FAQ: Challenge Level

NOTE: Due to COVID-19, Wisconsin FIRST LEGO League will be hosting remote regional events. This will affect some of the answers in the Q&A below. Details about how a remote event will be run will be shared later.

Formerly referred to as “FIRST LEGO League” or “FLL,” FIRST LEGO League Challenge is the new name.

Friendly competition is at the heart of Challenge, as teams of students ages 9-14 engage in research, problem-solving, coding, and engineering – building and programming a LEGO robot that navigates the missions of a robot game.

2020-2021 RePLAY resources are available for downloading.

What does FIRST stand for?
FIRST is the acronym for: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
What does FLL stand for?
FLL is the acronym for: FIRST LEGO League.
What is FLL Challenge?
FLL Challenge is a well-rounded STEM education program that includes building and programming robots using the EV3 and Spike Prime platforms. But it’s so much more than just the robot! FLL includes a research project that involves creating an innovative solution and presenting this in the community and before judges at a tournament. FLL also has a strong focus on Core Values that encourages teamwork.
When does the season begin?
FIRST Team registration typically opens in early May.  The challenge is usually released in early August.  Wisconsin tournament registration begins in the fall.
What are some of the outcomes for children in the FLL Challenge program?
There are many skills that children learn and experience, including; public speaking, interview skills, presentation skills, talking with industry professionals, teamwork, applying core values in life, programming, mechanical design, strategy, and discovering and exploring engineering and STEM careers.
Is there a program for my child who is too young for FLL Challenge?
Yes, if your child is age 6-10, they can join FLL Explore.
What does my child do when they’re too old for FLL Challenge or age out of the program?
There are two options. FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is for grades 7-12 and FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC) is for grades 9-12.
For Parents
What is the age range for FLL Challenge?
FLL Challenge is for ages 9-14.  In the U.S. and Canada, FIRST LEGO League Challenge participants must not be younger than 9 years old or older than 14 as of January 1 of the year the Challenge is released. For more details, please refer to the Participation Rules.
Where can I find a team for my child?
Please note WI FLL does not match children to existing teams due to FIRST’s privacy policy. We encourage parents looking for a team to contact their local schools, libraries, or youth organizations which may have a team in place, or interest in starting one.
What organizations have teams?
Many schools have teams, also Scouts, 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, and homeschool groups. Or start your own team!
What is the cost to have my child on a team?
Each team has different fees to join a team. Please ask the coach.
What accommodations are made for my special needs child?
You should work with the team coach to manage any accommodations during meetings. If your child needs accommodations at a tournament, the coach should let the tournament director know in advance what is needed.
How do I register my child?
Registration instructions are detailed on the FIRST website.
May I stay at team meetings and watch?
Each team has different policies on this. Please contact the coach.
How might I help the team/coach?
Each team has different needs for additional help. Please ask the coach. Some common ways parents can help are: Snack coordinator, transportation to field trips, supervising online research during meetings, monitoring students with the robot and computer, treasurer, listening and giving feedback for team presentation preparation, and parent mentor.
Starting an FLL Team
How do I start a team?
You begin by registering a team with FIRST and order your field set starting in early May. Team registration typically ends in early October.  Find 2-10 students to be on the team and begin fundraising. In early August, the challenge is released. Most teams begin meeting at this time, or in September when school starts In fall, Wisconsin tournament registration opens.
How many students can be on a team?
A team must have at least two students, and no more than ten students.
I have more than 10 students who want to participate on my team. Can I have more than 10?
Teams larger than 10 students may participate in a regional tournament but are ineligible to advance to the next level tournament. You can limit the number of students to 10, encouraging others to join a different team or to form another team. Many teams have “sister teams” where there are too many students for one team, so they break into two teams and share coaches. Their registration, robots, and project are not shared, however this situation provides many opportunities for joint-team Gracious Professionalism.
How many coaches are required for the team?
At least two coaches are required.
Is there a limit to how many coaches a team can have?
There is no limit to the number of coaches. Most teams have 2-3 coaches depending on the size of the team.  You can have parent-helpers without them being registered as a coach.
How many robot kits does a team need?
A team must have at least one kit. Most teams use either the EV3 or the Spike Prime kit. The older NXT and RCX kits are still allowed to be used.
Do teams wear team shirts or uniforms?
