After 6 years of coaching, I am now a retired coach.  I am transitioning into the role of Judge Advisor and mentor for VA-DC FIRST LEGO League and will still be very active.

Since I don’t have a team to blog about, I am also transitioning the blog to a resource site.  I will keep the site live but we have refreshed content at    The newsletter will continue and with my new found time, we will be sharing workshops to help FLL teams.

It’s been fun!



Impacting the Gender Gap

My team competed this weekend at the Mary Henderson Fall Church Tournament on Saturday.  I judged at this tournament its first year and it is great to see how it has evolved.  Alex and team do a great job.

The team did well, winning Robot Performance with a 507 score and 1st Place Champion.   I was very proud of them for their fun attitude the entire tournament.   They spent their spare time creating thank you cards for volunteers and handed them out at closing.  This was on their own accord.   They truly embrace what FIRST is about.

In core values, the girls were asked what they would take away from their FIRST experience.  My daughter responded that she realizes girls can do whatever boys can do and that they can impact the gender gap.   The team knows I coach an all-girls team to impact the gender gap and we even went the movie “Debugging the Gender  Gap” as a team.   

As a coach, the fact the girls have the confidence they can do anything outweighs any award they could win.  It is bitter sweat this is the last year competing but I am looking forward to next year.  The team is staying together to help mentor teams in DC.   


Team Information Sheet

For Judging, make sure you have 4 copies of the team information sheet.  You will take and leave a sheet in every judging room.

Why the information sheet is important?

  • It helps the judges get to know your team.
  • It helps judges remember your team.  When you judge several teams, anything to help the judges remember your team is beneficial.

Information Sheet Tips:

  • Connect the team picture to a unique team feature – your silly hat, t-shirt, etc.  Make it easy for judges to remember your team visually.
  • Keep it brief.  Judges have limit time, only document the key points.

Attached is my team’s information sheet from World Class.TeamInfoSheet2014.

You can find the template at  Plan to have a minimum of 4 copies.



Thursday achieves 80 points

The Thursday team got 80 points and is on track.  I told the team that what ever sub team got the highest points this week could pick the candy for the candy drawer.  Candy is a great motivator.  Here is what the run does so far.  There are several loops and multiple sensors at play.  Also there are two wall squares.  

  1. Reset gyro senso
  2. Drive north a few rotations
  3. Detect black line
  4. Pull forward some
  5. Pivot 90 degrees
  6. Back up until touch sensor triggered and raise forklift (wall square)
  7. Drive forward until white is detected
  8. Move forward
  9. Lower forklift 
  10. Backup to release toy airplane
  11. Raise forklift
  12. Back up until touch sensor triggered (wall square)
  13. Reset gyro
  14. Move forward
  15. Pivot -79 until gyro reads -79
  16. Move forward 
  17. Pivot until gyro reads -10
  18. Move foward
  19. Lower tank into truck

The next segment will be to push the truck down the track.  


It’s almost ready!

Over the last year, I have been leading the development of a team management online platform to make life easier for FLL coaches.   Be an early adopter by signing up at

What you’ll get very soon.

  • Team email address
  • Online Roster
  • Listserve functionality – send an email to the team email address and it emails the entire team.
  • Break the roster in to categories and email just a category
  • One place for team communications

FLL Tournament Team Roles

One of my favorite activities is having the team decide on tournament roles.  Here are my team’s team tournaments role.  We treat this is as a core values activity.  Some roles are more popular than others, so comprise is key.   Download the FLL Teams Roles Template.

Project Script  
Project Notebook  


Slide Flipper 1  
Slide Flipper 2  
Research – Question  
Research – Experts  
Research – Solution Discover  
Solution Intro  
Research – Why  
Solution – Introduction  
Solution – How it works  
Solution – Demo  
Solution – Existing Solutions  
Solution – Implementation  
Solution – Sharing  


Core Values (3 people)
Core Values Poster  


Starters – Only Two Starter Teams.  Starter teams start I technical judging.

Starters Starter 1 Starter 2
Starter Team 1    
Starter Team 2    


Core Values Main Backup


Technical Person 1 Person 2 Person 3
Strategy & Process      
Robot Overview      
Sunday Team      
Tuesday Team      
Thursday Team      

The EV3 FLL Robot Design – Forklift

Here are some FLL EV3 robot images of the girls build.  The 4th motor forklift is really cool.

Looks like this weekend they can do a straight test. If it goes well, they will start on missions.  2 attachment motors and the forklift give them a lot of options.

They are building the axle supports and bumpers for wall following.  After that they just need to add sensors.  They plan to add two color, a gyro and a touch.

Rookie teams, this started as the starter robot and evolved.



For the project, the team identified a problem, microbeads.  They talked to a naturalist to understand the impact.   Now they just need to finish research and identify a solution.   I only hope the problem is not too close to waste water.

