There are lots of good books, Web sites and curricula available to help both new and experienced FLL teams. Below, you’ll find some of our favorites.
If you're interested in buying any of the books, you can click through to Amazon by clicking on the titles below or the Favorites bar to the right. You'll get Amazon's usual great discount and the Club will receive a small partner fee that helps fund this site. So, click away!
First LEGO League: The Unofficial Guide
This is a must-read for those new to the FLL. It covers all the basics, explaining everything from the Challenge, robot-building, programming and team-building. If we had had this book (or anything like it) when we started years ago, it would have saved us months of confusion.
LEGO Mindstorm NXT-G Programming Guide
This is a very useful introduction to the programming environment for the NXT, but it does not provide enough real-world examples or context for why and how one would use the information offered.
The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Idea Book: Design, Invent, and Build
This is another good basic book with design ideas for NXT robots, though not quite as good as some others. It's useful for building concepts and direction, but it doesn’t provide specific design plans for FLL.
Winning Design!: LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Design Patterns for Fun and Competition
This book is a huge gift to those teaching or trying to learn good engineering practices for the NXT and FLL. It is one of the few books we have found that answers some of the most mind-numbing mysteries facing a new coach or team like, "How do we get the 'wiggle' out of our line-following code?" We just wish this book had been available years ago when we launched our first teams!
The Art of LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G Programming
We like all the books in this series. It is our "go to" source for basic programming instruction when kids are starting fresh with NXT programming.
LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT: The Mayan Adventure (Technology in Action)
While not applicable to the FLL Challenge, this book offers fun ideas that inspire kids (in the classroom or at home) to explore the NXT.
Building Robots with LEGO Mindstorms NXT
This is another good basic book with design ideas for NXT robots. It's useful for building concepts and direction, but doesn’t provide specific design plans for FLL.
Creating Cool MINDSTORMS NXT Robots (Technology in Action)
Like many of the books listed above, this book offers design ideas for NXT robots. It's useful for building concepts and direction, but doesn’t provide specific design plans for FLL.
The Lego Mindstorms NXT Zoo! An Unofficial, Kid-Friendly Guide to Building Robotic Animals with the Lego Mindstorms NXT
This book is a blast! The kids had so much fun making these weird robots. In truth, the ‘bot designs are not perfect; some don’t work all that well, but the kids were really inspired by the concepts. Again, it’s not directly applicable to the FLL Challenge. It provides lots of ideas for classroom or home projects to get kids building and running NXT robots.
FLL Coaches Handbook
If you've already signed up for FLL, you will or already have received a printed copy of this book with your kit. It's a very useful introduction to the FLL, though it does not offer the depth of information that the "Unofficial Guide to FLL" does. If you've not yet signed up for FLL, you can download a copy by clicking here.
The following offer great ideas, tips, tricks and techniques you can find online to help your FLL team. Hope you have as much fun browsing these sources as we did!
- FIRST LEGO League
This is the place to start learning about the FLL.
- The Challenge
Visit this page to learn about this year's Challenge.
Another FLL team built and maintains this site. It contains a wealth of very helpful information.
- LEGO Engineering
This site offers tips, techniques and updates on LEGO Education products, including the Mindstorm products.
- FIRST LEGO League's Programming Resources List
This page lists many "starter" resources and activities for coaches and teams who are getting acquainted with NXT programming.
- LEGO Engineering Programming Resources
This section of the Lego Engineering site offers tips, techniques and sample code.
- LEGO Engineering Quick Programming Guides
There are several quick start guides here that help kids program their 'bots to do the things all FLL robots must do - move, way-finding, etc. It's a great place to get started.
- Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Academy provides the gold standard in Mindstorm education. They offer in person, online and computer-based training. The following links contain good, basic information on NXT programming.
Design & Building Resources
- FLL Building Resources
This page lists many "starter" resources and activities for coaches and teams who are getting acquainted with recommended NXT building techniques.
- Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Academy Building Resources
Sometimes, new teams have no idea where to start when building a new chassis. The Robotics Academy building instructions can provided a much needed boost. While we don't recommend using these chasses for FLL competitions, they're a good place to start.