While it’s not required to have a team shirt, most teams do wear them. It provides a sense of cohesiveness to teams as well as makes a team recognizable and memorable for judges. Some teams add fun elements and make it a fun or crazy “uniform,” things like fun hats or capes.
Can the team meet at a school if I’m a parent-coach?
Check with your local school to see what is required to host a team at the school.
Can the team meet at my house?
Some teams meet in coach homes.
How much space do I need for team meetings?
Teams need a space that can hold a competition field that is 4’x8’ and has Internet access, as well as enough room to move around comfortably and gather as a team for discussions. Classrooms, library meeting rooms, church meeting rooms, and even a coach’s living room and dining room can work.
How many times a week should we meet?
Teams should plan to meet at least once a week during the build and competition season beginning in August, or the first week school begins in September if you meet in a school.  Plan to meet until your team is finished with their competition season. Some teams finish in November and mid-December while others finish in January or February. How long your meetings are is up to the team. Most teams meet at least 4-5 hours a week. Some teams meet once a week with a longer meeting while other teams have more than one meeting a week.
Registration, Costs, and Sponsors
What is the cost of an FLL team?
The cost varies by the team. The typical range for a new team is between $1200-$1500 and for an existing team, between $800-1000.
When can I register my team?
FIRST Team registration typically opens in early May. For 2020, registration begins on May 10. The challenge is usually released in early August.   Wisconsin tournament registration begins in the fall.
Where do I register my team?
Team registration with FIRST opens on May 10 and is closed in October. Teams sign up for tournaments with WI FLL in the fall.
What does registration cost?
The 2020 registration costs are available on the FIRST website.  The 2020 cost to register a team for tournaments in Wisconsin is $150. 
Is there a fee for tournaments?
The 2020 cost to register a team for tournaments in Wisconsin is not yet determined.
May I get sponsors for the team?
Teams are welcome to find as many sponsors as they like. Wisconsin FLL does not help individual teams find sponsors.
How do I find sponsors?
Often sponsors are employers of parents and local businesses, including industry and manufacturing companies.
Age Requirement
What is the age range for FLL?
FLL in the USA is for ages 9-14 in the U.S. and Canada.  The Participation Rules can be found on the FIRST LEGO League website on the Season Page. Scroll down until you see the three colored program boxes. Click on the "FIRST LEGO League Challenge" red box and look for Participation Rules.
Where can I find the details for the age requirements?
The Participation Rules provide all the details
What if I have a youth who is too young but wants to be on the team and they seem ready?
Sometimes an exception can be made. Please have the coach contact Wisconsin FLL.
Coach Essentials
How do I run a meeting?
Each team has a different format or style. There is no right way or wrong way to run a meeting. Some common ways are: 
  • Everyone meet together and then break into work groups, then meet together at the end and summarize what was accomplished
  • Each meeting focuses on a different aspect (Robot, Project, Core Values)
  • Students lead the meetings with coach assistance
  • Coaches lead the meetings to give guidance for the students
What is a Rubric?
A Rubric is a scoring guide. This document is what the judges use to evaluate teams during judging. Teams can use this to better understand what the judges will be looking for during the interviews and in the pit.
Where can I find the Rubrics?
The Rubrics are available on the Resource Library for this season. Here is the direct link to download.
Where can I find the format for the judging interview?
The Judging Session Flowchart is a useful tool for preparing your team for a tournament. Returning teams should notice that there is now just a single interview time instead of three separate interviews. Your team should be demonstrating Core Values in everything you do. The judges are excited to see how you show TEAMWORK, DISCOVERY, INCLUSION, INNOVATION, IMPACT and FUN as you present your Innovation Project and Robot Design work.
Where can I find the Game updates?
Challenge Updates come out periodically during the FLL season beginning in August and are on the Resource Page.
What if I don’t know how to program?
That’s okay! Coaches don’t do the programming anyway. The students do all the work. There are a lot of tutorials available online, on YouTube, and some that are available with the EV3 or Spike Prime kit. When the team encounters a problem they can’t figure out, as a coach, you can ask them guiding questions so they can think through the problem and figure out how to fix it. Check out our WI FLL Links page for some suggestions of tutorials.
What are the three parts of FLL?
  • Innovation Project: Each team has to come up with a problem based on the year’s theme, and come up with an innovative solution to solve it.
