The Largest FLL Tournament in the World!!!

This past weekend the Lone Star FIRST Lego League Tournament took place in Houston, Texas. This competition was the largest FLL Tournament in the world and in my three years volunteering this was the most exciting year! We had four divisions (Math Science, Engineering, and Technology) and each of the was very very competitive. To my surprise there was also an RCX robot that was just as competitive if not more than some the NXT robots which may surprise others too, consistently scoring around 300 points.

Here are some pictures of the facility, robots, and the rest of the event. Also there is a video of the RCX robot that was a finalist in the Math division.


{Please click here to watch the video hosted on YouTube}

Thanks for tuning in!

I’m not that surprised. Teams that are still using RCX’s have most likely been around for at least 3 years. That experience pays off.

During the regional event I reffed, I only saw one or two RCX’s in the morning competition rounds. But during the playoffs in the afternoon, there was a higher percentage of RCX’s out there - maybe a third of the teams.

It will be interesting to see what is what at the two “State” tournaments in Michigan the next two weeks.

Personally I like the RCX kit better because for me it is easier to program the sensors, make loops, and build a complex program with multiple sensors. With the NXT I couldn’t manage all of that, only being able to use a sensor at a time and not being able to make many statements. Its probably because I’m a “noob” to NXT but many people I have spoken with have agreed that RCX and RoboLab let you do a lot more.

Also on the NXT kits, one of the student mentors figured out how to record your robots moves and store it as a program. I think if teams actually did that it would be a bit “cheap” as you can’t do that with the RCX and you don’t learn to program really either… **


A few questions:

  1. How many teams were in each division?
  2. Are the trophies shown for a single division or for the whole tournament?
  3. From a referee standpoint, were there any difficulties noted with the mission models?

I see many hands on the tables while the robots are running; last year that spelled disaster, as any bump would knock the molecules off the table. My referees were constantly resetting them and asking (bouncy, excited) students to please refrain from touching the tables, unless they were accessing the robot. It was definitely not a Nano-problem. :wink: (Probably the worst mission model that FIRST has ever designed.)

Thanks for sharing!


  1. We had around 26 per division [13 matches in round 1, and I never got a break so it was 26 in our division]. That would put us at around 100+ teams overall though.

  2. The trophies are shown for the whole tournament. With the trophies there are also FLL medals for every participant!

  3. Not much. We glued some of our pieces just for that reason (the Power Lines/Grid). From my fields, there was very little field destruction. The biggest problem is with the oil barrels and those “wandering” off, but besides that it was very clean. The most damage I saw was somebody knocking the house over and the house didn’t even break, it was just on its side ready to be put back on its dual lock. I would definitely glue your truck, the car, the power grid/lines, the windmill, and possibly the dam…I’ll try to get the exact list of parts we glued.

  4. Take a look at the video. There was minimal bumping so not many pieces fell over on their own, and the game wasn’t by that for the most part.

Keep in mind some of these answers are based on my division only so it may differ for others. Overall I think mine was the most problem free, with one parent asking a question (no complaints at all), and all the kids had fun!

Any more questions?

There is a RoboLab that supports the NXT, I think it’s RoboLab 2.9.1. It was unofficially released last year to our team to help ease the passage from RCX to NXT for our FLL teams after our FRC programmer and I worked at the CEEO where the program was designed. However, I don’t know when it will be officially released, if at all.

In my experience both mentoring and refing Bronx FLL, I have not seen an RCX since the debut of the NXT. It seems that most teams just decided to switch hardware and not stick to the past. Personally, I prefer the RCX on the sole basis that it’s easier to build with, despite the lack of processing power in comparison to the NXT. I suppose I’m just old fashioned that way :]

A couple questions Pavan, and you may not know all of these.

  1. How much does an event of this size cost? And how much of that was sponsored?
  2. I am guessing that you have had considerable growth of the tournament year to year, do you know roughly what that percentage would be with respect to last year?
  3. You touched on how many teams there where, but how many volunteers did it take to make this event a success?


  1. I don’t think I can get this kind of information for you.
  2. We had a bunch of teams. I would say around 20-30% growth but I don’t know exact figures to give you a very accurate number.
  3. We had about 20-30 Robonauts working the event with a bunch of people from Reagan High School. RHS has a FIRST team too * and their students helped us out along with some people through CORE. I don’t know the info on the RHS students or CORE but there were a lot of people behind the scenes from judges to refs to the big guys in charge.

I will try to get more specific answers for you but I doubt I’ll be be able to. Sorry.

Any more questions about anything?*