What is FIRST LEGO League
If you are thinking about starting a FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team you probably already know what FLL is, but in case you don’t FIRST LEGO League is an international competition organized by a non-profit group called FIRST for kids (ages 9-14 in the USA and Canada, ages 9-16 elsewhere).
In September of each year, FIRST announces a robotics challenge to which a team of kids must find an answer. Each team must use LEGO bricks and robotics to demonstrate the answer. Students then compete against each other in regional competitions, compare ideas, and display their robots. As a LEGO Team Leader myself, I can attest the league is a lot of fun, builds teamwork skills, and solves engineering problems.
Instructions on How to Start a LEGO League Team
- Compose a team of 3-10 kids, ages 9-14 years old. Find children at school, worship, scouts, and in your neighborhood. Post a message on Facebook that you are looking for kids for a FIRST LEGO League. I’ve found 4 kids is best.
- Find adult volunteers. It’s likely that you’ll have to be the adult team leader during the team’s first year, but you’ll need help along the way. Parents with engineering or technology backgrounds make great advisers to the team.
- Raise about $700 to cover base annual costs for the team. The $700 will be used to pay the $200 registration fee, buy the updated robot kit, and additional money for the field set-up kit and other miscellaneous items involved in a competition. (Returning teams usually spend around $400.)
- Find a laptop. The laptop is used by your team to program your LEGO robot.
- Have the kids come up with a cool team name. Have fun with it!
- Determine your team’s meeting dates and times. Try to keep it at the same time and place. Inform the parents of all the details and what is expected of them. Get to know each of the kids, LEGO League is as much about building something cool as it is about building relationships.
- The optimal time to start a team is during the month of May because you can start registering your teams in May and FIRST limits the number of teams in the League.
- Register your team on the FIRST LEGO League website. Buy your supplies on the website and they will be shipped to your door.
- Attend a LEGO Robotics Camp. This will help you and your kids to understand how to use the robotics equipment and software.
- Await the competition to be revealed. This typically happens in September each year.
- Start building and having fun!
Extras to Consider
Many teams like to get t-shirts with their team’s name on them. This is a great bonding opportunity, and it make the group feel more like a team by wearing special matching t-shirts. You should be able to buy custom t-shirts for about $12 each.
Teams may also participate in tournaments and tournament applications typically open in mid-October. Participation fees will vary from event to event, but they are generally $50-$150 per team. Also, tournaments can be state, national, or international. So, you may have travel expenses. For this reason, be sure your parents know if your team will be competing in tournaments.
Obtain First Hand Knowledge
If possible, talk with parents who have attended and participated in FIRST LEGO League competitions. The FIRST LEGO League is very in-depth and can be overwhelming if you don’t prepare. This is a very time-consuming activity, I recommend to not take it lightly. As a follow-up, I wrote a recap of what I personally experienced from my child’s first robotics competition with FIRST LEGO League.