The First Lego League (FLL for short) is a joint venture between FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and LEGO. FIRST is an organization dedicated to attracting youths to science and technology by means of creative and interesting methods. So, it seemed only a matter of time before they teamed up with LEGO, a company known for their versatile plastic toy blocks. The FLL was founded in 1998, and had only 2,000 members, but now they boast over 30,000 members worldwide, with over 2,750 registered teams.
, The FLL issues a challenge
to all registered teams, that describes a situation, or scenario in which a robot would prove useful. The teams then have eight weeks to construct a robot
, using an FLL issued LEGO Mindstorm Robotics
set that can complete as many obstacles within the challenge as possible, in a certain time limit. In addition to the standard set, teams may use any LEGO brand pieces to improve their robot mechanically, or visually.
All of the obstacles are constructed out of LEGO pieces and are placed on the playing field, which is roughly 3 ft. by 6 ft. and are assigned a certain point value that is to be awarded upon completion of the task. For example, the 2002 FLL challenge was called City Sights, and was designed to get teams to think like urban planners, and try and find ways that a robot would improve city life. Some of the tasks included moving boulders made of LEGO pieces from a specific area, collecting LEGO rings from LEGO trees, and collecting toxic barrels made from LEGO pieces.
While constructing the robot was a vital part of the project, teams were also faced with the daunting task of programming their robot, using the LEGO Mindstorm software. One should keep in mind that the majority of the children that participate in these events are still in elementary and middle school, so it is almost expected that supervisors and mentors help in this area.
As if all of this weren't enough, each team is also expected to prepare a report
that demonstrates their understanding of problematic areas that fall within the challenge setting, as well as some creative, and practical ideas concerning how to eliminate these areas.
After the weeks of preparation, all the teams gather at regional tournaments to test their robots against each other. There are three areas in which each team is scored: the actual testing of the robot, an interview concerning the research project, and another interview that concerns how well the team worked together to accomplish a common goal.
The FLL is still expanding internationally, and has just established registered teams in France. This year's challenge is simply named "Challenge: 2003", and is set on the planet Mars. In this challenge, teams are asked to come up with ways that a robot might explore Mars, and possibly start colonization. If you are interested in becoming a part of The FLL experience, but do not fit the age group for participation, do not fret, you can become involved in other ways. This includes, being a judge at tournaments, being a team supervisor (adults), or even being a team mentor (high school student).
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