- Active Robots
This site offers instructions for building some interesting robots. Again, these 'bots are generally unsuitable for FLL competition, but building them will teach useful design and engineering skills.
- LEGO Digital Designer
Your team can document and share the designs for their projects with the Lego Digital Designer.
- Mindstorm Building Instructions
Brought to you by members of the Mindstorm Forum, this site offers a handful of fun robot designs to build and test.
- NXT Project Ideas
You'll find lots of fun (though not FLL-related) project ideas here.
Lego Education offers a number of great kits and curricula to help you develop activities for your FLL team. The following are some that we’ve used and liked.
- Mindstorms Engineering I
This is a Carnegie Mellon program, distributed by Lego Education. They describe the activities in this 18 week program, “This curriculum supports beginning robotics students, with a dual emphasis on programming and standards-based academic STEM concepts. Each of the six projects begins with a robotics research prototype in which students are guided step-by-step through the building and programming of a new robot behavior. Afterwards, they follow up their prototype work with a robotics investigation where the students experiment with the robot’s motors, sensors, and programming to learn how robots really work.”
- Mindstorms Engineering II
This Carnegie Mellon program, distributed by Lego Education, offers 18 weeks of activities. “Students learn engineering as they continually develop solutions to robotic challenges currently found in agriculture, security, and energy. They have a chance to solve the same problems that today’s scientists and engineers are facing. Using an engineering journal to document their progress, students conduct research; develop prototypes of potential solutions; select their optimal solution; and then build, test, and improve the design before presenting it to the “customer.”
- Advancing with Simple and Powered Machines
A 20-lesson Lego Education curriculum that helps middle school kids apply engineering principles to powered machines (such as their NXT robots). The program was particularly helpful in giving the kids more hands-on, structured practice with gear ratios, trains, structural integrity, etc.
The following also offer many great ideas.
- The Art of LEGO Design
A slightly outdated, but still very useful guide to building with LEGO. Most importantly for new teams, this document covers building robots that don't fall apart.
- NASA Educational Robotics Matrix
This is a list of robotics and engineering educational materials, collected by NASA. Not all of the materials here apply to FIRST LEGO League.
- Trifolioum Gears Lesson
A lesson plan about gear types and uses using LEGO gears to illustrate. Introduction to gears lesson.
- Massachussets Pre-K to 12 Grade Engineering Activities
A free resource for educators and administrators who are looking to integrate engineering concepts and activities into Pre-K through 12th grade classrooms. Although alligned for the new engineering requirements in the Massachusetts standards, the activities may be used by all.
- How Stuff Works
This site, though not specific to First Lego League, has very good explanations of general engineering concepts. For example, see:
General Engineering & Career Resources
- Junior Engineering Technical Society
- NASA Robotics Alliance Project
- USA Kids
- National Academy of Engineering for Girls
Great Robot Performance Videos
The following are some of our favorite FLL team performances from past competitions. For others, search YouTube for First Lego League.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuLPhTqQte0– This one is particularly AMAZING for its complex engineering and its clever bundling of tasks.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MACGvoJuqJYand http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvMOJHSdM_c – This is a really cute video of the team at work. Unless you speak German, you will not understand all of it, but it does provide a broad overview of a season.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nf0V8IJ86M– While offering some creative ideas – particularly the arm design – this one is NOT a realistic example of tournament conditions. The kids touch the obstacles in field (moving the oil rig controls out of the way, etc.). One cannot do that in competition.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiH_pcO6uuE– Landroids who went to World in 2008 and won the Chairman’s Award at Nationals in 2009 show how they did it. Great work.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlaU0fJSuD4– GREAT example. Note the slide-on attachments – no connections required, the small but sturdy and high-mounted chassis, the use of the wall for navigation, the clever attachments and great bundling of items to deliver to the field. Mission Control (the person helping) is going a GREAT job here providing components, supplying parts to be delivered and collecting stuff picked up from the field. They’re very quick, efficient and strategic.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyPN1ciOrjI– This one is proof of the KISS principle; they are using a very simple ‘bot, but they’re producing good results with it. The highlights of this performance – good bundling of projects, good helping from Mission Control, some clever attachments (like the “rake” that they use to capture the car). The drawbacks are too much dead reckoning and LOTS of handling.