If you’re passionate about robotics, engineering, and all things STEM, then the FIRST Lego League should definitely be on your radar. As a nationally recognized competition, participation in the FIRST Lego League Challenge helps students showcase their dedication to STEM education and hands-on learning, allowing them to enhance their passion for robotics/engineering on college applications and resumes.
In this blog, we have covered the FIRST Lego League, its format, eligibility, prizes, and any other details you may want to know. Additionally, we have also covered 8 solid tips that can help you win!
What is the FIRST Lego League?
The FIRST LEGO League Challenge, formerly known as FIRST LEGO League, is a global competition organized by FIRST, aimed at elementary and middle school students, encompassing ages 9-14 in the United States and Canada, and 9–16 in other countries.
Every August, FIRST LEGO League Challenge teams are presented with a scientific and real-world challenge. The students are then tasked with designing and programming Lego Education robots to accomplish certain tasks. The students are also tasked with devising a solution to a problem that fits that year’s theme (changes annually). They then convene at regional, national, and international tournaments to compete, exchange knowledge, share ideas, and showcase their robotic creations.
How does the FIRST LEGO League work?
The FIRST LEGO League Challenge competition season begins with FIRST providing registered teams with official materials, including a "challenge mat," LEGO components, and instructions to build items for the mat (the Challenge Set). Teams receive a list of tasks or "missions" to complete using their LEGO Education robot without outside assistance.
Teams have an 8-week minimum build period to analyze the challenge mat, design, build, and program their LEGO Education robot to complete the missions in any way they choose. The robot must be autonomous and adhere to specific limitations.
What are the prizes for FIRST LEGO League?
The prizes for the FIRST Lego League Challenge vary by region and year, with an emphasis on recognizing participants' achievements rather than extravagant rewards. Teams often receive trophies, medals, and certificates to acknowledge their performance in categories like robot design, project presentation, and core values. Advancing to higher-level competitions or receiving scholarships and educational opportunities are also possible rewards. However, the true value of the competition lies in the skills, experiences, and connections gained, as well as the chance to showcase projects and robots at various events. The FIRST Lego League Challenge primarily focuses on fostering learning, collaboration, innovation, and personal growth within the STEM community.
Is the FIRST LEGO League prestigious?
The FIRST Lego League (FLL) Challenge is prestigious. FLL is a globally recognized program that is backed by the reputable organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), which is well-regarded for its commitment to promoting STEM education and inspiring future innovators. Many universities, colleges, and employers recognize the value of FLL participation on a student's application or resume, as it demonstrates a commitment to personal growth, learning, and community engagement.
How are challenge submissions judged?
The competition involves four judged sections to assess teams' achievement of learning objectives. Each of these four equally weighted parts of FIRST LEGO League Challenge accounts for 25% of your total performance at your event.
The Core Values section evaluates how well the team collaborates and embodies values like inspiration, teamwork, Gracious Professionalism, and Cooperation.
The Robot Design section assesses the mechanical design, programming, and strategy/innovation of the robot.
The Robot Game is where your team will have three 2.5-minute matches to complete as many missions as possible.
The Innovation Project section requires teams to present a 5-minute research presentation on a topic related to the current challenge, including identifying a problem, developing an innovative solution, and sharing it with others, such as experts in the theme's field.
8 Tips to Help You Win the FIRST Lego League Challenge
Master the Challenge Details: Thoroughly understand the specific objectives and missions of the challenge. Study the challenge rules and scoring criteria to identify potential strategies and prioritize tasks. Teams can participate either through Class Pack, when the sessions will be delivered during curriculum time and the tournament will be held at school; or by registering as a separate team and competing at a qualifying event. Class Pack teams can advance to qualifying events but must register specifically to do so. Additional rules apply to teams competing in qualifying events.
Strategize Your Robot Design: Using the Robot Game Rulebook, design a robot that is versatile, robust, and tailored to excel in completing missions. Optimize the robot's movements, attachments, and sensors for precise and reliable performance. Tips for improving your robot’s design include starting with the driving base 1 unit in the SPIKE Prime app. Get used to how it works, then maybe think about an attachment.
Practice on the Challenge Mat: Regularly practice on the official challenge mat with your robot. Time your runs and fine-tune your strategies to improve efficiency and accuracy. Keep records of your best runs for reference.
Innovate with a Unique Solution: Stand out from the competition by devising an innovative solution to the challenge theme. Think about how usable your idea is. Is your solution convenient and accessible for whomever your product is for? Demonstrate creativity and originality in your project research and its practical application. If applicable, you can bring a prototype of the solution that you have invented.
Divvy up the Roles: Assign roles to individuals so that your team is organized and better functioning. Potential roles include Team Captain, Creative Designer, Researchers, Project Manager, Material Managers, Coders, and Builders. Reference the team meeting guide for more roles. Regularly meet with your group to articulate your problem-solving approach, solution, and research findings within the time limit.
Highlight Core Values in Action: Showcase how your team embodies the FIRST LEGO League Core Values throughout the competition. This is a part of the judging criteria. Be ready to share examples of teamwork, cooperation, and respectful behavior.
Seek Feedback and Iterate: Engage with mentors, coaches, and experienced teams to gather feedback on your robot, project, and overall performance. Check out past challenges for ideas and inspiration. Use this input to refine your strategies and improve your solutions.
Stay Calm and Adapt: On competition day, remain composed and adapt to unexpected challenges. Keep in mind that your spirit and team dynamic is a part of the competition. Keep a positive attitude, support your teammates, and focus on continuous improvement.
Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you’re looking to conduct independent research in robotics or engineering, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Jessica attends Harvard University where she studies Neuroscience and Computer Science as a Coca-Cola, Elks, and Albert Shankar Scholar. She is passionate about educational equity and hopes to one day combine this with her academic interests via social entrepreneurship. Outside of academics, she enjoys taking walks, listening to music, and running her jewelry business!
Image Source: First Lego League logo