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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.


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?



Do your team members listen to you? Do they listen to each other? I like this twist on an old party game that tests a team’s listening skills. It’s very easy for someone to assume they know the rules and race ahead trying to solve the problem of how to win, only to find out later that they missed the point.

Enough chairs for every member of the team
Music player (smartphone, MP3 player, radio … anything that can be quickly started and stopped)
Place the chairs in a circle, facing outward. If you don’t have space for a circle, place the chairs back-to-back in two lines.

Instructions to the team:
You will be playing a game of musical chairs. While the music plays, walk in a circle around the chairs. The objective is to get everyone on the chairs as soon as the music stops.  (Note: it’s very important that you state this objective exactly).

The game:
Start the music and let the team members circle the chairs. Stop the music – each team member should find a chair and sit down. Remove one chair and start the music again. See what happens when you stop the music this time:

(a) If the team members each claim a chair for themselves, leaving one person “out,” you can repeat the instructions, or let the game continue until there is only one chair left and one person who will claim to be the “winner” of the game. At that point, you can ask the team whether they satisfied the objective.

(b) If the team figures out that the objective is for all team members to cooperate so everyone can get on a chair, continue the game so they can explore how to work together to get multiple people on one chair.

It’s easy for the kids to jump to the conclusion that they already know how to play the game. How long did it take for the team to figure out that the objective was to get everyone on a chair, rather than for each individual to try to claim a chair while leaving out other kids? Did they need prompting from an adult coach or mentor to reach this conclusion? Encourage them to use this lesson as the season continues. Are they taking the time to really listen to each other (and to you)? Or can they identify times they rushed ahead and wasted time chasing something that wasn’t their true objective?


This week’s challenge requires more preparation by the coach, so make sure to gather all materials in advance of your team meeting.

Roll of masking tape
5 cardboard tubes (from paper towel or toilet paper rolls)
2 sheets of paper
10 index cards
10 straws
20 toothpicks
10 marbles (for movement only)
Scissors (for construction only; may not be used as part of maze)

User masking tape to mark a line 12 inches from the edge of a table. Place the bucket on the floor 3 feet away from the taped line (2 feet from the edge of the table).

Instructions to the team:
You have 7 minutes to create a maze to move marbles from the tabletop into the bucket. Each marble must begin its movement behind the line taped on the table. Marbles may not be thrown. Once your structure is complete, you will have one minute to roll the marbles.

Did one person come up with the maze design and convince the other team members to try it, or was it a joint decision-making process? If one person came up with the design, what role did the other team members play? Is it more efficient to have one person in charge of design? If so, what effect does that have on the team?


FLL Core Values Challenge – Consensus Loop

This week’s challenge develops problem solving, conflict management, and compromise – but it doesn’t require movement or building so it’s perfect for when you’re meeting in a smaller indoor space.

Roll of duct tape
Start with a strip of duct tape about 30 inches long.  Fold in half crosswise to make a long narrow strip, and connect the ends to form a loop (sticky side inside).
Do this four more times, and when you make the fifth circle, use it to connect all the circles.
Throw the bundle of loops on the floor or table to start.

Instructions to the team:
Without touching the loops, determine which of the duct tape loops is holding the other four. You have five minutes. When the team has an answer, or time expires, pick up the selected loop to see if they got it right.

Drop me a line at if you have questions, suggestions, or just want to say hi. I’d love to hear from you.

Yours truly,


FLL Core Values Challenge Activity – Have A Ball

In celebration of summer, here’s another challenge using an inflatable beach ball.


25 sheets of newspaper
1 sheet of mailing labels (substitute: tape)
Inflate a beach ball. Provide a large area on the floor for the team to work.

Instructions to the team:
You have 5 minutes to build a structure that holds a beach ball at least 3 feet above floor level. The beach ball must stay on the structure for a minimum of 10 seconds. You may test the structure with the beach ball during the 5-minute building period.

(Does the team develop a strategy that lets them work together? Do they come up with creative ways to fold and roll the newspaper? Do they take advantage of the opportunity to test the structure? How do they deal with set-backs, such as crushing the tower during a test?)

Drop me a line at if you have questions, suggestions, or just want to say hi. I’d love to hear from you.