STArting a team
What are FLL and FLL Jr. ?
FLL Jr. and FLL (First Lego League and First lego League Jr.) are both competitions that revolve around using robotics to come up with a creative way to solve a real-world issue. FLL and FLL Jr. are an amazing experience for children to be a part of because they not only get a lot of experience with robotics, but they also learn in depth about the topic of the season, so they gain a great deal of knowledge in the process.
What are the differences between FLL and FLL Jr. ?
Kits: FLL and FLL Jr. are two different competitions using 2 different kits: FLL Jr. uses WeDo (younger kids); FLL uses EV3 Mindstorms (meant for slightly older kids).
FLL Jr. teams must have 2-6 team members ages 6-10 and 2 adult coaches. Given the young age, it's not run like a traditional competition. Teams select one “competition” (aka expo) where they present a poster of their research conducted and their final robotic project. Projects are typically simpler, perfect for young children with no robotics experience. Note: if your child is 9 or 10, I recommend looking into FLL as FLL Jr. might not be challenging enough.
FLL is meant for teams of up to 10 members, ages 9-14. The season culminates in a tournament where the kids compete with their robot to fulfill the challenge given to them and try to earn awards.
Tips to Getting Started
So, you got a group of kids together, registered and purchased all the necessary material. Now what?
Set up a time to meet each week. It should work for everyone's schedule. The FLL Jr. team that I coached met once a week for two hours. Remember this probably will need to be adjusted if you find that you are running out of time.
Use the Lesson Plan. For both of these competitions, FIRST provides you with a lesson plan to do each session. I find it helpful to go through it, annotating and adjusting it so it caters to your team. Spend time on activities that challenge them and keep their minds stimulated, not the ones that they can complete with ease.
Start each session off with an ice-breaker. My girls love to play 'telephone', so we start each meeting off by playing it with a twist -- the word or phrase being passed around has to do with robotics or the theme of the season. Starting each session off with a mini game puts children in the right mindset to learn and be creative. It gets their energy up and they have lots of fun doing it.
Take a field trip. FIRST recommends you take your team on at least one field trip. I want to emphasize how important this isit is. Taking a field trip to a place related to the topic is so beneficial as the kids get to learn something in a different setting. Last year, the theme was living on the moon, so we went to an energy exhibit at the Liberty Science Center in NJ where they learned about many different types of energy and determined which ones would be practical methods of obtaining energy if one was living on the moon.