  • Robot Design: Teams strategize, design, and program a unique robot with which they compete on the game field.
  • Core Values: The six Core Values help teams focus on HOW they accomplish tasks.
How can I help parents to fill out the Consent and Release Form?
There are many reasons why parents have difficulty filling out the Consent and Release Form. Sometimes they don’t have an internet connection easily accessible, they may have a language barrier, or possibly they are just unfamiliar with using a computer. As a coach you might ask a parent on the team to help other parents with the online Consent and Release Form which is found on the parent's dashboard. , or you might offer to help them yourself. If a parent is unable to fill out the form online even with help, please let us know at WI FLL so we can help the parent use an alternative form.
What kind of coach support is available?
WI FLL supports coaches and parents through several ways:
  • Send us an email with questions to FLLTeams@WI-FIRST.org
  • Weekly newsletters during the build and competition season
  • Coach Zoom meetings are available weekly during the build and competition season and are recorded so you can view them if you were unable to attend the meeting.
  • Join the Slack Workspace for Wisconsin FLL coaches. Contact us at FLLTeams@WI-FIRST.org for an invitation link.
What topics are discussed during the coach calls?
  • WI FLL has weekly Zoom calls for coaches during the build and competition season. Coaches are encouraged to join in with any questions they have, or that their team has.
  • We usually have a Wisconsin Head Referee joining us to answer any game-specific questions, and we will periodically have the Wisconsin Head Judge join in to answer/clarify any judging questions. Some weeks there will also be a planned discussion topic in addition to questions from coaches.
  • If you are unable to attend a Zoom meeting, they are recorded so you can watch to them at your convenience.
  • If you can’t attend a Zoom meeting and have a question, you can email your question ahead of time so we can answer it during the meeting. FLLTeams@WI-FIRST.org
Innovation Project
What is the Innovation Project?
Each team chooses a project based on the theme for the year. Teams research and analyze a problem, and develop an innovative solution. They also share their findings with others and improve their design based on suggestions. Be sure to consult the Innovation Project Rubric to see the five main categories the judges will be looking for.
Why is there an Innovation Project?
The Innovation Project portion exposes students to a variety of real world challenges where they also have the opportunity to work with scientists and experts in a variety of fields who can help them research and develop their innovative solution.
What does "Innovation" mean in FLL?
The Innovation Project portion of the Innovation Project Rubric defines it as: Team developed an original idea or built on an existing one with a prototype model/drawing to represent their solution.
What is the five minute formal presentation?
It’s a time where teams creatively present the problem they’re solving, their Innovation Solution, and tell the judges how they shared their project in the community.
Do teams have to do a skit?
While many teams choose to use a skit to present their project, it is not required. Some teams incorporate more formal presentations with a skit, and some teams don’t do a skit at all.
Do teams have to use visual aids?
  • Visual aids are not required, however when used appropriately, they can be helpful for teams to communicate essential information with professionals during iterations of the design process as well as with judges during tournaments.
  • The Project Rubric encourages models and drawings to help with communication.
May the team use a projector?
Tournaments do not usually provide a projector. Please check with your tournament director to know if one will be provided. Otherwise, you can bring a projector with you. Be aware of the limited time available for set up in the Judging Session Flow Chart
May the team build/use a model or drawing to help them demonstrate their problem/solution?
While models and drawings are not required, the Project Rubric encourages teams to use them in the "Create" section: Team developed an original idea or built on an existing one with a prototype model/drawing to represent their solution. When used appropriately, models and drawings can be helpful for teams to demonstrate information with judges, especially when the team practices using them before a tournament.
What things are not allowed to be used in a presentation?
Each tournament is different. If you have any questions about what items are allowed, please check with the tournament director. Some common items not allowed in presentation rooms are unsealed liquids and animals.
May the team leave materials with the judges to look over later?
  • Yes. It is often helpful to leave some things with judges to be able to look over later as well as judges might show other judges what you did. Common things to leave with judges are printed copies of important parts of your Innovation Project, robot, and Core Values as well as small copies of posters and models.
  • It can also be helpful to have the phone number of the coach on anything you want returned to you in case something is lost or left behind. Then we can get lost items returned to teams more easily.
What format is best to use when leaving materials with judges?
