The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is a program designed to get kids ages nine to sixteen interested in science and technology. Founded over 20 years ago by inventor Dean Kamen, the League has gotten more popular with each passing year. The goal is to challenge the participants to be innovative, to explore, and to promote competitive creative play or “coopertition.” Unlike a sports competition, in FLL, coaches and teams are encouraged to help each other. FLL wants everyone who participates (team member, coach, event volunteer) to have a fun time and a rewarding experience. That’s the reason why FLL has a clear set of Core Values that guides everything they do.
Every September, a new Challenge, based on a real-world scientific topic, is posted. Each Challenge has three parts: the Robot Game, the Project, and the FLL Core Values. Teams (up to ten children + one adult coach) tackle the Challenge by developing a solution to a problem they have identified. Teams may then choose to attend an official tournament, hosted by one of FLL’s Operational Partners. In these events teams compare their approaches and solutions, win recognition, and make new friends.
There are four main parts to an FLL event:
- Teamwork activity: Each team is interviewed by a panel of judges or participates in a teamwork exercise.
- Technical presentation: Each team must demonstrate that the robot they built is designed appropriately for the tasks given.
- Research project: Each team must do a research project and give a short presentation to a panel of judges.
- Task completion: Each team must use the robot it created to autonomously complete a defined set of tasks on a standardized playing field.
The success of FLL has sprouted offshoots. In 2004, a pilot program called Junior FIRST LEGO League was created to encourage children between six and nine to participate. The program was huge hit and has continued to grow every year.
RainyDayMagazine attended a regional Junior FIRST event in Quincy last December. It was great to see hundreds of kids excited, enthusiastic, and running around. However, it was also impressive to witness the level of poise, focus and concentration displayed by these youngsters when it was their turn to demonstrate the capabilities of their robots in tackling the predefined tasks. In many instances, the parents appeared to be more nervous than the kids 🙂
We are looking forward to attending more FLL events in 2012. With over 20,000+ teams in over 61 countries, FLL is constantly expanding. If you are interested in helping to create a formal FLL presence in your area, contact FLL at FLLTeams@usfirst.org.