. Bringing a picnic basket or cooler with cold-cuts is a great idea. Find a place in the building early that will be “home base” outside the pit area (where food is not allowed) and set up your food there. Bringing a table cloth will help keep your food area clean, which I’m sure is somewhere in our core values!
- LEGO robotics kit and laptop so kids can continue building and programming between rounds. There’s a lot of down-time between robot competition rounds in the afternoon. If their robot doesn’t work like it did at home, they will want to tweek it with new LEGO hardware and new software programs.
- Crowd/fan signs. Parents love to cheer their children on. Signs in the crowd with your children’s team name or their “head on a stick” really put a smile on their face.
- Personal team awards (i.e. Most Admired Team, Coolest Robot, Nicest Team). Give these awards to competing teams that you think exhibit incredible sportsmanship. Obviously not an official award, it’s an award that your team gives to THEIR favorite teams. Doing so encourages your team to get out and talk with other teams.
My Thoughts on Who Usually Wins
The FLL tournament is about fun and team-building. The teams that win and get the most out of these competitions are the teams that share EVERYTHING they do with others (including other teams).
The winning teams are approachable, and talk openly and freely with other teams about their work. This is great for the kids, as it allows them to practice their presentation skills. And since repetition is the mother of skill, the more times you can present your project and robot to others, the better you’ll be when you ultimately have to present to the judges.