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tccf1QDkMxI– Interesting brick mount, clever (but perhaps too complex) attachments, good use of line-following to find their place in field, bundling of objects to deliver to field, etc. One CANNOT, however, handle objects in field like grabbing the car out of the area in front of the base.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3SvMxz3GO4– Some really clever bundling here like placing car in wave turbine with car mounted toward back so it’s not in the water and multi-part arm that handles coal car and solar panel. Smart little trap for oil barrels. Still, a lot of handwork and modest navigation control.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z4dHe545oA– Cool little ejection of cart that activates satellite at beginning of run, but then they have to recover the robot in field – a no no. Great trap for corn and uranium, truck, etc. Smart bundling of stuff to deliver to the field.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFMFzeO_Uxg – The arm is pretty cool. This is the same team as above; it’s just their tournament video. Note that their ‘bot has wheels mounted top and bottom to allow them to turn over the robot. Not sure that such complexity is necessary.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iYFUJPz0GE– This team uses a tag-team approach. Their attachments are pretty interesting and HUGE! While they’re clever and effective, there sure is a lot of room for error with all these component-switches.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFqQYtoUa_U– While the video quality is really bad, hang in there and watch this one. They’ve done some really smart things – hit satellite first, confirm location by touching wall before and after approaching house, then in one sweep – throw wave turbine in water and deliver solar panel, then touch wall again and pick-up truck – great combo! They use good navigation methods, too.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FX3jAdAAvhM , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FX3jAdAAvhMandhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPN1nG_TrGk – This one if really good, too. Watch the way they send three objects moving into the field simultaneously at the beginning of their run – something to jet out and hit the coal car release, something on a wheeled-pallet to deliver the wave turbines, etc to the field AND engage the satellite, and then the robot itself to go after uranium!
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNlGRSJ98C8– They’ve a good robotic arm – mounted with motor and arm high so they can position other devices below it. Good mission combos. Good Mission Control – the helper on field is going a great job providing parts and keeping the parking lot clear, but someone off stage is coaching about what mission is next up. Good idea, but note that the coach is NOT allowed to do the talking.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfQaPrup_WA– Good Mission Control again. Mission Control is so vital with so much hand-work required and so many things to remember! And, look at the bundling of car, solar panel and truck. Pretty clever. However, after they run this misson, Robot Operator throws the attachments into the field – a no, no! Once they’re out of base, they’re considered “lost” and you cannot pick them up to get them out of your way. Good coupling of oil barrels and wave turbine; look at the way they slide the turbine out in the water while they’re releasing and catching the oil barrels.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3u06J_4j9TU– Again, another interesting combo of oil barrel and wave turbines; of car, truck and solar panel; of uranium and corn. All similar combos demonstrate the value of doing everything in one area at one time – efficient!! Look at the way this team (and many of the others in this list) create containers for the stuff they need to deliver to the field. Smart.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4j--k_3PzDs – This is from NanoQuest. It’s a great example of how the mats and the missions change, but the general tasks remain the same. Note the arm on this one; while the mount (and access to the brick) isn’t optimal, the arm itself is clever and accurate! And, their navigation is good.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U5W2ErOZBs – This is another NanoQuest. Watch the way they use a block behind their ‘bot for positioning. They have a very simple chassis and arm, but they’re very effective! They’re really making the best of what they’ve got – good strategy, good handling in base – but they could absolutely improve their time and chances by stringing more missions together.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi5FsGrELAA – Very nice run. They’ve got an elegant arm, and they use it to good effect.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55euyDfrR1s – Watch this one for an example of the Technical Review. These kids are doing a great job of explaining what they’re doing and why while they run their missions. This is what needs to be done during Technical Review. Because running the robot takes a lot of concentration, talking at the same time can be hard. You will need to think how you can explain each of your strategies and then PRACTICE explaining them while you work.