  • Every team is so different. There is no right or wrong way to put together leave-behind materials. Binders and papers bound in report covers are common. For loose and/or bulky items, zipper sealing bags are sometimes used. Be sure to put your team name and the team number on anything you leave with the judges.
  • It can also be helpful to have the phone number of the coach on anything you want returned to you in case something is lost or left behind. Then we can get lost items returned to teams more easily.
Will materials be returned to teams?
  • Binders, report covers, and models are typically returned, as well as anything a team clearly marks needs to be returned.  Loose papers are sometimes not returned.
  • Judges do their best to get things back to the teams, but occasionally something doesn't make it back to a team. If you have one-of-a-kind materials or research that you cannot lose, please share it with the judges during the interview and in the pit, or leave them a copy instead.
  • It can also be helpful to have the phone number of the coach on anything you want returned to you in case something is lost or left behind. Then we can get lost items returned to teams more easily.
Does my team have to do a patent search?
While some teams do a patent search and consult with a patent attorney, this goes above and beyond what is expected.
How do I help my team find a patent attorney?
If your team wants to work on a patent, you can find an attorney locally to your team. You can also talk with other coaches who have teams who have gotten provisional patents or full patents and ask them who helped their team.
Robot Design
What is an Engineering Notebook?
The notebook is a place where students can record what they’ve learned along the way with the robot and Innovation Project. You can use the ones that come with the kit, or you can create your own from a spiral, binder, folder, or use something similar.
Why is an Engineering Notebook helpful or important?
Students can track their successes, and also list what didn’t work. They can look back and realize what they’ve learned while documenting the iterations of their progress. It can be just as important to see what didn’t work as what was successful. Similar to Thomas Edison who learned many ways the light bulb didn’t work before he was successful in creating the light bulb. It’s all part of the invention process - the engineering process.
Do we have to use the Engineering Notebooks in the kit?
You are welcome to create your own notebooks if that’s what you prefer. You don’t have to use an Engineering Notebook at all, but it is highly recommended to facilitate the learning process and to document the iteration process of the Innovation Project and Robot Design.
What robot kits are allowed?
Please note the allowable equipment for the RePLAY 2020-2021 season Rule 01 on page 19 of the Rulebook and any Challenge Updates.
Can we use other parts/pieces that look like LEGO but aren’t LEGO brand?
Please note the allowable equipment for the RePLAY 2020-2021 season Rule 01 on page 19 of the Rulebook and any Challenge Updates.
What programming languages are allowed?
Please note the allowable languages for the RePLAY 2020-2021 season Rule 02 on page 20 of the Rulebook and any Challenge Updates.
Where can I find current game updates?
RePLAY Challenge Updates are released regularly.
Do we have to do an Executive Design Summary like in the past?
This can vary. Please watch for updates as we approach tournament season.
Core Values
What is Gracious Professionalism®?
  • Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It's a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.
  • With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.
  • In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.
What is Coopertition®?
  • Coopertition produces innovation. At FIRST, Coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete.
  • Coopertition involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from Mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.
Why are there Core Values?
The Core Values are how teams express the FIRST philosophies of Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition. They focus on how teams work together and make decisions.  
  • Discovery: We explore new skills and ideas.
  • Innovation: We use creativity and persistence to solve problems.
  • Impact:  We apply what we learn to improve our world.
  • Inclusion: We respect each other and embrace our differences.
  • Teamwork: We are stronger when we work together.
  • Fun: We enjoy and celebrate what we do!
What are the Core Values?
  • Discovery: We explore new skills and ideas.
  • Innovation: We use creativity and persistence to solve problems.
  • Impact:  We apply what we learn to improve our world.
  • Inclusion: We respect each other and embrace our differences.
  • Teamwork: We are stronger when we work together.
  • Fun: We enjoy and celebrate what we do!
Where can I find the list of Core Values?
You can find the Core Values on the FIRST website.
Do we have to do a Core Values poster like in the past?
The Core Values poster is no longer required.
Tournaments and Events
What is an unofficial community event?
These events may include demonstrations, practices, scrimmages, or summer camps. Unofficial events do not qualify a team to attend a Championship tournament
What is a scrimmage?
A scrimmage is an informal event. Scrimmages are run differently depending on who hosts it. Some have just the robot rounds so teams can practice running the robot. Other scrimmages include Core Values and Innovation Project interviews, too. These are not qualifying events for advancement. Scrimmages are a great way for teams to practice in a tournament-like event.
