FIRST is an acronym that stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.In 1989, FIRST was founded by Dean Kamen, an inventor and entrepreneur, in hopes of getting youth all over the world interested in the mechanics and the wonders of science and technology. FIRST’s Vision is “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”
Within FIRST, there are four robotics programs that combine the spirit of friendly competition, the enthusiasm to learn, and the scientific knowledge to design, construct and create.
Jr. FLL (Junior FIRST Lego League, Pilot year 2004)
Jr. FLL is meant for children from ages 6-9 years old. A Jr. FLL team consists of 2-6 team members. Its primary focus is on building an interest in these children, by encouraging their curiosity and encouraging them to discover the marvels of science.
Each season, these kids are challenged to explore real-world problems based on a theme, such as excess waste and natural disasters. They build a LEGO model using the WEDO kit of Lego parts. Each model should include one moving part and sensor. The models are programmable using a drag and drop interface. The second part of this program involves the team researching the season’s theme, either by taking a field trip or interviewing a professional, and then developing a SHOW ME poster board which demonstrates their journey.
Jr. FLL does not have competitive tournaments, but rather Expo’s where the team presents their discoveries to a group of judges. Teams attending Expos will be given a participation medal. Expo Directors are free to create awards that they can present to teams.Some of the these awards can be the following but are not limited to the following list:
Amazing Movement Award
Gracious Professionalism Award
Against All Odds Award
Team Spirit Award
The Jr. FLL season is designed to be approximately 6-8 weeks long.Coaches are free to choose which 6 - 8 weeks they choose to meet in mid-August and mid April, and the time and dates to meet.Teams are encouraged to meet twice a week, but this decision is left to each individual team. As in all FIRST programs, two adult coaches are needed and must register with FIRST through the VIMS (volunteer information system) where necessary background checks will be completed by FIRST.More information can be found at http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/jr.fll
Jr. FLL Team 560 BlockHeads Show Me Poster Board and LEGO Model.
FLL (FIRST Lego League, Pilot year 1998)
FLL is the second program of the FIRST programs, designed for 9-16 year-olds (9-14 in North America). The season runs from September to usually December, but certain tournaments may extend the season to April. In FLL, the challenge is split into three parts: Robot Design and Performance, Research, and Core Values.
Like Jr. FLL,FLL presents a theme. For the Robot portion, teams must construct and program a functional robot out of LEGO Technic parts and a NXT or EV3 microprocessor to score points on a game table in 2 ½ minute rounds.The robot game is played on a 4’ x 8’ competition table with a field kit which includes a challenge-themed mat and LEGO props.
In the Research portion of the game, teams explore a real-world issue based on the season’s theme. They must also identify a real world problem from their research, come up with a solution to that problem, and then share their findings with others.For tournaments, the team should develop a presentation detailing their innovation and journey for judges.
The Core Values portion, requires that teams present judges the team’s dynamics and how they have incorporated FIRST’s Core Values. Some tournaments may require a teamwork activity to demonstrate their teamwork skills. Additionally, “floating” judges may be walking around the tournament area observing teams’ expressions of Core Values. (Rephrase, paragraph sounds awkward)
Tournament Awards include but are not limited to:
Mechanical Design Award
Robot Performance Award
For more information about these awards, please check FLL’s Award Descriptions at:
The most recent program of FIRST was introduced in 2006, and is intended for students from ages 12-18.FTC requires 3 elements to be competitive.
The first element is an Engineering Notebook. Teams record their every endeavor, from robot design to outreach, in this notebook. Eventually, teams present the process and results of their journey to judges. This Engineering Notebook must fit in a 2.5 inch notebook and is turned in at the beginning of each tournament.
The second element is the ROBOT!Teams are expected to construct a robot out of metal parts from TETRIX or MATRIX kits, various electronics, and possibly custom parts. Teams then program the robot to compete in a timed game played in a 12’ x 12’ arena. Teams will have to work with other teams in colored alliances (two teams per alliance), and at the same time compete against others.
Like FLL, the season begins in September, but competing in certain tournaments may extend the season into April. The team itself has freedom to schedule practices and other events.
Teams compete for different awards.These awards have different requirements.Teams can decide what awards they wish to work for and this determines what elements of the game they will complete.
