FLL Stratagy – some easy targets

Easier missions are the missions that are closest to the base and with the larger targets. Attachments can make the hard targets easy as well as well as using sensors and lines or the wall to make missions close. For instance bowling, the robot can move all the way down the field, hit the wall with a touch sensor and then you know you’re near the bowling lanes.

The large video screen is the closest to base should be a fairly easy task to do. The easiest way to manipulate this is to push down the handle but to do that the robot needs to move out of the base, turn, and use some type of manipulator that pushes down the arm as it moves over it. Some other ways to manipulate the arm are:

  • reach over the screen and push the arm down
  • push up the flag
  • Or probably the easiest, go around the screen and pull the handle down.

Another fairly easy target is the blue quilts. All the robot needs to do is to push the two blue quilt squares from the base to the other two blue squares. It’s not quite a straight shot so the robot would have to push the squares out, turn slightly and push the squares to touch the black scoring area’s next to the other blue squares. Something will need to keep the squares from sliding to the side when a turn is made.

The “chair back to the base” portion of the wood working mission. should be somewhat easy. The goal is to move out grab the chair and bring it back to base. The trick is to have an attachment to grab the chair. One way may be to have a latch go across the where it would pull the chair back. Another way would be to have a hook of some type loop the chair and pull it back.

These are just a few of the strategies to get you started. You still need to do the programming and build the attachments.

Good Luck. If you have any questions, please e-mail me.

FLL – The Project

I want to start out by saying the project portion of FLL is my weakness, I haven’t worked on projects like this since my kids were in middle school, 8 years ago.

Any responses/ideas/thoughts that could help others with the project would be appreciated. Since I am a beginner at this and I’m trying to help everyone, I appreciate others help and others ideas.

Everyone needs to remember that the project is 25% of your overall score. So I want to learn, even though the coaches are dealing with the project portion. I started by reading the Rubrics and the Project FAQs. Then I went to a local FLL workshop put on by a Longtime North Texas FLL Coach, Sherry Oliver at TCU. It was really great and I learn a lot.

The project presentation takes place in front of judges. The kids have 5 minutes to present from the time they enter the door. The judges then have 5 minutes to question the team. For the team, that’s it. The judges will continue to deliberate for 5 minutes before the next team.

One suggestion that came up was a Project notebook, as well as a Robot Build note book, and a Team Notebook (for core values and team work issues).

So what should go in the Project note book.The simple answer is all information that was found while researching the project.

  • Keep the brain storming ideas for the project.
  • Information on the problem.
  • Any information found while researching the project
  • Information on the solution
  • Information on
  • Pictures of the kids meeting with experts
  • Pictures of any field trips
  • Picture of your senior partner
  • Current Technologies that could could be used, made smaller/better/faster to  solve the problem

The project notebook would be given to the project judges to review. But make sure you get it back at the end of the day.

The project needs to be a problem that could possibly lead to a solution. Basically, you need to follow the process of:

  • Find a problem
  • Come up with technologies that could solve the problem
  • Think about technologies that would can be made smaller, better, or faster to solve the problem
  • Think of things that can be done possibly in the next 5 to 50 years.

If the problem has a solution that can be done today, then have plans that could lead to the solution should be presented. Letters to people/groups/businesses asking for change. Plans for items to be created to solve the problem or plans to work with an expert to solve the problem.

Thanks to Sherry Oliver and everyone else who is and will be helping me on my quest for learning about the FLL project.



FLL – attachments

I’m doing this a bit out of order, the chassis is the first thing to build. After that comes the attachments. I’ll write later about the chassis later.

Attachments are extra Lego pieces attached to the robot to accomplish a task. Sometimes motors are used for the attachment, sometimes it’s just the Lego parts to make an attachment. Some attachments use rubber bands or string to accomplish a task.

I’m going to talk about some of the simpler attachments that are not very specialized. It’s up to the kids to take the idea’s, modify them, and make them useful for this years missions.

First is a simple horizontal pushing rod. This can be made to stick out to the side of the robot to put things as it passes them.

It can push the arm down on the video calls, turn the cardiovascular exercise wheel,push over the similarity mission, push the lever of the shared ball game as it passes by the mission item.

The next simple attachment is the plow. This is for pushing cargo to it’s destination. In the picture below the plow has sides on the plow to keep cargo corralled during movement. This would be a good attachment to push the blue quilt pieces into place or after the chair has been retrieved and fixed, it would be pushed under the table.

Another attachment is a simple latch. The latch is used to drag something back to base. To use the latch the robot moves over an object, the latch clicks into position and as the robot backs up, the object is dragged back. The key to the latch is the Lego hinge is a gray connection piece, not black. the gray is designed to allow Lego movement.

A slightly more sophisticated latch can use a cage that drops when the latch is hit. It can also use a rubber band to make a cage to drop and hold. I’ll write more later about it and give a picture.

FLL Stratagy

There are many levels of strategy for doing the various FLL missions. I’m only going to talk about some of the basic strategy to start the kids thinking about how to do the missions.

The best strategy is to read the game manual. Read it closely, brainstorm with others, and think about what the description says with not preconceived ideas. For example, the Transitions mission says “Robot gets onto the center platform…”, it doesn’t say how to get on, you can get on from either end…or possibly from the side by tilting the center platform to the side and moving onto the platform.

Take a look at the game mat. In general, look at the missions to see how “easy” they are. Typically, a mission is considered easy if they are close to base or the missions with larger target to hit.

Missions such as the video call near the base, the wood working (retrieving the broken chair), retrieving the service dog, and possibly the blue quilts are fairly easy.