Do we have to attend a scrimmage?
Scrimmages are not required. However, if there is one your team can attend, they are wonderful for helping teams be practiced for a tournament.
What are the different kinds of official tournaments?
Wisconsin has up to three levels of tournaments: Regional, Sectional, and the Wisconsin Championship.
What teams go to a regional tournament?
Regional Tournaments are available to all FLL Challenge teams in Wisconsin. We have several tournaments around the state. These are qualifying events for the Sectional tournaments and follow the same judging standards as the Championship.
What teams go to a Sectional Tournament?
Wisconsin FLL has Sectional tournaments. Teams must qualify to compete at one of these tournaments. These are qualifying events for the Wisconsin Championship and follow the same judging standards as the Championship.
What teams go to the Wisconsin Championship?
Wisconsin has one Championship tournament. Teams must qualify to compete at this tournament.  The Wisconsin Championship is the highest level of competition teams can attend in the state. The Championship abides by FIRST LEGO League standards in format, judging, awards, and overall quality.
What are the FIRST LEGO League World Festivals?
These are part of the annual FIRST Championships. They are global celebrations of FIRST LEGO League teams from around the world.
What is an Open Invitational Championships?
These are invitational events where the hosts invite specific regions to send a team. “Open” refers to inviting teams from outside the host region’s borders. Invitationals are hosted by FIRST LEGO League Partners and abide by Championship standards. They represent another great way for FIRST LEGO League teams to get together and showcase their achievements.
Tournament Registration
Do I have to register my team for a tournament?
Most teams do register for and compete at a regional tournament, however competing is not required.
When do I have to register my team for a tournament?
Tournament registration is done on the Wisconsin FLL Registration site in the fall. Teams must have previously registered with FIRST and have a team number. All teams registered with FIRST will be notified by FLL of Wisconsin via email when registration is open and when it will close
Where do I register my team for a tournament?
Tournament registration is available in the fall and is completed online. Coaches will be notified by email from Wisconsin FLL when tournament registration is open.
How many regional tournaments do I register my team for?
Each team will attend only one regional tournament but must list their top three tournaments choices. They will be assigned one of the three. Be sure to consider the dates of the Sectional Tournaments when selecting your three Regional Tournament choices in case your team advances to a sectional tournament. 
Will I get my team’s first choice for the regional?
While we do our best to assign teams to their first choice selection, it is not always possible, therefore each team must include a second and third choice option.
What if there is only one regional my team can attend?
We do our best to assign teams to their first choice selection, but it is not always possible to give every team their first choice selection. If there is truly only one event possible, you must still list a second and third choice.  Be sure to list why you need your first choice when registering, but we cannot guarantee any team will be assigned to any particular event.
Why can’t I choose a different sectional tournament?
When you sign up for a regional tournament, the sectional tournament to which selected teams will advance is pre-assigned and published in advance.  Regional tournaments are pre-assigned to sectional tournaments. If a team advances to a sectional, they cannot change their assigned sectional. Be sure to consider the dates of the sectional tournaments when selecting your three regional tournament choices in case your team advances to a sectional tournament.
I coach several teams. How can I guarantee they all can attend the same regional?
When you register your teams for a regional tournament, please be sure to list in the comments that you have multiple teams so we can be sure to assign them to the same sectional.
Are there overnight accommodations for teams who travel a distance to a tournament?
For Wisconsin tournaments, we do not arrange hotel accommodations for teams. Any team that needs accommodations should make their own arrangements. If your team advances to the World Festival or an Invitational, those tournaments may have a suggested list of accommodations, so watch for information from those tournaments.
Tournament Preparation: Team and Parents
How should I prepare the team?
There is no right way, or one way, to prepare a team for a tournament. Help the team to understand the flow of the day and what is expected of them.
What kind of presentation do teams give for their project?
There is a five minute formal presentation for the Innovation Project. Many teams choose to do a skit for this while others use other creative formats such as a PowerPoint presentation, puppet show, or create a song for their team. Models and drawing are encouraged on Create section of the Innovation Project Rubric: Team developed an original idea or built on an existing one with a prototype model/drawing to represent their solution. Having the team rehearse and memorize their presentation is helpful, as well as practicing with any visual aids they plan to use.