Awards include but are not limited to:
Rockwell Collins Innovate Award
PTC Design Award
For more information about these awards, please check out FTC’s Award Descriptions:
FRC is the original robotics program that FIRST began with. Students from ages 14-18 have to build a robot restricted by certain dimensions (the dimensions change from year to year) to compete with and against other teams in a 27-feet by 54-feet arena . Teams have 6 weeks from the FRC Kickoff (the challenge announcement, usually in early January) to their first tournament (usually mid-February) to design and build a functional robot. Dimensions of the robot change every now and then. The robots are all built with custom parts, but are required to use specific electronics outlined by FIRST. Most of the program’s emphasis is on the robot, but teams want to develop a business plan to ensure the functionality of their team. Teams may compile their efforts into a Chairman’s packet for a chance to win the Chairman’s Award.
Other awards include but are not limited to:
Engineering Inspiration Award
Innovation in Control Award
For more information about these awards, please check out FRC’s Award page:
Whilethese programs have similarities there is a different focus for each program.As students participate in these programs, their intellectual and professional skills improve. Students and mentors are bound to grow in these programs. This is why FIRST is “The Hardest Fun You Will Ever Have!”
ExampleFLL Packing List:
This packing list is meant for FLL teams packing for a tournament or demonstration. This is just an example of things that might be needed and is not meant to be an exact list.
Team information Sheet with current picture of team and robot
Any registration forms
Buttons and other team spirit items
Robot / robot container
Extra Lego Kit of Parts
Robot Charger/ or extra batteries
Computer (with programs and charger)
USB drive with back up programs
Extra NXT or EV3
Small Table for Robot Round Launches
Team information Sheet
Scripts (if applicable)
Core Values presentation:
Team information Sheet
Bring a good attitude
Scripts (If applicable)
Props (Costumes, Signs)
Robot Design presentation:
Experimental data (If applicable)
Tips and Resources:
Be prepared for everything.
Remember to Smile, take a deep breath and then go for it.Discovering the answers together is a blast.
Set team goals for what you want to complete during this season.Rookie teams have a lot to learn.Pick what you think you can handle and then aim for that.Don’t overwhelm yourselves.
At tournaments, be sure to dance.If you need to learn the dances practice them during your regular practice time.YouTube has great teaching videos. Cupid Shuffle, Cha-cha Slide, Macarena, the Chicken Dance, Cotton-Eye Joe, Gangnam Style, and YMCA.
Talk to other teams. Get to know them you will be surprised about how rewarding this can be.
Try using right triangles (and the Pythagorean Theorem) to make your robot base stronger.
Before making any small changes, make sure to run the robot several times because the error may have been caused by human error.
Put a little weight on the wheels to increase traction against the field mat.
However, don’t put too much weight on the wheels, as the weight may bend the axles (causing a lot of wobbling and inaccuracy)
Try to aim for the robot to complete its tasks successfully 9 out of 10 times
Decorate your robot. With LEGO pieces only. No stickers. Remember competition robots can only have LEGO parts.These parts can come from other kits you own.
Brainstorm and write your ideas down. Test those ideas then retest them and then retest them until you get the desired results.
Remember practicing how to handle the robot during the competition round is important.This could result in lowering your robot round time.
Remember to brace your robot
Symmetry is your friend.
Interview professionals (engineers, professors, technicians, etc.) involved in the field you are studying. Ask them for information for your research, and don’t be shy to ask them for feedback on your ideas.
When using websites make sure to use professional sites. Look for domains with .edu, .org, .gov, and .net. Be careful of .coms.
Go beyond reading Wikipedia. At the bottom of each article, check out the sources listed.
Read and follow the Judging Rubrics.
When on the internet, NEVER give out personal information.Always practice safety and be sure to make sure your team mates do the same.Please be sure to discuss internet safety with your team.
Core Values Tips:
FLL Core Values are 1/3 of your tournament score.Be sure to read about FIRST’s Core Values.Not just for tournament judging but because we believe it is the answer to guaranteeing that all team members have fun, be successful, and want to come back for another year.
Remember this is still a Robot competition.Don’t forget about your robot design.
FLL is about learning about robotics, research and teamwork.We also believe that if a team sets out to learn as much as they can, they are already winners before they arrive at their tournament.
We came up with a phrase about something we discovered during our 3rd year in FLL.We discovered the ”I” in team.That is, we realized as a team, that every team member has the responsibility to do his or her best to ensure the team is successful.The “I” stands for individual responsibility.Teams that have 1 or 2 members who do all the work will not be happy healthy teams.
Plan time to get to know each other.It is easier to cooperate and work together when bonding occurs in the team.
Decide as a team what your goals are.Everyone should know what they are working for and why.
Presented by FTC Team 8496 Heat it Up and Keep it Cool Robotics
Advancement: The act of qualifying for the next level of tournaments.
Normal Progression of Advancement (in California)
-Qualifying Tournament -> Regional Championship
-Championship -> World Festival I International) St. Louis Missouri
Affiliate Partner: An organization that provides fiscal management and other support for FLL in a FIRST region.
