Unlike many sports organizations, FIRST LEGO League does not register individual children and place them on teams. FLL operates a season of events that teams apply to participate in. You are responsible for forming a team or finding a team for your child to join.
Teams can consist of 2-10 members, ages 9-14. You can form a team from any group of interested kids: teams are often formed in classrooms, after-school programs, neighborhood groups, youth organizations, or just a group of friends.
Teams need an adult coach. You don’t have to be a scientist or engineer to be a coach! Teachers, parents and technical professionals all make great coaches. The coach’s role is to help the team learn skills in programming and building, and let the team participate in independent learning. Coaches do not directly assist the team in the problem-solving process.
If your FLL team includes more than 10 students, you have several options:
•Some organizations register enough official teams to accommodate all of the children who sign up. Registration is open from May through September.
•Organizations that have limited funds and can’t afford to register multiple teams register only one or two teams with FIRST, but use the field kit for several “club” teams. (The field kit can be shared, however, each team needs an NXT robot kit.) Before the official FLL event, the club hosts an unofficial tournament those with the top robot and projects represent the club at the official FLL RI qualifiers.
•A few organizations welcome all who want to participate and bring a team of 15 or more to the FLL tournament. These teams are welcome to participate in the event, but are ineligible for awards. More info here.
While FIRST suggests a lower age limit of 9, this limit is “soft”—if you, the coach, feels that a younger child is ready for FLL, that’s fine with FIRST and FLL Rhode Island. Keep in mind that the Jr. FIRST LEGO League is an option for students aged 6-9.
Teams meet between 1 and 10 hours a week, during the season, with additional hours added in the 2 weeks prior to a tournament. In general, teams who meet 6-8 hours a week are more competitive for awards. Teams can have a wonderful FLL experience, however, whether they meet a little or a lot, but it’s important for the team to consider how much time they have to prepare when they are setting their goals and expectations for their FIRST LEGO League season.
Annually, a team needs about $600-$700 to fund their FLL team:
• $225 FIRST registration
• $75 field kit, ordered when you register your team
• $75 for a qualifying tournament registration
• $150 for a Championship registration if the team advances, and
• $50-$100 for optional items like craft supplies, snacks and team t-shirts.
• $420 to purchase a LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit – this can be reused every year. Teams find that having one NXT kit for every 3 or 4 team members helps the team’s practices run efficiently and ensures that everyone gets hands-on time with the robots.
• $50-$75 to build an FLL robot game table which can be used year to year to hold the robot game field kit.
The fees you pay for registration support the development of the annual challenge and the global operation of FIRST LEGO League.
Fees for the local qualifying and state tournaments just barely cover the event’s overhead. While the venues (Roger Williams University, Kickemuit Middle School, North Kingstown High School and St. Mary’s Academy Bay View) donate the space for our tournaments, FIRST LEGO League Rhode Island (FLL RI) foots the tab for fire and janitorial details, renting a truck to transport over a dozen FLL game tables, field kits and other materials between storage and the venues, table and chair rental, sound systems, and catering a light meal for the over 200 volunteers who make the event happen.
Rhode Island School of the Future (the official name of FLL RI) does not have a paid staff and we receive no income from FIRST to run the FLL program: we receive no direct cash donations from the FIRST international sponsors whose logos are on the robot game mat, and no part of the $225 registration fee you pay to FIRST, it funds the FLL program development and global program management run from FIRST headquarters in New Hampshire.
Fundraising is a big, time-consuming project. The RISF fundraising committee has a plan to increase corporate and individual donations, but creating relationships that lead to donations is a long-term process.
If your team needs funding, try asking for small donations from people in your business and social circle—the pizza place where the team eats, one of the parents' office will usually chip in $25 or $50—car washes and spaghetti suppers can boost the coffers too.
If your team is facing serious financial hardship and has exhausted your ability to raise funds, contact FLL RI. We don’t want teams to miss a tournament because of lack of funds, and will try to work something out so that your team can participate.
There are two steps to registering as a new FLL team.
Register with FIRST to order your field kit and pay your FIRST registration fee. National team registration will open on May 6, 2013 for the FIRST LEGO League Nature's Fury season.
The second step it to register to participate in a Rhode Island Qualifier. Qualifier registration begins in early October 2013. Details on registering your team for a Rhode Island Qualifier will be emailed to teams registered with FIRST at that time.