Frequently Asked Questions
1) What is FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL)?
A: FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”. In 1988, LEGO Group partnered with FIRST to create a S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program combining creativity with learning. FLL teams use the LEGO NXT Mindstorm technology to design, build and program an automated robot to accomplish certain missions. Teams will research real-world challenges facing today’s scientists and present their findings to a panel of judges. To showcase their work, FLL teams compete in tournaments and present their innovative solutions to a panel of judges.
Read more about FLL and other FIRST programs at http://www.usFIRST.org.
For information about the Virginia/DC FLL Region, go to: http://www.vadcfll.org/.
2) How do I get my child on an FLL team?
A: The FLL program is for children ages 9 to 14. Anyone can start an FLL team. Teams may be made up of neighborhood groups, home school organizations, Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, family members, and friends with common interests. Although VA/DC FLL is unable to match your child to an existing FLL team, we can suggest other ways for you to possibly connect with a team or other families who may be looking for a team.
- Sign up with FIRST Team-Up. Connect with others to form an FLL team. Go to: https://my.usFIRST.org/FIRSTPortal/Login/fc_login.aspx?s=fc
- “Like” the VADCFLL Facebook page. Go to www.facebook.com/vadcfll . You can like the page and post team-match information on the discussion page. You’ll also find events and other topics being discussed as appropriate. This is a moderated site so we do check it frequently for inappropriate posts. Please keep the topics limited to FLL related issues.
- Join the VADCFLL email list. This list provides a way for coaches, mentors, and others to discuss and distribute FLL questions and suggestions. Both Virginia/DC-specific and general FLL topics are covered. To join, visit:
https://listserv.jmu.edu/archives/vadcfll-l.html and select "Join or leave the list".
- Reach out to your local community. Contact your neighborhood association or post a message on your neighborhood newsletter.
- Contact organizations who provide enrichment programs for school-aged children. It is very possible that some of the students who enroll in these programs may be members of an FLL team or may be interested in starting a team. A list of 2011 Summer Camps for Robotics and Technology is posted on our website at http://www.vadcfll.org/.
3) Can my child be matched with an existing FLL team?
A: “Teams are structured in a variety of different ways; some are clubs or after-school programs that meet year-round, while others are formed by parents, community organizations, or youth groups. For this and other reasons, we do not match individual children with pre-existing teams. Also, for privacy reasons, we are not able to share lists of team contact information. We encourage parents and teachers to start teams in their areas and then invite other interested students to join, and we provide lots of information to help you with this process. You may want to contact your local schools or civic groups to see if they have an existing team or are interesting in starting one.”
4) Q: What does it take to start our own FLL team?
A: What is a Team: FLL Teams come in all shapes and sizes. They form with school groups, neighborhood friends, scout troops, community groups, homeschoolers, 4H, etc. Teams are defined as having 3 – 10 participants from ages 9 – 14 and team members typically meet twice a week. Teams can be a mix of grades & ages. In Virginia/DC we have two divisions and teams compete at the grade level/division of the oldest member. Ages are calculated as of January 1 of the year of competition.
FLL Division 1 = oldest team member is 9-11 as of January 1
FLL Division 2 = oldest team member is 12-14 as of January 1
Forming a Team: Finding Participants and Coaches
- Hold an informational meeting for your school or group in spring or very early in September – explain the program, timeframe, costs, and the need for volunteer coaches!
- Talk to parents, your PTO/PTA, your principal, your school district, or an interested teacher. Most teams are coached by teachers and/or parents.
- Recruit other coaches or a co-coach. At least 2 coaches per team are recommended.
- There are always interested kids, they just need a coach. No experience is necessary to coach. You do not need to be an engineer to be a great coach! There are a number of coach training sessions hosted around the state – typically in August and September.
• Teams register at: https://gofll.usfirst.org
Season Overview and Deadlines: The season runs from Late August through December.
- May – September: Teams register and begin to meet
- September (first week): FLL Robot and Research Challenge Announced
- September 30: National Team Registration closes
- October 1 - 10: Regional Tournament Registration with VA/DC FLL
- September – October: Coach, Team Training, Research Workshops
- September – November: Volunteer Training and Regional Tournaments
- December (first weekend): VA-DC Championship (for advancing teams)
*only for teams advancing from regional tournaments
Registration costs (for each team of up to 10 kids):
First year - $835
Second-year - $400
FLL national registration fee (goes to FIRST) - $225
LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Robot & Software (onetime purchase; goes to LEGO) -$435 + S/H
(optional LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Robot & Software -$495 + S/H)
Field setup kit (goes to LEGO) - $75 + S/H
VA/DC regional registration fee (covers VA/DC tournament costs) - $100 *
* does not include the $150 Championship Tournament fee for teams that are promoted
(Teams may also want to purchase materials for a practice table, t-shirts, and other supplies.)
