Starting an FLL Team
Thank you for volunteering your time and talent to coach. With your guidance, the children on your team are going to inspire you, and those around you, in surprising ways. If you have no technical background, don’t be nervous. Let your team do the work. You only need to ask the questions and watch them…GO!
If you’re a new coach, we know this can seem overwhelming. But don’t worry. One of the amazing things about participating in FLL is that you’re now a part of our community. Your team is one of over 15,000 teams in over 50 countries! If you need some advice, feel free to contact the FIRST Partner Alberta in your area to get connected to a veteran coach. (More on Operational Partners later.)
FLL is more of a celebration than a “competition”. Coaches help other coaches. Teams help other teams. We want everyone who participates – team member, coach, or event volunteer – to have a fulfilling experience. That’s the reason we built FLL upon a set of Core Values.
What do I do first?
You need to recruit at least two team members, although we recommend at least three for a true team experience, who are between ages 9 and 14 prior to the opening of registration. Once registration is open, go here to register your team. Keep in mind that children can only be on one team, but a coach is allowed to coach multiple teams. You will need a meeting space that has room to set up the 4×8 playing field, and a computer with internet access.
Read the first three chapters of the FLL Coaches’ Handbook located on the Resources page.
What do I do after I register my team?
You will receive a registration packet that includes the Coaches’ Handbook. Read this Handbook carefully. If you have not already done so, go back to the registration system and purchase one Field Setup Kit (approx. ~ $75 US + tax + shipping or $88 CAD + tax + shipping). Note that if you have multiple teams, they can share one Field Setup Kit or they can each have their own. It’s up to you!
Also, if your team does not already have one, you will need at minimum one MINDSTORMS® Robot Set ($399 + tax + shipping) and accompanying software.
- Purchasing MINDSTORMS® – MINDSTORMS® sets and accessories are purchased through Spectrum Educational Supplies. Contact robotics(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)spectrumed.com
- The MINDSTORMS Robot Set can be reused each year, so you only have to buy that once. The Coaches’ Handbook and Field Setup Kit change every year with the Challenge theme.
- While you’re in the system, make sure we have your correct email address so you receive any important info/updates from us.
The Field Setup Kit is the playing field for the Robot Game. Depending on when you register, you could receive your kit as early as July. As soon as you receive it, you can begin putting it together with your team, which is a great “team building” exercise, but you won’t know what the actual game is until the Challenge is released on September 3rd. To even the playing field, so to speak, all teams are granted access to the Challenge at the same time. Some Operational Partners host events to celebrate the release of the Challenge in their regions. Contact the FIRST Partner Alberta for more information.
You also won’t find out what the Project is until the Challenge is released on September 3rd. But what do you know? You know what the theme for the upcoming Challenge is! You can begin researching that theme with your team, so they are ready to program their Robot and design their Project Presentation once the Challenge is released.
- Show us how you’re preparing for the Challenge on our YouTube Channel.
- Follow us on Twitter to get behind-the-scenes info as we develop our next Challenge.
Local event and official tournaments
If your team chooses to participate in a local event or official tournament, you’ll only have until that event to complete both parts of the Challenge (Robot Game and Project). They’ll feel a time crunch just like in the real world! Events are great opportunities for teams to interact with and learn from each other, whether it’s the first year they’ve participated or the third.
Local events follow their own structure. At officially-sanctioned FLL tournaments, teams are judged on their Project Presentation, Teamwork, and Robot Design, which is the strategy they used in programming their Robot. Teams will also compete in three rounds of the Robot Game. Only their best score that day counts! Teams have the opportunity to win awards in each of these categories, but the FLL Core Values remain the focus. “What we discover is more important than what we win.”
- If you are attending an official tournament, make sure you have a signed paper parental consent form for each member of your team.
What do I do once the Challenge is released on September 3rd?
Your team needs to carefully read all the documents that pertain to the Robot Game and Project. They are only available on our website! To get a sense of what these look like, you can see past Challenge documents here. You will need to download one document which explains the Project, plus some optional resources, but the Robot Game has a few components:
- Game Rulings
The Missions and Rules are what your team needs to begin strategizing how to play the Robot Game. The Game Rulings are updated continually throughout the season to clarify questions we’ve received from other teams. It is important that you keep up with these rulings as they could affect how your team programs their robot.
- Make one member of your team responsible for checking Challenge Updates and have him/her check the page at the beginning of every meeting.
What can I do with my team before the Challenge is released?
- Create a team identity – name, logo, team shirts, mascot
- Fundraise or apply for grants – to pay for team shirts, any tournament fees, registration fee, etc.
- Learn how to use the MINDSTORMS Robot Set and software
- Put together the Field Setup Kit
- Begin researching the Challenge theme
- Learn the FLL Core Values
- Host a Jr.FLL event or mentor a Jr.FLL Team
- Learn about the FTC and FRC programs for high school students.
- Help promote FLL and the FIRST mission,
- HAVE FUN! (Well, you can have fun AFTER the Challenge is released too.)
How do I explain what I’m doing to others?
Here’s some things that are unique about FLL:
Anyone can coach. We really mean it! There’s no technical background needed.
Yearly Challenges are based on “real world” scientific topics like Nanotechnology, energy, transportation, and accessibility. Teams are actually tackling the same issues as today’s scientists and engineers!
Sure, children develop technical skills as a result of participating in FLL. But they also develop those important life and employment skills that will benefit them no matter which career path they choose. Brandeis University studies have shown that children who participate in FLL learn critical thinking, time management, collaboration, and how to communicate effectively, all while becoming more self confident.
Many children become interested in a career path related to one of the Challenge themes, in addition to sparking their interest in becoming the next generation of scientists and engineers. Teams also raise funds (Development), create a team name and identity (Marketing), and promote their activities (Advertising).
Teams can choose to participate in official tournaments, which are organized by our amazing volunteer network of Operational Partners around the globe, or in local events, which are organized by their community. These events are celebrations of their accomplishments, both technically and personally.
Team activities are guided by a set of Core Values, including: We do the work to find the solutions with guidance from our Coaches and Mentors.
Please send any general questions about the FLL program to any of our FLL Directors.
Operational Partners are amazing people who VOLUNTEER to run the FLL program in a specific region. Please contact the FIRST Partner Alberta with any questions pertaining to official Tournaments and to be connected to a veteran coach. And please thank your Operational Partner for all they do!
Thank you, again, for coaching an FLL team. At the end of the season, we will send you a survey to gather feedback on your experience. We truly listen to what you have to say!
With High 5’s and Admiration,
FLL Headquarters – Manchester NH USA