As FLL registration is about to close, we welcome all 425 teams to the Massachusetts Region! There is a lot of important information in this email (starting with a few quick reminders) so please read it through.
If you have not registered for or been assigned to an event, contact me ASAP. We have very limited space remaining, and most of it is on 11/21 so you need to act quickly.
Remember payments are due soon. Everyone should have received an email with the payment info for their event. Follow the instructions and contact your event manager if you have any issues.
If you are interested in a practice event on 11/14 or 11/21, please review your email from last week and follow the instructions ASAP.
As you work through your season, I want to be sure everyone knows the information needed to be successful at their tournament. Understand the following things:
The FLL Program includes three key areas: Robot, Project, and Core Values. Teams participate in the Robot Game, are judged on robot design, present their project, and go through a core values evaluation. ONLY TEAMS WHO PARTICIPATE IN ALL AREAS ARE ELIGIBLE FOR ADVANCEMENT TO THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP.
Judging in general
- During the judging process, all non-coach, non-adult team members (aka kids) must enter the room to participate in the judging process. If a team member is not in attendance at the event, that is ok, but all team members who are at the event must go to all judging sessions.
- No adults are allowed in the judging room. No coaches, no parents. And by 'adults', I mean anyone who isn't one of the 9-14 year old members of the team. We have found that non-team kids or adults in the room prove to be a distraction, add a level of nerves, and often result in the disqualification of the team due to back-seat coaching. This includes even carrying in or setting up items.. the kids need to be able to do it all themselves.
- Never let the team enter a judging room without being directed by a judge or volunteer managing the judging process. They will prompt the team when its time to enter the room. This is to ensure you don't interrupt another team being judged, or the judges while they are talking and scoring between teams.
- You cannot go in the room at any time in advance of your session to setup or check on the technology (or anything for that matter) since there is not enough time to allow every team the chance. Any team (kid, coach, parent, etc) found in a judging room practicing, setting up, or testing outside their scheduled session time will be considered to be violating the rules of the event/committing a core values infraction and is subject to disqualification.
- If you have a child on your team that has a special need, contact the event manager AND firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com> at least TWO WEEKS prior to the event for arrangements to be made and we will do our best to make reasonable accommodation of this request.
- Each judging session is typically 10 minutes long and will cover only one discipline (robot, project, or core values). Some events will schedule your judging sessions back-to-back, while others will intersperse them with matches. In all cases, know which session you are going to so you can be properly prepared.
- If you give the judges materials you want returned (print outs, copies of research, etc) the team must take it back at the end of their session. Do not leave it with the judges as can be lost or misplaced.
- Each team will be judged by a minimum of two judges in each category. Each judge will only be judging one category.
- Remember, the judges can only evaluate what the team shares with them. Even if your team did the work, if the kids do not communicate it to the judges they will not know. When you see your feedback from the judging session, just remember this!
All teams are judged using the exact same rubrics as every team at the event all around the world. These rubrics are publicly available to you and can help you prepare for what the judges are looking for in there sessions. You can find the rubrics and additional information on judging here: http://www.firstlegoleague.org/event/judging
For the robot game:
Teams are guaranteed a minimum of 3 matches in order to achieve their highest score. Most of our events offer at least 4, often 5 matches for each team. Only your highest score counts towards qualification. Because we offer more than 3, if you ever have a conflict with matches and judging (schedule has gotten off or you feel the time is too close), always CHOOSE JUDGING. Again, your only guaranteed 3 matches and one of each judging session. If you miss your judging session, it cannot and will not be rescheduled. If you miss a match, you have your other matches to achieve a high score.
For the Robot Design Judging:
Bring your robot, a print out of your code, and any other key materials you use during the robot game. In the room, there will be at least a mission mat, and typically a full mission mat and models. However, sometimes there are no field borders! The judges are flexible in understanding that these are not exact competition settings, but the team should be prepared to make adjustments (for example, if you use the wall to bounce off of, have one of the team members hold a book or clipboard to represent the wall). The Event Manager will provide information to all teams as the event gets closer with exactly what materials will be in the room.
In most cases, the Robot Design judging will be structured entirely as a Q&A session led by the judges. If your team would like to formally present, they may use the first half of the judging session to do so, but that may limit the opportunity for the judges to get the information they need.
The Robot Design Executive Summary is not a required part of FLL Judging in MA but you are welcome to use it if you have created one.
