Monthly Archives: September 2015

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?



Help your team get ready to program their NXT or EV3 robot by “programming” a fellow team member to complete an obstacle course.

Your choice of anything to create an obstacle course! Ideas include:
Hula hoops
Tennis balls
Wood planks

Prepare an indoor or outdoor obstacle course for the team, with a mix of barriers to navigate and tasks to do. Your course might require that someone step over a string staked a few inches from the ground, drop a ball in a cup, navigate across a wooden plank, pick up an object, step through a ladder laid flat, and toss a beanbag into a bucket. Do not let the team members see the course until they are ready to start the game.

Instructions to the team:
You will be “programming” a robot to navigate an obstacle course. Choose one team member to act as the robot. This person will be blindfolded, so the only way they can get through the course is by following your precise instructions. You will have 2 minutes to view the course and discuss your strategy. The “robot” will not be part of this discussion.

Make sure that an adult coach or mentor or older team member stays close to the “robot” at all times to keep them from harm. For example, if the robot is programmed to move forward, expect them to continue moving forward until programmed to stop – so you may need to step in to make sure they do not hit a wall or walk into a street.

This game helps teach the team the importance of clearly and exactly communicating what the robot must do. Make sure the team understands how this game relates to programming for the FLL robot game. Having the robot teammate blindfolded prevents them from offering help or using their own initiative to navigate obstacles – just like the Mindstorms robot will only do what it is programmed to do.



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?



Last week, we asked teams to build the longest bridge possible. This week, ask them to build the strongest bridge. Change the construction materials so that teams must come up with a new design, rather than simply replicating last week’s bridge.

1 3-foot piece of string
15 paper clips
6 straws
2 index cards
5 marshmallows
1 12-inch piece of masking tape
2 bricks (for bridge towers)
Scissors (for use in construction only)
Dried beans (for weights only)

Set up 2 bricks on a table. Lay out all other construction materials so they are clearly visible.

Instructions to the team:
You have 7 minutes to build a bridge between two bricks. Your bridge must hold as many beans as possible. You may use the scissors to modify the construction materials, but the scissors cannot be part of the bridge. At the end of the building period, you will place the beans, one at a time, on to the bridge, counting how many beans the bridge can hold before it collapses or the beans spill.

Did the team decide to use a planning period, or did they immediately start construction? How was this bridge different than the “longest bridge” built last week? Did last week’s experience make this week’s task easier or harder?

Combine this “strongest bridge” activity with last week’s “longest bridge” activity. Choose one set of construction materials, and have the team build one bridge, then the other. What was different about the two construction projects? What was the same? Were there also changes in the team’s decision-making process or teamwork?