Is there any way to help the team with their Core Values?
Many teams do regular teamwork activities throughout the season to build their teamwork skills.
How can I help the team be ready for interview?
Many coaches conduct practice interviews with the team to help them work out their nerves, to learn to speak loudly, to practice with their visual aids and models, and to develop skills to think-on-the-spot when asked a question.
How should I prepare the parents?
It’s always helpful to have good communication with parents about the arrival time, overall plan for the day, and if they should bring lunch/snacks or concessions money.
Tournament Preparation: Things to Prepare and Pack
What should we prepare to bring with us to a tournament?
Bring your robot/batteries/charger, laptop and charger, spare parts, pit display items, any visual aids and props for the judging session.  It can be helpful to bring printed copies of the programs. Some tournaments have concessions, so watch for information about needing to bring food/water or concessions money. Each tournament is different, so be sure to watch for tournament-specific information to come from the tournament directors.
Do we have to have a pit display?
Pit displays are optional, but can be very helpful for communicating about the Innovation Project, team Core Values, and their Robot Design with spectators, teams, and judges. Teams often have a tri-fold board or two. Here are some common things teams include on their board(s); description and images of their project, robot design and code, team roles, sharing in the community, and sometimes a fun game they developed for their pit.
What should we have available in our pit?
There is not a list of “must haves” that is right for every team. Some teams prepare displays for their pit space. Often this includes a tri-fold board.  Some teams put their research together in a binder or report cover, prepare visual aids for their project, and print out their programs code to share with teams and judges.
Do we have to have give-aways in the pit?
Giveaways are not required. Some teams have something inexpensive and fun or informative to give to judges, spectators, and team members who visit their pit. Team buttons, business cards, and flyers are common items.
Tournament Logistics
How long does a tournament last?
Tournaments are all-day events that begin in the morning and end in the late afternoon. Each tournament has its own schedule so be sure to watch for communication from the Tournament Director.
How do teams know where to go?
For the morning interview and afternoon robot rounds, teams are escorted. Teams should not go to these events without their escort. The Tournament Director or Pit Admin will communicate with the teams about the queueing process.
Is power available in the pit?
Each tournament is different, so watch for communication from the Tournament Director. If there is no power in each pit, there will be outlets or “charging stations” available for team robots, laptops, and tablets.
Is there food available at the tournament?
While many tournaments offer meals and concessions, be sure to watch for communication from the Tournament Director about the availability of food for purchase.
May my team bring their own food?
Each tournament has its own rules for food so watch for communication from the Tournament Director about this.
Do parents and coaches need to stay with their team during the tournament?
  • Adult supervision is a critical factor for a successful tournament. Whether the team is moving about the site or performing, make sure all team members are supervised. Use the buddy system and have each child travel with at least one other person. Remind each person attending with your team that everyone is expected to demonstrate the Core Values at all times. This includes parents and guests of the team.
  • While coaches and parents are supervising the team, they should have the team members do all the talking to the judges and answer questions from other teams.
  • Coaches and parents often remove themselves from the immediate area around the pit but stay nearby in case they are needed. They often sit in nearby bleachers or other available seating.
  • At tournaments where spectators are allowed in the judging rooms, sometimes coaches and parents choose to remain in the hallway outside the interview room while the team is in with the judges.
The team is not ready for a tournament! Or, “Life happened” (dropped the robot, lost all the code, coach had a family emergency, etc) and suddenly the team isn’t ready for the tournament. Should we still go?
A tournament is an opportunity for teams to learn, showcase their accomplishments, and celebrate their hard work throughout the season. Even if your team does not feel ready, we encourage all teams to participate in a tournament.
Important Locations at a Tournament
What are the Practice Fields?
Wisconsin tournaments provide access to a practice field where teams take turns running matches with their robot. Scheduling is often tight and teams may need to reserve a time slot to practice.
What is the Competition Area?
The competition area is where the official Robot Game playing fields are located and robot performance matches are scored by official Referees. Competition tables will be set up in pairs. At each full table, two teams will compete side-by-side with their robots.
What is the pit?
  • The pit will be your team’s home for the day. It will usually include a pit administration table where you can ask questions or get updates during the day. 
  • Your team may be assigned a specific location to set up when you register (a pit station or pit table) while other events have areas that are first-come, first-served.
