FIRST Lego League

I am looking to start a FLL Team at my local emementary school as a joint venture. The principal has already registered and obtained the lego mindstorm kits. She has asked me to organize the actual class for the competition. I am a FIRST Vet., but know nothing about this.

I was wondering if anybody here has any experience with this. If so, I would like to speak with you. If you could e-mail me at: or reply with some contact information, this would much appreciated.

-Chris Kilpatrick
Team 696 Vet.

My friend (SlamminSammy) and I ran a team last year. If you have any questions or need any advice, feel free to email/IM me.

AIM: FIRST is life


There’s a lot of info available on the FLL site :wink:

Im in the same position as you

What can i expect to be faced with?

Lol, not much… lego mindstorms are just so fun to play with - borrow a kit and make stuff with it and spend a lot of time programming it. You’ll find it’s very simple for a high school student. Thus, when you’re on the team, it’s probably better to spend time to teach bigger, engineering pricinples of design, prototyping, testing, etc. to make a product… one of our middle schools here may start a FLL team next year and I think it’d be fun to mentor.

Like you I am just starting to mentor a FLL team, so I don’t have any advice from actual seasons. So far, our team has been meeting throughout the summer to get the kids familiar with the Mindstorms and each other, while also teaching them some basics like gearing and what not. In this kind of practice I’ve found its really helpful to have a second kit. We found one for a good price on Ebay.

One website I’ve found to be really helpful is It has a really nice sample curriculum as well as lots of tips for first time coaches.

Chris, I sent you an e-mail.

As for everyone else, I mentored 2 successful teams in Manchester, NH last year. And now I have 4 this year!

If anyone needs some help, let me know. My e-mail is


*Originally posted by tenfour *
**I am looking to start a FLL Team at my local emementary school as a joint venture. The principal has already registered and obtained the lego mindstorm kits. She has asked me to organize the actual class for the competition. I am a FIRST Vet., but know nothing about this.

I was wondering if anybody here has any experience with this. If so, I would like to speak with you. If you could e-mail me at: or reply with some contact information, this would much appreciated.

-Chris Kilpatrick
Team 696 Vet. **

The biggest challenge I’ve run across is mentoring the kids, which can be age 9 to age 14. That is several levels of maturely. A lot of patience. (yes, crying and fighting has happen)
Also, some parents prefer weekend training and building instead of after school.
I found that having the parents understand and get excited about the FLL challenges makes working with their kids easier.

FLL is very easy for veteran FRC students but put 10 rookie FLL students in front of a box of Lego and a 20 page FLL Challenge manual; thing are not that easy for them.

And deciding on the theme of the research project portion of FLL can also take a long time. The parents are very helpful with motivating the FLL students in this area.
Good luck.

I have been mentoring FLL teams for the past three years. I DEFINITELY recommend it!

It wasn’t until I became a mentor for FLL that I was truly able to understand why so many teachers, engineers and others return to FRC teams each year. Making a difference is wicked awesome!

My first suggestion to anyone mentoring a FIRST LEGO League team is, DON’T FORGET WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED WITH FIRST ROBOTICS!!! Stick to a timeline and remember the value of teamwork! (Etc…)

If anyone has any questions, feel free to e-mail me:

I am also just getting going with a team over the summer. We had some glitches with computers not talking to the Lego Robot, so I would recommend that you get your computers set up and working ahead of time. For example, we needed a patch for Robolab to work with Windows XP so we could download our programs. (We have some team members who have Macintosh computers which only work with Robolab, so we have standardized on Robolab vs RIS. Question: What happens if we download a Robolab program into slot 1 and then download an RIS program into slot 2? Will that work or would we have to download different firmware first?)

Also recently we have found that Windows XP uninstalls the USB driver if we unplug the USB infrared tower. Then it asks for the installer CD the next time we go to use it. Anyone have a way to get Windows XP to leave the USB driver for the tower installed?

As SarahB mentioned above, the Minnesota First Lego League has great resources at their web site at… If you dig down a bit, you will find the following page which is a gold mine for data on programming and building Lego robots:

Also there is a manual and other good references for Robolab and Lego Robot Building at

You will save some time if you learn to program in your chosen language (Robolab or RIS) before you start working with the students. We also found that it helps to have more than one RCX Brick if possible. (Right now we have 2 but want another one.)

My question for experienced team leaders is, how did you divide up the students into teams? In FIRST we have programming, electrical, mechanical, animators, web site builders, etc. Does anyone have a list or ideas for corresponding categories for FIRST Lego League? Any other ideas on the sequence of events at meetings, activities, etc. Also what kind of jobs have you found for parents to do to help out?

Right now we’re planning on dividing the kids into drive train, programming/sensors, challenge specific, and PR/Strategy. I’m not sure how that will work since yeah, we haven’t been through the actual season like that, but it seems like it should work out and if it doesn’t we’re still flexible.

