In FIRST LEGO League Challenge, teams learn both through what we do (the Robot Game and the Innovation Project) and how we do it (the FIRST Core Values). Each Fall, teams around the world as presented with the Challenge. The Challenge is based on a set of real-world problems facing scientists, engineers, and communities today. It has two parts: the Robot Game and the Innovation Project.

Robot Game:  Teams design, build, program and test using an autonomous robot kit with LEGO Spike Prime technology (other LEGO platforms are allowed). The robot must perform a series of tasks or missions to score points in 2.5 minute matches on a themed LEGO model playing field. 

Innovation Project:  Teams explore a real world problem that today's scientists and engineers are trying to solve, develop an innovative solution to that problem (either by creating something that doesn't exist or building upon something that does), and share their findings with others.  

Core Values:  Throughout their work on the Robot Game and the Innovation Project, teams are guided by the Core Values to build teamwork skills and make this a great experience for everyone involved.

For roughly 12 fast-paced weeks, teams work as a group to overcome obstacles and meet challenges. They learn from and interact with their peers as well as adult coaches and mentors. Teams work to find creative solutions to the problems presented to them in the Challenge. They then compete in a qualifying tournament where they celebrate their accomplishments with other teams, family and friends.

Getting Started with FIRST LEGO League

According to FIRST policy, FIRST Illinois Robotics can't give out any contact information relating to teams including coach names, meeting location, emails, etc. In short, we can’t directly help you get in contact with existing teams.

That said, with hundreds of teams in Illinois, there is likley a team near you! You can contact local schools, libraries, and youth organizations to ask if they have teams your student can join. If you would like to have your contact information sent to coaches in your area, please send an email to [email protected]

FIRST offers some assistance in reaching out to teams or other people looking for a team through the FIRST Forums. Perhaps you can make contact with another individual like yourself and together you can form a new team. FIRST has a national database of teams that you can search too.

Building a team sounds intimidating. A team consists of coaches and team members.

Finding a coach is difficult: not many non-affiliated adults aim to coach teams. In many cases, family, teachers, or mentors step up to coach. Coaching can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

What makes a good coach?

  • A willingness to learn with the team
  • Coaches do not need to be technical! Great coaches know how to help their team learn how to manage their tasks while promoting independance and working towards their season goals
  • The ability to step back and let Kids Do the Work
  • A drive to do this for your students

Coaches are not in it alone. Most teams have co-coaches, assistant coaches, or mentors to help throughout the season. Sometimes, it's as easy as having a co-coach that can host team meetings.

FIRST Illinois Robotics is here to help new and returning coaches. Between the different Challenges every year and policy/procedure differences, things change every year and FIRST Illinois Robotics wants to keep it easy for coaches to stay up-to-date. 

  1. Coach Trainings - Coach trainings are offered most years over the summer or during the first few months of the season. Coach trainings can be focused on just one topic (like project, or robot game) or can span all a coach would need to do throughout the season.
  2. Coach Email Blasts - Every-other-week emails throughout the season, designed for coaches with the most up-to-date information on the challenge, grants, Illinois specific topics, and much more.
  3. Coach Calls- Monthly "ask anything" format calls to support coaches. FIRST Illinois Robotics Partners present updates, upcoming deadlines, season details; the rest of the call is Q&A. These calls are great resources for coaches to ask questions of the Partners and of other coaches. 
  4. Email the Partners - Contact the FIRST Illinois Robotics Partners for help throughout the season. There are also mentors in the state available to help guide pr answer questions from the coaches or team in a one-time, typically remote, meeting. 
  5. Email the Head Judge for Illinois - Contact the Head Judge for questions regarding the Innovation Project or Judging/Participation rules and procedures. 
  6. Email the Head Referee for Illinois - Contact the Head Referee for Robot Game, missions, or rules

If it is your rookie year, enjoy it for what it is:  a survey of the course. Your goal should be to simply take a lap around the block with FIRST LEGO League Challenge.  With a fun experience and meeting realistic goals under your belt, you and the students will be brimming with ideas about what to do next year. Whether or not your team scores high marks at a tournament, team members win by participating and gaining valuable experience.

Team requirements:

  • Between two and ten children
    • Teams that are comprised of more than 10 children are not eligable to win awards at events or advance to further competitions
  • All children must be in grades 4th - 8th (ages 9-14)

Some teams start in schools, or with existing robotics groups. But how do new teams form? Recruitment has to start somewhere.

If you're looking to add members to your new team, here are a few ways to find additional members:

  • Friends or classmates of the students on the team
  • School clubs
  • Teacher recommendations: teachers see it all! They may have a couple of students in mind that could enjoy robotics
  • Library
  • Coding/Building organizations

The cost of participation in FLL generally ranges from ~$1200 for new teams to ~$600 for returning teams. Teams can sponsor themselves, fundraise, apply for grants or sponsorship, or anything else. Check Here for current Illinois Grant opportunities for teams. 

Sample Budget: (Costs are subject to change)

Required Items:
  • National Team Registration: $250 (+ $12 shipping) and $95 (+ $15 shipping) for Challenge Set (Game Mission Models and Mat)

    • This is required for all teams and is non-refundable

    • This includes the Challenge Set for the current season

    • It does not include the Illinois Registration Fee

  • FIRST LEGO League SPIKE prime Set:  $533.90 (+ tax and $20 shipping)

    • First season purchase only: the robotics kit should be reused for subsequent seasons

    • Previous generation robot sets (EV3 and NXT) are also acceptable and can be found on online market places like EBay.

      • Software is open source. 

    • FIRST LEGO League Price List is found HERE

  • Illinois Tournament Registration Fee: $175

    • Teams are able to attend a single Qualifying tournament

  • Illinois Advancement Fee: $125 

    • Only for teams who advance past a Qualifier

Optional Items:
  1. Official Table:  $80-250

  2. T-shirts: approximately $25 per shirt

Your team’s other expenses may include: office supplies, snacks and travel expenses.

Once the challenge is released (August 1st), a team typically meets once or twice a week for about two hours. This depends on the age (and thus ability to maintain focus), and other time constraint issues. Separate technical and administrative coaches can significantly reduce the work load of running a team and increase the fun for the kids and adults.

May:  National Team registration and materials ordering begins

August:  Challenge is formally released!

September 15th: Illinois registration opens and Qualifying event preferences become available for selection

October 13th:  Illinois Qualifying Tournament Registration Closes

October 15th:  National Registration closes (or earlier if all slots are filled)

November 1st:  Illinois Qualifying Tournament Assignments are available

December:  Illinois Qualifying Tournaments take place

January: Illinois Sectional Tournaments take place

February: Illinois State Tournament takes place