FAQ
FIRST® LEGO® LEAGUE

Team QUESTIONS

Who can mentor a FIRST® Robotics Competition team?

Mentors are individuals from all backgrounds and disciplines who work with students to share their knowledge and guide them through the season. Many Mentors contribute on a weekly basis during the program season, or support the team with subject matter expertise on an as needed basis. Teams may have additional or more specialized roles or combine roles as needed.

Who can start a FIRST® Robotics Competition team?

Anyone with an interest in changing lives through STEM can start a team – educators, parents, anyone with the time and motivation. Most teams in Washington are school-based. Others are formed through community organizations such as 4-H, YMCA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs, homeschool groups, religious organizations, and even neighborhood groups of friends. If you want to start a school-based team, contact a teacher or administrator to get started.

What is this years challenge?

The FIRST Robotics Competition game for 2019 is called INFINITE RECHARGE. The game details have not been released to the public yet, but will be in January.

How old does my child need to be to join a FIRST® Robotics Competition team?

The FIRST® Robotics Competition program is designed for young people ages 14-18 and grades 9-12.

What is the size of a FIRST® Robotics Competition team?

A FIRST® Robotics Competition team has 10 or more high school-aged students who are willing to put in the time after school (and some weekends) to do any job the team needs to succeed.

What is the time commitment for coaches, volunteers, and team members?

As a Mentor or adult Volunteer, you should be meeting with your team at least several times per week during the build and competition season (January – April). Many mature teams also meet throughout the school year, and some compete in off-season events during the summer. You, your family, and your available free time can decide together how much time you can devote to the program.

What kind of computer is needed for a FIRST® Robotics Competition team?

Teams must have access to either a Mac or a PC with an internet connection. Computers will be used for the design process, and for programming the team’s robot. Students will need to use computers for research, the Engineering Notebook, and other awards.

Computers are often used during competition as part of the team’s drive stations for matches. Students will also use the computers during competition, to update or fix potential electrical or programming issues.

What kind of practice space does a FIRST® Robotics Competition team need?

Your team should meet in a suitable space to design and build an industrial-sized robot (about 120 lbs.), that has access to a variety of machine shop power tools. Your team will also need a space that provides access to the internet, to work on your team’s awards, marketing, and outreach.

Are there any special skills required to participate?

The really cool thing about FIRST® Robotics Competition is that all skill levels are welcomed and needed, technical or non-technical. Teams need all kinds of skills to succeed, so what are you good at? We have a job for you. And we’ll probably teach you a few new ones while you’re with us.

Student team members are encouraged to bring any skills they already have, like programming, electronics, metalworking, graphic design, web creation, public speaking, videography, and many more. FIRST® Robotics Competition welcomes every student, with or without special skills. Like our Mentors say, “This is the only sport where if you show up, you can play.”

When does FIRST® Robotics Competition happen?

Each January FIRST®, our parent organization headquartered in New Hampshire, provides teams across the globe with a new challenge that focuses on real-world issues that scientist and engineers are facing today. They have six weeks to plan, design, build, and program a robot to compete with and against other teams and their robots. Competition season lasts from late February through April.

How are teams judged at competitions and what awards are there for FIRST® Robotics Competition teams participating?

Judges for FIRST® Robotics Competition select team award recipients through interaction with teams, review documentation regarding team background information to familiarize judges with teams, and serve as role models for the students. Judges have the ability to positively impact quality of event and have an opportunity to coach students on career paths.

Here are descriptions of the awards that are based upon team attributes.

Here are descriptions of the awards that are based upon machine, creativity, and innovation.

Where can I find more resources for this years challenge?

The FIRST Robotics Competition 2019 game has not been released to the public yet but will be in January. When released, you can find resources in the national FIRST resource library.

How can I find a team to join?

Washington State has around 100 FIRST® Robotics Competition teams each year. Teams are formed in schools, community organizations, and neighborhoods. They can be formed by any interested adult willing to facilitate the team logistics.

Within Washington, many FIRST® Robotics Competitions teams are formed through schools, so the first place to look for opportunities to join a team is with your child’s school. Generally, the school-based teams are open only to students attending that institution because interest often exceeds capacity. If your child’s school does not currently have a team, you may want to work with a teacher or administrator there to help form a team within the school.

Other Washington teams are formed through community organizations such as 4-H, YMCA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, or Boys & Girls Clubs. Generally, this is only one of many activities that the organization facilitates for its members, but if your child is interested in one of these organizations overall, this might be an avenue to pursue in your local area.

The remaining teams in Washington are formed through homeschool groups, religious organizations or neighborhood groups of friends. While these groups are not specifically closed to other students, they do not usually engage in recruiting members.

Since finding an opportunity with an existing team may be difficult, many experienced coaches and parents advise families new to the program to start their own team. The benefits to your child and for those who have an opportunity to participate are well worth the effort. If you need additional resources or encouragement, contact us at FIRST® Washington.

Search for teams near you.

Who can coach a FIRST® Robotics Competition team?