Base: The area (usually white) in which teams can handle their robot during a match. It can also serve as a scoring area for certain missions.
Building Instructions: A manual given out my FIRST at the beginning of each season. This manual details how to build each table prop from the pieces of a given numbered bag. The instructions are represented through pictures, rather than words.
Champion’s Award: The most prestigious award given out to teams with the best overall performance in a specific tournament.
Coach’s Manual/Handbook: An informational handbook given out to coaches and mentors that details the FLL program.
Competition Tables: The 4’x8’ game tables in a tournament that are used in the actual Robot Game rounds.
Coopertition: One of two of the most important aspects of FLL Core Values. Coopertition stands for the values of fierce competition between teams, but also encourages team members, mentors, and coaches to respect each other and to work cooperatively with other teams.
Core Values: One of three central aspects of FLL. Core Values is the set of principles that FIRST encourages in all involved in FIRST Robotics from students, parents, spectators and coaches and mentors. . The Core Values are detailed on this page: http://www.firstlegoleague.org/mission/corevalues
Core Values Presentation (FLL specific): The part of the FLL challenge that requires teams to put together a presentation demonstrating and communicating to the judges the team's identity, and how they have gone thru the journey of the challenge together.It is not uncommon in the LA region to have a teamwork activity for teams at the Championship tournament.
Dean Kamen: Dean Kamen is the founders of FIRST. He is an inventor, entrepreneur, and promoter for science and technology. The Segway is one of his many inventions.
Dr. Woodie Flowers:FIRST distinguished Advisor and Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, coined the phrase “Gracious Professionalism.”
Dual-Lock: Material that is adhesive on one side, and Velcro-like on the other. This is used to attach game props to the table.
Dummy Wall: A piece of wood attached to the north side of a single game table to simulate the presence of another table against the north wall. Usually used to maintain the Coopertition mission props.
EV3 (debuted in 2013): The latest model of robot controllers used in the game.
Field Mat: The mat in which the Robot Game is played on. It has game props attached to it for the robot to execute missions for the game.
Field Set-Up: A section in the FLL season’s game challenge manual that details out the dimensions of the game table, the assembly of the table, and the placement of game props on the field mat.
Field Set-Up Kit: A collection of parts that are delivered to every team to build the game props. The FSK includes the challenge mat, and props.(FSK: field set up kit)
FIRST Headquarters: Where the executives of FIRST operate from. It is located in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Game Challenge: The collection of the FLL season’s Robot Game and Research prompt.
Game Rules: The set of guidelines that a team must adhere to for the Robot Game. Not obeying the rules may lead to in-game penalties, disqualification for the round, or disqualification for the entire tournament. The rules can be found in the game manual, and is regularly updated in the Robot Updates webpage:
Game Table: The table in which the robot game is played on with the field mat and game props.8’x4’ with specific building guidelines.These guidelines can be found on the usfirst website or from your FIRST affiliate partner.For the 2015 Trash Trek Challenge the LA Region will use tables with 2x3 side and end boards in lieu of the 2x4 boards used in past years.
Global Innovation Award: A special award separate from the normal awards. This award requires that teams submit an application about their solution from the Research portion of the game. After extensive judging, the three finalists travel to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The runner-up teams receive $5,000, and the winning team receives $20,000 to make their solution a reality, for details please visit the usfirst website, under the FLL game pages.
Gracious Professionalism: One of two core aspects of Core Values. This term, coined by FIRST co-founder Dr. Woodie Flowers, stands for the attitude of producing high-quality work, comfortable competition, and respect and kindness toward others.
Head Referee:An important volunteer at FLL tournaments.The Head Referee is responsible for training referees on the current tournament robot challenge, game rules and all updates to rules.
International Opens/Open Invitational Championships: Officially sanctioned tournaments that are run by certain regional partners. Teams are allowed by invitation only and are drawn from top teams from regional championship tournaments.
Judge Advisor:A key organizing volunteer for FLL tournaments.The Judge Advisor is in charge of pretraining the volunteer judging panels.The JA will also help judges work thru judging decisions during the tournament day.
Judges’ Awards: Special awards given to a number of teams by the judges’ evaluation.
LEGO Technic: The model of LEGO parts that FLL teams use to build their robots. It differs from traditional LEGO parts in many ways.
Missions: The tasks required for the robot to execute to earn points during the Robot Game rounds.
Mission Models/Table Props: The LEGO structures that are built for each mission.
NXT (2006): The second model of robot controllers used in FLL. Teams may still use these blocks, but it is not recommended.