We have completely divided our team and created a new smaller team. All students from grade 7-10 will be apart of the ArchAngel Jr. team. We will divide the team into four basic departments: Build and Design Department, Programming Department, Strategy Department and Public Relations Department.

We want to keep the departments small and intergrated because the smaller students tend to have problems communicating or sharing ideas. Our build and design team is intergrated because we find it easier to have a group combined with the most important people rather then having two and having them “conference” on their research and ideas.

Teams believe that if you have more people to do things, development goes faster. Its actually the opposit. We find it harder to coordinate and organize ideas in larger groups and smaller groups are easier to coordinate.

We keep the whole team together for strategy. Go over the missions and their point values, then write down the order they think they want to complete the missions (Remind them that this is a starting point and it can still change as the season goes on). After that, we let the whole team brainstorm design ideas for their robot. (Do they want to try wheels first or treads?? Is there a particular sensor they think they want to use???)

Then, we assign kids to groups: Build, Program, Research/Presentation & LOGO/T-shirt design. We rotate groups so that everyone gets to experience at least a little bit of every part of the team. However, they do spend extra time in their original groups.

If you are working on FLL as an extra-curricular activity, ask the teachers to help you divide the kids up. The teachers usually know which kids work best together.

Good Luck

This will be my fifth season starting next month. We had seven teams from one school last year. I have tended to follow the teacher’s I work with and add a little scout basics into the mix. So here is a few rules of thumb…

  1. Students of this age group tend to work better with students their own age. There is a vast difference between a 7th grader and a sixth grader.

  2. With so many student trying to get in, an entrance exam and a monetary deposit will trim the numbers down considerably. Parents who are looking for a baby sitter will not shell out $25-$50 to sign up with no refund. An exam will help you find students who can follow instructions without someone holding their hand.

  3. Small groups work very well. Scouts do 5-8 and I would go along with that. If the group is too large, nothing can be accomplished (work divided) and too few can not handle the workload. 5-8 covers when everyone cannot meet.

  4. A short session of everyone getting together each day allows you to give answers to questions only once or twice. It gives the other groups the chance to see that everyone is encountering the same problems. And it gives the adults a chance to take care of business items like attendance, handouts, etc. It is also during these combined sessions where “gracious professionalism” is taught and suggestions for action is given. We have tried letting each group give a short report.

  5. Let groups pick a leader, a driver, etc. but watch them and rotate so everyone gets a chance to do what they want.

  6. Learn to expect a team may come in one day and tear apart the robot and start over. It may be the best thing for them to do that. You can set goals and try to stick to them. FLL is a series of goals, so take the simplest one and make every team have a workable solution by week X then the second goal by week X+2, etc. Have a few mini competitions set as real times and challenges to give your teams the chance to compete under pressure.

  7. Involve parents by asking for help early and invite parents to the minicompetitions. Take the opportunity to have a parent’s meeting before the season jumps off and teach them about “gracious professionalism” and how to act in front of their students. Keep in touch with the adult mentors so they don’t get too far behind.

  8. Most important of all, remember you are not in this alone. There is almost as much help in FLL as in FIRST and e-mail and forums are the best place to look. The FLL site in Minnesota is a great help as well.

Any other questions, please PM me and I will try to help. Other teams also mentor FLL and our team is no exception with 15-20 last year plus helping with the state competition.

FLL is not very far off

I just sent this in an e-mail to someone, and I figured it was enough info to post here:

  The biggest "mistake" I keep seeing teams making is imitating high school FIRST robotics by making the kids specialize in one area, and one area only. The idea of FLL is exposing the kids to all aspects of robotics, from the programming, to the drive train, to the posters, and team cheers. I did this with my two teams, and it went incredibly well. All of the kids have returned willingly for another season. In addition, we have gained another 12 students. The kids learnt a great deal, worked well, and placed very well at the competitions we went to (9th at a local competition, and 11th at the State Finals). Keep all the kids together, no matter what. The kids will figure out their favorites as time goes on. Allow them to switch roles. Whatever you do, don't assign the kids to strict roles. It doesn't take 6 weeks to design a logo, or to even build a robot.

   What age students are you dealing with? The school I run my teams at is a K-6. So, my team is made up of 4th thru 6th graders, which makes us one of the younger teams. A really important thing to remember is that age doesn't matter. My best programmers were a 5th grade boy, and a 6th grade girl. My best builders were a 4th grader and 5th grader. And you get the point! Age doesn't matter.

   A lot of people say that the parents are important in having a good team. I partially agree, partially don't agree. Our team belief was that this program was for the kids only. Teach them independence. To make their own decisions. Etc. We do appreciate parent support, but we prefer that the parents leave the team to the kids.

  Big thing - get the school involved. For the past 2 years, we have had a spring robotics club (try outs for the following season), which is ended by a massive school attended competition, music, awards, everything. Then, at the end of the normal season, before the actual competitions, we have another school attended attended competition. This one actually decided who will go to what FLL competition.

Hope I helped!