Teachers, parents, and technology professionals all make excellent coaches. The coach must be 18 years or older and should have the desire to explore side-by-side with students and have good communication, prioritizing, and multitasking skills. The coach’s role is to facilitate instruction and optimize the learning experience of the team members by allowing independent thought. Direct adult involvement or intervention during the problem-solving process is strongly discouraged.

Coaches handle all the operational details: where and when to meet, organizing help for snacks, team costumes, etc. Coaches do not need technical expertise, but must be willing to acquire some basic knowledge of the program.

How do I register my team for FIRST® Robotics Competition?

You begin the two-level registration process with national FIRST® registration. When you complete the short process (around 20 minutes) and pay your registration fee, you will receive:

– An official team number
– Coaches’ Handbook

Once your team is registered with FIRST® nationally, the coach or team representative must register with FIRST® Washington. Registering with FIRST® Washington will allow you to participate in the event registration process in October and the opportunity to compete in local competitions, qualifiers and regional championships.

Please go to the Get Started page on this site to begin the registration process.

Veteran teams are only required to re-new your team profile every year after first registration, to confirm your participation.

Students must register themselves in the team profile each year, to create a network between all competing members, and to ensure all the necessary paperwork is completed.

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Educator Questions

What is the FIRST® Youth Protection Program (YPP)?

The purpose of the FIRST® Youth Protection Program (FIRST® YPP) is to provide Coaches, Mentors, Volunteers, employees, others working in FIRST® programs, team members, parents, and guardians of team members with information, guidelines, and procedures to create safe environments for everyone participating in FIRST® programs.

The FIRST® YPP sets minimum standards recommended for all FIRST® activities. Adults working in FIRST® programs must be knowledgeable of the standards set by the FIRST® YPP, as well as those set by the school or organization hosting their team.

FIRST expects all teams in the United States and Canada to adhere to all provisions of the FIRST YPP.

Is the STEM Robotics 101 Professional Development eligible for STEM Clock Hours?

Yes. The STEM Robotics 101 professional development program was the first professional development program in Washington certified as “STEM clock hours” for teacher certification purposes. Participants attending the STEM Robotics 101 Introductory two-day workshop will earn 12 STEM clock hours, administrated through ESD 112.

What are the start-up costs of a STEM Robotics 101 classroom? Is help with start-up costs available?

The start-up costs for a STEM Robotics 101 classroom is about $225 per seat.

This cost estimate assumes:
1. Two students per robotics kit (ideal ratio)
2. Classroom has access to computers – Mac, PC or iPads/Chromebooks – that are less than 6 years old
3. Classroom licenses for programming and tutorial software
4. Classroom Challenge supplies
5. Teacher has completed the STEM Robotics 101 Introductory Workshop and is eligible for one-time start-up discounts (5% on kits/software from LEGO® Education.

FIRST® Washington is beginning to work on a program to help support Tier 1 and Tier 2 free or reduced-price meals schools with their classroom start-up costs. If start-up costs are a barrier for your participation as a Tier 1 or Tier 2 school, please contact Erin McCallum at FIRST® Washington, erin@firstwa.org.

What is the STEM Robotics 101 professional development program and the Computer Science Education Grant?

The STEM Robotics 101 professional development program is a two-day introductory workshop in which teachers learn how to build and program the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3 robot and utilize/customize the rich set of Robotics 101 resources. Teachers work in pairs (just like their students) with the provided kits, robots and computers. Each teacher leaves equipped with software and the curriculum resources they need to customize a STEM robotics course to meet the needs of their students and goals of their administrators.

The Computer Science Education iGrant provided funding to launch the STEM Robotics 101 professional development program in the spring of 2016. Since then, over 35 two-day Robotics 101 Introductory workshops have been held at 15 sites statewide.

There are also several one-day advanced topics/coaching sessions for introductory professional development graduates, offered in partnership with educational service districts around the state.

The one-day advanced topics professional development includes Advanced LEGO® Programming, Robo-Math, Robo-Science, Data Logging, Technology-demystification lessons, Java Programming on LEGO® MINDSTORMS®, and FIRST® LEGO® Primers.

Professional development participants learn about the STEM Robotics 101 Lesson Bounty Program, which seeks to harvest the innovations of Washington teachers who too often are isolated in their own classroom. The Robotics 101 Lesson Bounty program seeks to harvest this creative work by providing a stipend for Washington CS/STEM teachers to take the time to document and share complete new lessons for STEM Robotics 101 which they have created for their own class.

What is STEM Robotics 101?

STEM Robotics 101 is a free CS/STEM curriculum for new Robotics teachers developed by the Olympia School District (OSD) and deployed worldwide with the help of two National Science Foundation Projects to more than 3,700 registered teacher-users. Robo101 enables teachers to customize an approachable CS/STEM curriculum that plays to their unique strengths, while also meeting the individual needs of their students and goals of their school administrators.

Based on the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robotics kits, STEM Robotics 101 was featured at the NCCE conference in Seattle, and this Interview with the NCCE Blog team provides insight into the history and goals of Robo101.

Where and When will the STEM Robotics 101 PD be held?

We will be hosting STEM Robotics 101 Intro Professional Development workshops at all 9 ESD’s and the FIRSTWa Fieldhouse in Kent.