For Project Judging:
Bring all materials required to complete your presentation, including any props, handouts, technology. The judging rooms will not be equipped with projectors, screens, etc. If your team wants to use it during their presentation, they must bring it with them. Typically, the two judges will be sitting at a table which the team can place items if they are needed to be seen by the judges. All events will try to have an additional table/desk and chairs available in the room for the team to place props.
The Project Presentation takes place in the first 5 minutes of the judging session. Once the team enters the room, the judge will typically notify them that their 5-minute clock has started. It must be clearly noted (and is in your coaches handbook, etc) that the 5 minute time INCLUDES SETUP. The team should assume their 5 minutes starts from the second they walk in the room and have practiced their setup procedure along with the presentation. The judges will not speak, ask questions, or interact with the team during their 5 minute time unless requested/directed by the teams during their presentation.
The team must make their setup and presentation fit in the 5 minutes. For the presentation, creativity in key along with dissemination of important information. Note that for the project, the team must describe Problem Identification, Team Solution, and Sharing during their 5 minute presentation to be eligible for core awards and advancement. Note that as stated in the project document, the team must give the presentation LIVE. If media is used in the presentation (video, powerpoint, etc) it must serve only to ENHANCE the live presentation and be made entirely by the kids on the team.
Once the judge's timer reaches 5 minutes, they will stop the team presentation even if it is not complete. The remainder of the session will be for Q&A by the judges.
For Core Values Judging:
The team is not required to bring their robot or project materials to the Core Values session, just themselves and their enthusiasm for their team and FLL! The goal of the Core Values session is to evaluate how the team works together, works with other teams, and represents the things FLL stands for. Typically, the first half of the session will include a Core Values activity designed to see how the team works together, solves problems, etc. The remainder of the session will be a Q&A with the judges.
In fairness to all teams, once your team completes Core Values judging, we ask that they not share the details of the Core Values activity with other teams. The reality is, it's not about whether the team completes the activity or not, it's about seeing how they work through unknown problems together. If your team tells another about the activity, they will have time to prepare before going in and the assessment will not be fair (and likely only hurt your team and as they are likely to do better).
Note that the assessment of the team's Core Values is not limited to the judging room, and not limited to just the kids on the team. All volunteers and even other teams are on the lookout for good and bad demonstrations of Core Values. In the case of poor Core Values, it can absolutely cost you advancement and awards. Whether it's an adult who is overly involved programming the robot, or a fist-fight breaking out in a judging session, or a parent berating a volunteer because their team didn't win an award, (sadly, all true stories), Core Values infractions will cost your team the opportunity to win any award and to advance to the next level of competition. While good Core Values are definitely the norm, it's unfortunately common to have at least one team per event that is disqualified due to poor core values (the most common offense is excessive adult involvement). Remember it's just a game and "what we learn is more important than what we win"... so have a fun, and be a strong role model for your kids on how to behave like a gracious professional!
The Core Values Poster is not a required part of judging for FLL MA but you are welcome to bring it to the judging session if you have created one.
From each qualifying event, we expect to advance about 25% of the competing teams. In general, teams are advanced based on their performance in the Champion's Award judging category, which is the combination of all judging categories. Not that events typically have a 30-50% award rate, so winning an award does not guarantee your team's advancement to the State Championship. Additionally, you can win an award (except Champion's) even if your robot performance score is below the cutoff, so while your team may have performed well in judging categories, your robot score also plays a role.
- The team must participate in robot game, robot judging, project judging, and core values judging. If they do not participate in all of them, they are immediately ineligible to advance.
- The judges look at the top robot score each team received during their matches (this excludes an extra matches or elimination tournament your event manager might run to give the judges deliberation time). The teams are sorted from highest score to lowest score. The team must score in the top 40% of scores to be considered for advancement. This means that minimum score will be different at each event.
- Of those teams in the top 40%, the judges look at how many times a team was nominated for an award. At most events, the top teams are nominated for about 7 of the 9 core awards which shows they are a well-rounded team by scoring high in all categories.
In the past year's, we have had a waitlist for Championship spots. However, this waitlist has been met with some negativity in the past. Obviously, teams who have made it off the waitlist are happy, but teams who do not felt that their teams have been setup for disappointment. Because of this, we will not be awarding any waitlist spots at events. If a team declines their spot in the Championship, the next best teams from all events (these are reported by the JA to me) will be contacted to see if they want to participate. Typically 1-5 teams a year decline to participate in the Championship.
Share Your Robot & Project
Remember that sharing your work, particularly your project, is a required part of FLL. Teams who do not 'share' their project with the community are ineligible to advance. Be sure to find an interested group and let them know the work you've done. It's also great PRACTICE for the event, speaking in front of new folks and answering their questions.