FLL Innovation Project

Hello! I am new to mentoring FIRST Lego League team, I was wondering where I could find information for the innovation project for this game season is? If there isn’t any or I have something wrong please feel free to correct me!

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I recommend page 3 of the Challenge Overview! https://firstinspiresst01.blob.core.windows.net/first-in-show-masterpiece/fll-challenge/fll-challenge-masterpiece-challenge-overview.pdf

So the official resources from FIRST for FIRST Lego League Challenge teams are here, with page 3 of this overview being the official description of the Innovation Project.

The program partner for Germany/Austria/Switzerland has really good resources, including their Project resources. Note that regional variation in FLL is huge, and there may be some things in their documentation that differ from how things work in your region. To my eye, most of it is pretty generic and portable, but be sure to check documents from your local partner on how judging interviews work, etc.


Since you are a new coach/mentor, I would strongly suggest going to this webpage and downloading the “Challenge Overview”, “Challenge Updates”, “Building Instructions”, “Wireframe and Grid”, “Engineering Notebook”, “Team Meeting Guide”, " Robot Game Rulebook", “Robot Game Scoresheet”, “Participateion Rules”, “Rubrics”, and “Judging Session Flow Chart”.

I know you only asked about the Innovation Project but all the 3 areas of judging is done in one session, half an hour long. Read through the Judging Session Flow Chart. Then read the Rubric, noting how there is one page for each of the 3 judging areas. Please note that 3/4 of the score for each team comes from the judging.

For the Innovation Project, the quality of the presentation matters (see the “Communicate” section of the Innovation Project Rubric). For teams to do well, It is expected that they be able to show a clear understanding of the problem they chose to solve, have done good quality research, have put a good amount of thought into developing their solution, have made improvements to their initial solution based on testing and/or feedback from the target audience and/or professionals working in the field.

After you have understood what the team needs to do, you should have them study page 3 of the Overview then brainstorm ideas for problems to tackle. If the provided materials contain any suggested problems to solve, I would suggest avoiding showing them to your team. I find that they tend to guide many teams to solve the same problems, making it hard for any team to stand out from the crowd. I recall interviewing 4 teams at one competition that all made pill counting machines out of Lego for their solution. The teams I have mentored that did the best, including advancing to Worlds, chose problems that few other teams chose, the chose problems that had a large effect on a lot of people, they chose problems where they could easily find experts already working on the problem and they chose problems that they were all excited to work on.

Your team should not be afraid to approach professionals working in fields relating to the problem they have chosen. Most professionals are passionate about the field they have chosen to work on and are typically happy to help some young people who are showing interest in their field. The experts can be local to your team or remote (one of my teams here in Houston was corresponding with a professor at a university in Singapore via Zoom).

Sharing of their solution is very important (see Iterate section of rubric). The teams that have done well have gone back to the professionals and presented their solution to get feedback AND have presented their solution to people who would benefit from their solution. My sons team presented at a seniors home one year and at the local VA hospital another year. The teams I mentored have presented their ideas to local city councils, groups of cyclists and venture capitalists.

The team should make bullet point notes on the information that they want to present then review them relative to the rubric. They should prune off duplicated points and strengthen (or add) points that cover areas of the rubric that had not been covered adequately. They can then decide how to present their information. The most common ways are through a skit or through a straight, factual technical presentation like one would see at a science fair or a technical conference. It depends on the material and the preferences of the team members. Be sure that the team can finish their presentation in just under 5 minutes. My sons learned to drop “teasers” to prompt the judges to ask questions in the 5 minute Q&A session, buying them more time to present more material in greater detail. It is best to start practicing the presentations at least a week before the competition.

The quality of the presentation for the Robot Design is not so important i.e. slickness matters much less. The suggestions I made regarding how to choose and organize what is presented for the Innovation Project all apply to the Robot Design judging. Where possible, have the team keep old mechanisms (if you have sufficient parts) or take pictures of them before disassembling them. Again, it is best to start practicing the presentations at least a week before the competition.

What happens in the Core Values judging session depends greatly on how competitions in your area are run. It is best to ask your Program Delivery Partner what will happen during that session. In general, your team’s behaviour during the whole competition counts toward the Core Values score. I have heard of teams reporting to the volunteers how another team helped them solve some problem with their robot and that was viewed favourably by the judges when ranking the team that was helping. I have also seen teams penalized because of bad behaviour (including the behaviour of the parents). In general, if your team works well together and demonstrates through little cues that they are inclusive and respectful of all the team members, they will do well in this area.

If you have multiple competitions in your area, and your team has the discipline to get started before most school teams do in September (or even October), I would suggest choosing to compete at one of the earlier ones. My sons figured out that every team at each competition had the same amount of time to work on their robot and their presentations. You are not competing against the teams that are competing at a later one. Getting through your first competition earlier gives your team more time to make significant improvements in all areas before the next level of competition.

If you have some team members (and possibly parents) who are especially passionate about FLL, it would be good to attend other competitions in your area to learn from the teams there. All the advanced teams I have ever encountered have been happy to help a younger team and share their “trade secrets”.

Sorry for the “wall of text”. I have found that often, all it takes to turn a good team into a great team is improving how they present their work to the judges. Feel free to ask for help on how your team can improve the performance of their robot on the field.