You can find event details on our calendar here.

What is the cost to participate in the Introductory STEM Robotics 101 PD program?

The registration fee for the two-day STEM Robotics 101 Introductory Workshop is $395. You may be eligible for grant or scholarship funding.

If your robotics team received a FIRST® Washington iGrant from OPSI this year, these funds may be used to pay for the STEM Robotics 101 Introductory Workshop. (Professional development is an allowable expense for these grants.)

Partial scholarships are available for teachers impacting high under-represented student populations. Demographic information is requested during registration to determine a school’s tier for Robotic 101. Tier 1 teachers pay a net $195 registration and Tier 2 teachers $295.

The registration fee includes:
• The two-day hands-on professional development with an experienced instructor (computers, software, and robots supplied)
• OSPI-certified STEM clock hours for certification purposes
• Free OSPI-approved model framework/leadership equivalency and standards alignment
• A free turn-key, customizable curriculum repository
• A one-time 5% discount off the best internet volume pricing on a classroom set of LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3 kits and accessories
• Eligibility for STEM Robotics 101 Lesson Bounty Program, with a teacher-stipend for adding new lessons to STEM Robotics 101
• Eligibility for advanced topics professional development, including Advanced LEGO Programming, Robo-Math, Robo-Science, Data Logging, Technology-demystification lessons, Java Programming on LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3 and FIRST® LEGO® League Primers

What financial support for STEM Robotics PD will be provided to teachers from schools with high under-represented student populations and how are these tiers determined?

The Computer Science Education Grant program was designed to “introduce and engage students from historically underrepresented groups, including girls, low-income students, and minority students, to computer science and to inspire them to enter computer science careers”.

To this end, the STEM Robotics 101 Professional Development program will prioritize participation and financial assistance into three tiers to serve this objective:

The Computer Science Education Grant program was designed to “introduce and engage students from historically underrepresented groups, including girls, low-income students, and minority students, to computer science and to inspire them to enter computer science careers.”

The STEM Robotics 101 Professional Development program prioritizes participation and financial assistance into three tiers to serve this objective:

Tier 1: Available to teachers who teach students from the most under-represented CS/STEM populations:
1. Teachers of Mandatory STEM Robotics 101 Enrichment Classes (100% participation of girls)
2. Teachers from Alternative Learning Experience Classes
3. Teachers from Special Education Classes
4. Teachers from schools in the highest quartile statewide (as determined by OSPI’s 2016/17 Washington State Report Card) for:
a) Free or reduced-price meals population rate >60%
b) Transitional/Bilingual population rate >15%
c) Non-White/non-Asian population rate >50%
Teachers from Tier 1 will be given the highest priority for professional development training slots and a $200 registration scholarship, reducing the 2-day STEM Robotics 101 Introductory Workshop fee to $195.

Tier 2: Available to teachers who teach students from high under-represented CS/STEM populations. Teachers from schools in the second-highest quartile statewide (as determined by OSPI’s 2016/17Washington State Report Card) for:
a) Free or reduced-price meals population rate >45%
b) Transitional/Bilingual population rate >10%
c) Non-White/non-Asian population rate >33%

Teachers from Tier 2 will be given second-highest priority for professional development training slots and a $100 registration scholarship, reducing the 2-day STEM Robotics 101 Introductory Workshop fee to $295.

Tier 3: All other public/private school teachers.

Teachers from Tier 3 will be given priority for professional development training slots on a first-come-first-served basis after Tier 1 and Tier 2 teachers are allocated slots. Tier 3 teachers will be given no additional financial assistance, but they will receive all the benefits listed in the previous FAQ.

How do I sign up for the STEM Robotics 101 professional development program?

Interested applicants should register as soon as possible. Please be sure to complete the optional section at the end of the form if you are interested in qualifying for Tier 1 or Tier 2 scholarships.

Applications will be prioritized as described in the previous FAQ and applicants/principals will be notified of their status, any available tiered scholarships, and how to complete the final registrations (including payment of fee). A letter of support from the principal will be required as part of this final registration process.

Who do I contact if I have more questions about the STEM Robotics 101 PD program?

Please contact Terri Campbell at  FIRST® Washington at terric@firstwa.org

Who will be the instructor for the STEM Robotics 101 PD?

Randy Steele of R&D Consulting (R_Dconsulting@comcast.net) will be the instructor for the STEM Robotics 101 Introductory PD.  Randy has been a STEM Education Consultant and the CTE STEM Coach for the Olympia School District since 2010. He is the primary author and curator of the STEM Robotics 101 curriculum site.

Randy entered STEM education as an “empty-nest” career following two decades as a computer chip designer and engineering manager at Intel and ST Microelectronics.  He has coached/mentored several teams for FLL, FTC and FRC competitions and has trained hundreds of Washington teachers on STEM Robotics 101.

Randy has a B.A.Sc. in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Management Sciences, a Washington State Residency Certificate in middle and high school math, and a Washington State CTE Certificate in STEM Technology, Computer Technology, Electronics and Engineering. Randy is also the inventor on 30 U.S. patents in the field of computer chip design.

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