5) Q: Should I buy an EV3 instead of an NXT for this year’s competition?
A: This is a hard question to answer and it is up to coaches & teams to decide.
The EV3 is an evolution of the NXT, so it’s better but not overwhelmingly better, and we expect to see the NXT in FLL competition for many years to come. The knowledge base and reference base for the NXT is also quite extensive. The EV3 will be allowed in competitions and FIRST has indicated that all the new sensors and motors would be allowed except the IR sensor. The final version of the rules has not been released yet, however.
The EV3 will be shipping out beginning August 1st, but the ship date is tentative and there’s no guarantee that LEGO® will be able to meet the demand. So, it's possible that you might not get your EV3 robot until October.
Tournaments and Registration
1) I just registered my team nationally with FIRST. When can I register for a VA/DC FLL tournament?
A: There is a time delay of several days between when teams register nationally and when they can register on our VA/DC FLL Tournament Registration site. Teams should register with FIRST before the end of September. As soon as a team has a team number provided by FIRST, they should then register at the VA/DC FLL site also. Teams will be able to enter tournament preferences October 1st through 10th. VA/DC FLL registration will end on October 10th.
2) I manage multiple FLL teams. How do I register for multiple teams?
A: Team managers can register multiple teams under the same login and list different coaches for each team. Managers who register multiple teams are responsible for any updates to each team they register. Otherwise, you will need to share your login information with individual coaches so they can update the team information. Manager and coach emails provided will be automatically added to the “admin” email list from which all administrative messages will be sent.
3) Why is the Coach's "Home Phone" information required?
A: Teams do not have to provide a home phone number but they MUST provide a contact phone number on this required field. Tournament organizers need this information so that they can contact the team coach for any last minute changes affecting their tournament schedule.
4) Do I need to enter information for each team member? What if I don't have it available when I register?
A: Yes, each team member’s complete information must be entered. If you do not enter the correct date of birth for ALL team members, your team may be assigned to the wrong division! You can use the FIRST Consent & Release form to gather the data from each team member. Information for ALL team members must be entered before the registration closes on October 10th.
5) What are the age divisions and what do they mean for my team?
A: If all your team members are 11 or younger as of January 1, then they are a Division 1 team. If at least one team member is 12 or older as of January 1, then your team is in Division 2. One exception to this - if a team that is designated division 1 by team member ages would like to "play up" and compete as a division 2 team, they may elect to do so by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. However, under no circumstances can a division 2 team compete in division 1. Teams may register for any regional tournament, regardless of division, and they will be competing against other teams within their division. The division number will be automatically assigned once team member birth dates are filled in, so it is very important that team member birthdates be complete and accurate.
6) Why are we asked to provide information about the race or ethnicity of team members and are we required to provide it?
A: This information will be compiled with the other team member data we collect to help apply for grants in future years and to better understand the demographics of our organization. You are not required to provide this for any or all of your team members if you prefer not to, you can simply choose the "not reported" option.
7) Does our team need to fulfill all elements of the challenge to participate in a VA/DC FLL tournament?
A: Teams will be judged on all elements of the challenge - the research project, robot design, robot performance, and core values - and must come prepared for each of these sessions in order to participate in a tournament. The FLL challenge is designed to give students a well rounded experience and the spirit of the organization is about the journey that the kids experience through full participation in the program.
Note: The robot performance part of the challenge includes several different missions. Teams are not required to complete all missions in order to compete in this part of the challenge. Teams may choose to attempt any subset of the missions for which they feel prepared.
8) Our Virginia/DC FLL team is registered with FIRST but we may not be participating in a VA/DC FLL qualifying tournament. Do we still need to register on this site?
A: Even if you don’t plan to register a team for a VA/DC regional qualifying tournament this season, we ask that you login and make note of this. There will be a clear place for you to indicate that you will not participate in VA/DC tournament. This will help save time for our very busy volunteers who would otherwise have to follow up directly with any unregistered teams.
9) Can I (a member of the general public) attend a tournament as a spectator?
A: Yes! You can attend a tournament free of charge and are invited to observe the robot challenge portion of the competition (the judging rooms for other aspects of the competition are off limits to all spectators). Details regarding location, time, etc. for the regional tournaments can be found on our Tournaments page. If they aren't there now, they will be published as soon as they are available.