  • Generally, a pit table will be provided so your team can set up a display for other teams to see, showcase your Core Values, robot, and Innovation Project, or make minor repairs. If your team has any posters or banners, set them up to show your team spirit. Regardless of the size of your team’s pit station, be gracious and keep your team within the borders of your space.
What size is our pit table space?
Each tournament may have a different size space. Sometimes teams are told what size in advance, but sometimes teams won’t know until they arrive. Teams are typically provided with a table space.
Tournament Day
What paperwork do we need when the team is checked in?
For each tournament, be sure to bring a printed copy of the team roster. For the regional tournament, bring a paper copy of the Consent and Release Form for any student or mentor who has not filled out the form online. For a sectional tournament or the Championship, if there are new team members who haven’t filled out the Consent and Release Form online, bring a printed copy for them.   Watch for information from the Tournament Director for any additional paperwork.
What does a tournament look like and sound like?
Tournaments are exciting and very loud. Between the children, the music, and the announcers, do not expect any quiet time! If you have anyone on your team with sensitive hearing, bring ear plugs or talk to the tournament organizer about reasonable accommodations. There are usually three main areas of a tournament: The judging area, the pit, and the competition area. Sometimes the pit and competition area are combined into one large space.
What is the Judging Session?
Each team is judged on its Core Values, Innovation Project, and Robot Design. This happens in an area which is separated from the main competition areas to eliminate noise and distractions.
May the team use visual aids during their judging session?
  • Teams may use whatever tools they need to help explain their Innovation Project, Robot Design, and Core Values to the judges.
  • If your team needs special equipment, such as a projector, contact the tournament organizers ahead of time to see if one will be available. If you need to bring your own equipment, make sure there will be a power source available in the Judging room. If your team decides to use audio-visual equipment, be sure the team members are prepared to present without it if it fails or is not available. This applies no matter what technology the team was planning to use. The entire Innovation Project presentation is only 5 minutes with limited set up time, so they need to be prepared to proceed quickly without the failed or missing equipment.
  • The Judges almost always have a very tight schedule, so no extra time is given for equipment problems. Please not the set up time on the Judging Session Flowchart.
What do we bring to the judging rooms?
Teams should bring with them anything they need during the interview, such as any presentation or skit materials, robot, laptop, and printed programs.
What is the Coaches Meeting for?
Many events hold a meeting for Coaches in the morning. Find out where this meeting will take place and make sure at least one coach attends.The tournament organizers often use this time to discuss any changes to the day’s schedule or any logistical concerns. This is also your last opportunity to clarify the rules before the competition begins, so be ready with any last-minute questions your team may have.
What is the Opening Ceremony
Some tournaments have an Opening Ceremony which is very high energy and sets the tone for the afternoon. Judges, Referees, and special guests are introduced, the Challenge and scoring are explained, and Tournament organizers tell teams about the exciting afternoon ahead of them.
What are the Robot Rounds?
During the afternoon, teams get three competition matches lasting 2½ minutes each. This is an exciting time of day for the teams! The best of their three scores will be considered by the judges.
What is the Closing Ceremony?
The Closing Ceremony is a celebration of everything the teams have accomplished all day and all season. Awards are presented and teams are recognized for efforts demonstrated throughout the day. There is plenty of cheering, loud music, and smiling faces.
Robot Performance Matches
What are the Robot Performance Matches?
During the afternoon, teams get three competition matches lasting 2½ minutes each. Your two team members who operate the robot should follow the table Referee’s instructions at the table, but they should not be afraid to ask the Referees if they have any questions or concerns. Before starting, have them scan the table to make sure it is properly set up. If the robot operators have a question about the table setup they should talk to the referee immediately. Once the match starts, it is too late to change the table.
May teams have more than two robot operators?
Some teams rotate robot operators during matches so that more team members get to participate. If your team rotates operators in and out between missions, make sure all operators are prepared to change. Remember that the clock does not stop for operators to change. Be aware that most tournaments do not allow Coaches or team members who are not robot operators into the area immediately around the table. You will need to watch from the designated spectator area.
What if a team member thinks the score is incorrect?
