The Phoenix Fire

FLL Competition

Chungtai Tian

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On December 1st, four Phoenix 8th graders will be going to Naperville North for a robotics competition. Two weeks later, five more will be headed to Batavia for another competition. These competitions are part of a program called FLL, or FIRST Lego League.

FIRST,  which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” is an organization founded by Dean Kamen, the inventor who created the segway. FIRST is a series of programs composed of Junior FLL, FLL, FTC, and FRC.

FLL, the competition that these students will be participating in, has a different theme each year. The first theme, in 1999, was “First Contact”, and this year it is “Into Orbit”. There are three main components that teams must work on and prepare for the final competition. These areas are the Robot Game, Project, and Core Values. The theme often has an impact on the Robot Game and the Project, two of the components of FLL. Teams must achieve high scores in each of these categories in order to do well at a competition.

For the Robot Game, teams need to build and program a robot to complete missions on a game board. The robot and its attachments must all be made out of legos, and teams have two minutes and thirty seconds to run their robot and obtain as many points as possible. Because of the short amount of time they are allowed, teams need to work together well do decide which missions they will choose to complete for the competition. A part of the Robot Game is a section called Robot Design, in which teams will have to explain to judges how they decided to go about completing everything. The judges then evaluate the team in areas such as consistency and programming efficiency.

The Project is another important part of FLL, and is arguably the part where students are able to learn the most. Students must “identify a human physical or social problem faced during long duration space exploration within our Sun’s solar system and propose a solution.” This can be a hard task, especially with years such as this one, with the theme of space. Everyone on the team must contribute with a lot of research, and even contact with experts such as NASA is necessary for good markings. Many teams will go as far as to even create a prototype for their solution. Finally, they will need to make a five minute presentation to show to the judges.

Core Values is the last piece of FLL, but it is most certainly not the least important. The Core Values are the cornerstone of FLL, as they teach students many skills that can be used both in and out of FLL. Students will develop important qualities such as teamwork and leadership, and they will need to demonstrate their knowledge of these Core Values to judges at the competition.

The Lymin Ducks and RoyalTech are two FLL teams that will be competing, and they have both made it to the state round in past years, meaning they both have high hopes for this season. A deciding factor in the Lymin Ducks’ performance at the regional competitions will be their project, while RoyalTech needs to do well in the Robot Game. The Lymin Ducks hope to solve the issue of dust storms on Mars blocking out sunlight and keeping the rover from generating power with its solar panels. Their solution is to place a wind turbine on the rover and use a scissor lift to retract it in order to prevent drag. They did a lot of research, including meeting scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and contacting rover experts at NASA.

From the end of summer until now, it has been a hard year for FLL participants, and they will do their best at the competitions to come. No matter what the result is at the competition, the season has been fun and full of knowledge.

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FLL Competition