STUDENTS/ PARENTS FAQ
Check out the complied list of frequently asked questions! Click each question to find out more about the answer and available resources. You can find more FAQ pages geared towards educators/admin, volunteers, and teams/coaches (especially if you have already started a team).
How do you join an existing FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge Team?
In Virginia and DC, 70% of the teams are affiliated with a school or school system, so the best place to start is in your community! If your school or other organization has a FIRST® LEGO® League team already, approach the coach to see if there is room for another student and if the deadline has passed. If your child’s school does not currently have a team, you may want to work with a teacher or administrator there to help form a team within the school.
Other teams are formed through community organizations such as 4-H, YMCA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, or Boys & Girls Clubs. Generally, this is only one of many activities that the organization facilitates for its members, but if your child is interested in one of these organizations overall, this might be an avenue to pursue in your local area.
The remaining teams in Virginia and DC are formed through homeschool groups, religious organizations, or neighborhood groups of friends. While these groups are not specifically closed to other students, they do not usually engage in recruiting members.
Since finding an opportunity with an existing team may be difficult, many experienced coaches and parents advise families new to the program to start their own team. The benefits to your child and for those who have an opportunity to participate are well worth the effort. If you need additional resources or encouragement, contact us at VA+DC FIRST LEGO League.
Here are some other ways that parents can find other people looking to start a team in your area.
Can FIRST® LEGO® League find a team for my child?
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 organizers, or youth groups. For these and other reasons, we do not match individual children with pre-existing teams.
For privacy reasons, we are not able to share team contact information. Although FIRST LEGO League does not match children with existing teams or provide team contact information, here are some ways you can connect with other people getting started in your area.
I can’t find a FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge team near me. Can I start one?
Absolutely, the easiest way to join a FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge program is to start your own team.
Find more information about getting started here!
Additionally, you can ask your principal if your school has a team; if not, encourage your principal to identify a teacher who would be willing to start a team with your help as a team volunteer. Please let your principal know that FIRST® is a collaborative partnership with private industry professionals and educators to inspire young people towards STEM. If a school-based team is not a possibility, you may find another youth-focused organization that can help. Scouts, 4-H, and other clubs may also support FIRST® teams.
How old does my child need to be to join a FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge team?
The FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge program is designed for young people ages 9-14 years old in grades 4-8.
If your child is younger than 9 years old as of January 1st of the competition year, but is still interested in participating, please reach out to us as we are able to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
Because VA+DC FLL is a large region made up of hundreds of teams, we manage and provide recognition to our teams based on an age-based division system. Find out more about how that work in our region here.
When does FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge happen?
Teams typically meet August through November with our regional tournaments happening in November. Many teams then advance to the Virginia/ DC championship event in December. VA+DC FIRST® LEGO® League has the opportunity to award 2-3 teams who have made it to the regional championship event to advance to the world championship in Detroit, Michigan in late April/ early May.
2020-2021 SEASON CHANGES: Due to the impacts of COVID-19, our regional competition season has been moved to late January/ early February with our regional championship event happening in late February. For more COVID-19 updates, please visit this page.
What are the rules for participating in a FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge tournament?
There are just a few general participation guidelines, as well as guidelines for our regional qualifying tournaments. To read more about those specific guidelines, check out this resource from FIRST.
In order to compete in regional qualifying tournaments, teams should fit the following criteria.
– A competitive team consists of 2-10 team members, ages 9-14**
– A team must complete the national FIRST registration and the regional VA+DC FLL registration (Find all the steps here!)
– All work presented at an official event is the work of the children on the team.
– All team members attending an event are required to participate in the judging session, and be present as a team at the Robot Game matches.
** VA+DC FLL may approve an individual’s participation request below or above the age range due to special circumstances or needs. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the time commitment for coaches, volunteers, and team members?
In general, as a coach, volunteer, or team member you should meet with your team two to three times per week during the build and competition season from September through January; April if you make the World Championship. Two hours per meeting is an adequate time commitment. Additional meeting times are often added before the tournament to finish projects and practice. Like any sport or club, the time you invest in helping your team will add to your team’s success.
This year, event volunteers should expect to give one weekend day to the actual event and a small amount of pre-event training! Find out more about volunteering for a VA+DC FLL Challenge event, check out our volunteer “Getting Started” page.
What is the cost of a FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge team? Are there any grants available?
The cost to participate ranges depending on the the level of the team and resources that might already be available. Rookie or beginning teams should expect to pay more, while veteran teams will be able to use certain materials and resources from year to year.
One of the major purchases is a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3 Robotics Kit or a LEGO® Spike Prime Kit. This kit provides a small programmable computer, and enough motors and parts to make a machine. If your team already has access to a kit, you can use that kit and not purchase a new one. Returning teams are able to reuse the kit each year.
To find out more about developing a team budget and what is required, check out our Team Budget & Funding page.
Team grants are available on a seasonal and regional basis. To see more resources on how to fund your team through grants, take a look at the “Team Grants” section of our Team Budget & Funding page.
What kind of practice space does a FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge team need?
Teams need enough space to build and test the robot on the FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge playing field (contained in the Challenge Kit). The playing field is a 8′ x 4′ mat upon which LEGO® pieces and various elements are arranged to create the Challenge missions.
Additional materials (such as two-by-fours) must be purchased separately to build a border around the playing field. Setup can be as simple as clearing an area on the floor, or your team may opt to build an official FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge table. It is not mandatory, but highly encouraged. Some teams have found it advantageous to share a playing field with other teams in their area. Teams can sometimes find used tables in the area on the ListServ and our Facebook page.
During COVID19, teams are looking for bigger practice spaces to allow for social distancing. Some teams are even preparing to hold practice outside to adhere to local health and safety recommendations.
What kind of computer is needed for a FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge team?
Teams must have access to either a Mac or a PC with an internet connection. Internet access and a valid email address are mandatory to maintain contact with FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge throughout the Challenge season. The computer is used to develop programs for the team’s robot. Programs are easily downloaded to the programmable LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3/ LEGO® Spike Prime robot controller via a USB cable. You can find those on our Robot Game Resources
If your team attends a local event or state tournament, you will need an on-site computer for the day of the competition. A laptop is best. Robot programs are often modified to accommodate the specific conditions of the tournament setting and to improve robot performance.