  • At the end of each match, the Referee will record the team’s score with the two robot operators. They will show the team members the points they earned on each mission. A team member, not an adult, must talk to the Head Referee if there is any disagreement. The Referee will then ensure that the score sheet accurately reflects the condition of the field. This is the team’s only opportunity to bring up any difference of opinion. 
  • Once the team leaves the area and the competition table is cleared for the next team, you are no longer permitted to dispute the score. As in other competitions, the Referee’s ruling on the field is final. Graciously accept the Referee’s final decision.
What if the robot didn’t work during a match?
Each match is separate and only the highest score will count. You do want to have a robot that can perform well consistently, but your team should not be discouraged if you have one bad match.
Tournament Spectators
Is there a cost for spectators?
Wisconsin FIRST LEGO League tournaments have no entry fee for spectators.
Is there seating for spectators?
Sometimes there are bleachers or other seating available for spectators.  Sometimes seating is limited and chairs are helpful. Before bringing your own seating, be sure to ask the Tournament Director if outside chairs are allowed in the pit area, competition area, or on a gym floor. Each venue has different regulations.
May parents, grandparents, siblings, and coaches go into the judging rooms?
Each tournament may have different rules about this, so watch for communication from the Tournament Director.
Will the press be there?
Sometimes the press does come and do a story about the event.
Accommodations for Special Needs and Requests
What accommodations are made for my team with a special needs child?
If someone on your team needs accommodations, please let the Tournament Director know as early as possible so they take these needs into consideration.
Is there a quiet room for students who need one?
If someone on your team needs a quiet space, please let the Tournament Director know as soon as possible so they can help your team member(s) find a quieter area.
Is there a nursing mother’s room available?
If this is a need, please let the Tournament Director know as soon as possible so they can help you find the best location.
Is there an elevator available if there are stairs we have to use?
If this is a need, please let the Tournament Director know as soon as possible so they can make an accommodation for this.  If you know far enough in advance, please note this need in the comments when you register your team for a tournament.
My team needs an early or late start time. How do we request one?
  • Some tournaments accept requests for an early/late start. If they do, usually the Tournament Directors contact the teams a few days to a few weeks before a tournament and ask if there are any special requests. This would be the time to respond to that email and let them know.
  • You may also reach out to the Tournament Director and let them know.
  • While we cannot guarantee an early starting time, if the tournament allows for early/late requests, a Tournament Director will do their best to make this accommodation.
I can’t stay with my child during the tournament. Can I just drop them off at the door?
Each tournament may have their own policy on this. Please ask the Tournament Director. Team members who are dropped off at a tournament to meet up with their team should know their team number, team name, coach name, and a contact phone number.
Awards and Advancements
What awards are given at tournaments?
Each tournament follows the FIRST guidelines to determine if they use the condensed awards of the expanded awards. The list of possible awards is available on the FIRST LEGO League website.
Can a coach or a parent help the team during judging?
  • It is easy for anyone to get caught up in the excitement at tournaments, but they are the team’s opportunity to shine. Adults play an important role in Coaching and supporting the team, but the team’s robot and Innovation Project must be the work of team members. If Judges or Referees notice adults directing a team’s performance, cuing the team, or prompting children, they may ask the adult to leave the immediate area. 
  • Judges are trained both to give any benefit of the doubt to the team and to recognize an overabundance of adult participation. A team’s inability to answer questions, or to make robot adjustments without the direct assistance of an adult, will be evident and will impact award eligibility.
How many awards can a team win?
No team is allowed to win two awards, unless one of the awards is for Robot Performance. Robot Performance is the only category based solely on score.
What is the Global Innovation Award?
  • Designing an exceptional Project solution could lead your team to the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award. This special award assists teams to further develop their ideas beyond the competition season. Each year, 20 Semi-Finalist teams will become FIRST LEGO League Innovation Ambassadors at a special innovation event.
  • Three Finalist teams will win a cash prize to help develop their inventions and/or to support team activities related to FIRST programs. Teams are nominated for the award from each region. To learn more, visit about the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award website page.
How many teams advance from each tournament?
Approximately 25-35% of teams advance from each regional and sectional tournament.
Can a team receive and award but not advance?
Yes. A team may be recognized with an award for their excellence in a particular area while they were not chosen to advance to the next level tournament.
Can a team advance when they haven’t received an award?
Yes. Sometimes a team did well overall and is selected to advance to the next level tournament despite not having won any awards.