Missions such as the cardiovascular exercise, similarity recognition and cooperation, ball game, the lower hoop on flexibility, the orange quilt, the gardening, the strength exercise, and transitions are medium hard.They are a bit further to get to or have a small target to hit. When something is further the robot accuracy isn’t as good. Same with small targets. The transitions has obstacles to complete the mission which makes it medium hard.

The rest of the missions…the medicine, bowling, strength exercise, stove, the far video call, and the upper flexibility hoop are all hard, they are far and small to activate.

The Cardiovascular Exercise is the “impossible” mission. This is simply because there’s not really enough time to get it done along with all the other missions. It has to be visited multiple times (6 times with no touch penalties) while having to do all the other missions.

Also, there are lines on the game mat. This lines can help with movement, they can be followed to get to a destination, used to straighten the robot, or tell where you are by moving until you hit a line . Line following or robot movement until you hit a line is a strategy. The lines are a bit different this year. There are green lines, dashed lines, lines going from light to dark. We’ll have to get into the missions to tell how this will affect the game.

We’ll talk specific mission strategy next time.

Again, if you have any question, e-mail me at frc704mentor@qweztech.com.

FLL Organizing a team

There are many different ideas about how coaches should organize an FLL team. Some of the organizational methods are good, some not as good. The key thing is to come up with a way that fits you’re (or the coaches) organizational style…unless that style is chaotic, I haven’t seen that style work yet.

These are my thoughts based on watching teams from either a mentor’s perspective or as someone who was brought in to teach/trouble shoot/guide for a short time, which seems to be something I do a lot of. I’ve also read others FLL’ers thoughts on team organization. Here are some of my thoughts.

  • The coach doesn’t need to be technical – just good with kids and organized. Understanding NXT-G programming and building helps. The FIRST organization has some good information on coaching on their international FLL site.
  • Recruit parents/mentor’s – The coach can’t do it all, you need help. They can help keep the kids on task with the project and robot missions moving. Mentors can really help with the programming and building ideas.
  • Manage and Administer the team – keep the team organized and moving toward the FLL competitions. Set practice schedule, meet deadlines from FIRST (i.e. registration, event sign up, etc.), and getting things done on time. A bigger task is sometimes managing the parents (probably the hardest part). Don’t let the parents use the FLL meetings as “babysitting”. If kids don’t want to be there, then they don’t need to be there.
  • Kid interaction – Depending on the mix of maturity of the kids, this can be tough. And, yes, there may be some crying and hurt feelings. Also recruiting the right mix of kids. Some want to be technical only (i.e. work on the robot) and some want to be project oriented. Some want to tell everyone else what to do. All of this needs to be managed.
  • Time management – have a schedule and stick to it. As an Engineer, I know the schedule will most likely be missed, but it’s a goal to shoot for. Keep the meetings on time (for the sake of the parents).
  • Area organization – There needs to be enough room for kids to work on the robot missions (4×8 ft table plus area to move around the edge, about 2 ft on each side. There also needs to be enough area for work on the project. This depends on the project, building/creating the parts of the project and area to practice. Also, a storage area for mission models, project parts, and table storage.
  • Stay connected – Communicate with other coaches and regional groups. The North Texas FLL forum is at (). Don’t go through this on your own. If you need to contact me (frc704mentor@qweztech.com) and I’ll check my contacts to find out who can help in your area. If you’re in North Texas, I can help.

Volumes have been written on coaching so do some reading.

Kid management and robot resource management is another topic. If there is only one brick (Robot Brain) this can be tough.The main thing I have is patience. Since all kids are different this is more of a coaches issues to determine how to organize the kids based on their personalities. Here are some suggestions on organizing the kids.

First, have the team come up with a basic chassis design that will accommodate attachments and can move around the field. This would include, at minimum, a light sensor for line following. Have the best builders build the chassis.


1.       My belief is to let every kids who wants to work on the robot, work on it. The robot portion FLL is organized into missions. They can be logically grouped for the robot to do multiple missions after leaving the base. A good idea is to pair up the kids and have them make the robot do a set of missions. They both work on the programming and the attachments for the mission. Not all kids have a technical aptitude but, I believe, that if they do, it should be nurtured. Also, have the kids help each other if some of them get stuck.


2.       At significant milestones in the missions, have the robot pair present what they did to the group (not every meeting). That way, every one kind of knows what’s going on and it helps toward team work.


3.       All the kids need to work on their project. Most of the time, when one pair is working on the robot, have the others working on the project. Occasionally everyone will need to work on the project for presentation organization.


4.       The kids need to work as a team. Work together, value each other’s ideas, and value each other. There will be the overpowering kids, the ones to talk a lot and telling others what to do. However, there will also be the quiet kids who think things out. These kids need to be given the time to be heard and their ideas are  listened to as much as the overpowering kids ideas. These are the introverts (which is a great thing) whose ideas will become the next Google or get a colony on another planet.


·         Los Altos Robotics (http://www.losaltosrobotics.org:8080/Main/FLL/coaching.html)

·         FIRST Lego League Coaching (http://www.legoleaguecoaching.org/)

·         FLL Resources (http://firstlegoleague.org/challenge/teamresources)

Dr. Ken Berry (Head Referee for the North Texas Region)

Get Prepared for FLL

As most of us FLL’ers know, the kickoff date for Senior Solutions is August 28, 2012. WooHoo! (link to where the material will be) Here in North Texas the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science will host a kickoff, tentatively planned for Sept. 8, 10 am to 12 noon in the auditorium at the Museum. There will be more information at the Museum FLL Link.

There are many new teams out there who are saying “what does that mean?” What it means is the field and missions will be released as well as the Rubrics for each area being judged.

For all the new coaches and mentors out, there are a lot of questions. While I’m happy to answer any and all questions, here are some links to information to get coaches and mentors started.

Official Resources:

Some other FLL resources:

Programming Resources