Operational Partner: Is an individual that organizes FLL activities within a region.The OP works with the Affiliate Partner.
Outreach: Promotion of FIRST and its programs to the general public.Outreach is not a judged aspect in the Jr. FLL and FLL programs.However there are occasional Outreach opportunities for FLL teams to volunteer for.
Practice Tables: Tables in tournaments that are available to teams to practice on or test adjusted programs before their next round.
Practice Tournaments: Tournaments that serve as practice for qualifying tournaments.
Presentation Boards: Poster boards that are used in team presentations. May or may not be required, depending on the season and tournament.Coaches can check with tournament directions to verify if they are required.
Project: The part of the FLL challenge that requires teams to research real-world problems related to the season’s theme, identify a problem, develop a solution to that problem, and present their solution to others, such as professionals. Guidelines and requirements are described in the challenge description.
Qualifying Tournaments: The very first level of tournaments that allow promotion to the Regional Championships.
Queues: The act of waiting for the next round if you are participating in that next round. Usually, teams who will be competing in the next round will be waiting in a specific area near the competition tables. These areas are called “Queueing Areas.”
RCX (1998): One of the first models of robot controllers used to compete in FLL. It is very outdated.
Regional Championships: Tournaments that are specific to teams from a certain area. These tournaments allow passage into higher-level tournaments such as State Tournaments, National Tournaments, and International Tournaments.
Regional Partner: A person or company who manages and organizes the events and tournaments for a specific FIRST region.
Robot Controllers: The control block for the robot. Both control blocks allow teams to download their programs into the block so that the robot can execute the commands in the program.
Robot Design: The part of the Robot Game that requires teams to present the mechanical designs, design processes, unique and innovative elements, computer programs, and strategies of their robot.
Robot Operation/Performance: The part of the Robot Game that involves the robot competing in rounds and executing tasks to complete the missions for points.
Robot Game: The part of the FLL season’s challenge that involves the Robot Rounds and Robot Design Presentation.
Robot Game Updates: A page on the FLL website that regularly updates the Robot Game Rules. Sometimes, ambiguities and problems are found within the Game Rules, and this page serves to correct those.
Safety Zone (Safety): A region around the base that serve as a scoring area for some missions.
Scoring Sheets: A paper that is used by referees and judges to determine a team’s overall score in a given round depending on how many missions their robot has completed.
Scott Evans: The FIRST designer for the Robot Game, who develops the Field Mat, Game Props, and Game Rules.
STIMS (Student Team Information Member System): An online application process that student team members are required to undergo to officially be part of a team. Here is the link: https://my.usfirst.org/stims/Login.aspx
Robot Technicians:The two team members who are at the robot competition table running the robot during the robot round.
TIMS: An online application process that entire teams must undergo to be officially in FIRST’s database. Additionally, teams can register for events through TIMS.
Tournament Director:Key FIRST volunteer responsible for organizing and running FLL tournaments with the aid of several Key volunteers and 40 to 60 additional volunteers.
Tournament Rounds/Robot Match: The two-and-a-half minutes in which robots complete missions to earn points.
For the 2015 Trash Trek Challenge the Los Angeles Region will not be using VIMS, other directions will be given out by tournament directors.
World Festival: The international tournament held once a year in St. Louis Missouri where all FIRST programs participate at the same time.
Why have a project in a robotics' competition?
The FIRST® LEGO® League program is designed to show kids how exciting science, technology, and engineering can be. Research and problem solving are integral parts of these fields and keys to the success of any real-world engineering team. Just think about the Mars rovers. If the NASA team had not done their research about the atmospheric, gravity, and terrain conditions on Mars ahead of time, they would not have been able to design successful rovers.
Through the Project, FLL teams learn more about the science behind the Challenge theme and better understand the work of professionals in that field. Teams encounter challenges similar to those faced by scientists and engineers as they identify a problem and develop an innovative solution. It gives students a chance to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it through research, critical thinking, and creativity – and see how fun that can be! Exposure to different areas of science and technology will also introduce team members to new career options they might never have known about.
Through the Project presentation, teams have the opportunity to have discussions and get feedback from judges who are often experts in the Challenge field. Getting comfortable giving a “live” presentation and sharing ideas effectively is a valuable life skill. The Project is the opportunity for the teams to really explore deeper into the Challenge theme for the season and allows them to have a firsthand opportunity in proposing a solution to a problem they selected. We have teams that are learning about the patent process and are thinking and acting like real inventors. We want our teams to have as much exposure to the world of science and technology as possible. We want them to know about all the interesting fields of study that they may go into and have the opportunity to get excited about how to make a difference in the world – starting now! usfirst.org