EV3 FLL Robot Design – 4 Motor Challenge

My girls team has a great robot.  I gave them a challenge: build a new robot with 4 motors.

This season I will post a bunch of robot pics.

They started with the EV3 starter robot as the base and customize it.

Notice the wheel design.  Two seasons ago after doing a straight test, they realized the marble ball design had issues going straight.  For the back, they use rims, no treads.  This allows the FLL EV3 robot to pivot.

Here is the Capital Teens World Class First Lego League robot design.  It uses a turtle model, allowing different shells. The cool innovation was the motor gear interface.  She’ll attachments just snap on.  It has three color sensors and a gyro sensor.



Getting Prepared for Core Values, Robot Design and Project Judging

Welcome to the Trash Trek season.  Everyone is excited about the robot and missions, but that is just part of First Lego League.   In addition to robot performance, teams will participate in Core Values, Project/Research and Robot Design judging sessions.   These components are a big part of First LEGO League.    Here is some information to help you prepare.

Judging Rubric

Judges use a rubric to score teams in the judging rooms.  The rubric for all judging rooms can be downloaded at   At the end of the tournament, you should receive a copy of the rubric for your team.   To prepare, have your team review the rubric.

Team Information Sheet

For each judging room, have a Team Information Sheet.  You can find the template at  The team information sheet helps the judge remember the team.   Also, judges love it when teams introduce themselves.

Project Judging Room

For Project, you will have 5 minutes, including setup time, to present your solution.   After you present, there will be a 5 minute Q&A.

Robot Design

This is an opportunity for the team to discuss and demonstrate their robot.  Plan for a 10 minute judging session.  There will be a mission table setup for the team to use.  Teams should be prepared to run missions and discuss how they built and programmed their robot.  I would highly recommend having some program print outs.  Not all of your programs, just what you want to highlight.  If your team chooses to prepare a technical notebook that shows the evolution of the strategy, robot and programming, that can be beneficial.

Core Values

For Core Values, teams will be given a challenge and less than 5 minutes to conduct the challenge.   After the challenge, there will be a brief Q&A session.  There is very high probability the team will be asked about Gracious Professionalism, Core Values and Coopertition™.

Judging Rooms

Judging sessions are closed sessions.  The team plus 3 observers (two coaches/mentors and one historian are allowed to observe).  You can just send in the team and no observers.  To demonstrate core values, teams should be silent while waiting outside a judging room.  Judging rooms are typically class rooms.  You will need bring in all your presentation supplies.  (Note, Robot Design will have a mission table setup.  You do not need to provide mission components.)

Helpful Resources – StartingPoints Weekly Core Values Challenge Newsletter – great team resources  – worksheets, printable mat and elements images  – Shared lessons and resources from an experienced coach and judge – Shared lessons and resources from an experienced coach and judge. – VA-DC FLL Resources Page


I hope you find this information useful.  First Lego League is a community of volunteers and there are many people and resources for teams.    I would also encourage you to volunteer at a tournament.  Volunteering to judge is one the best ways to learn.



The Trash Trek challenge with the 9-year-old wondering about disposable straws offered by restaurants has me thinking about straws too, so here is a challenge using a box of straws.  Prep is easy – just pick up a box of straws the next time you’re at the grocery store.  Disposal isn’t so simple anymore, though – how will the team dispose of the straws?  How should they dispose of the straws?  Get them thinking about how to handle this one item of trash.  It might lead them to a great idea for the research project.


30 straws
Masking tape (for marking purposes only; the tape may not be used to construct the tower)
Scissors (for construction only; the scissors may not be part of the tower)

Use masking tape to mark a 12″ x 12″ square on the floor.

Instructions to the team:
Your task is to build a tower that is as tall as possible made only of straws. You will have two minutes to discuss your strategy. During this time, you may not touch any of the straws. You will then have five minutes to build your tower within the taped square.

Variations: Provide as many pairs of scissors as you have team members. Does this change their strategy? Does it help them work together or encourage team members to go off on their own?


Any coach knows that you put a lot of time into helping your team prepare.  I try to let my team set their own agenda for meetings, while I nudge them in the right direction and remind them of time constraints.  One exception is core values activities. I need to prepare the practice challenges in advance, without the help of the team, so they get the experience of dealing with an unfamiliar task without any notice.  I love this activity, which I call Staying Aloft, because no prep is required.  That makes my life as a coach easier.


1 square of toilet paper

None required

Instructions to the team:
Here is a square of toilet paper. See how long you can keep it in the air by blowing it. You are not allowed to touch the square; you can only use your breath.

This game encourages teamwork and cooperation – but mainly, it’s just a fun thing for the team to do. Ask team members if they find it easier to focus on the FLL challenge after taking a short break. Does working together to keep the square of toilet paper aloft make it easier for them to work together on the challenge, too?