Getting started with FLL Jr


Getting started with FLL Jr (Copenhaver workshop materials, June 2019)

By Cathy Sarisky

What you need:
2-6 kids (1st-4th grade), 2 coaches
A WeDo 2.0 robot set (or original WeDo 1.0) per team.
A way to program the WeDo 2.0. A tablet with Bluetooth (Android or iOS) works, as does a computer with Bluetooth.

Costs (per team per year):
Registration: $100 (national) + $50 (VA/DC state – for an Expo).
Class packs or School packs can be a good value if you’re running lots of teams and will host your own Expo/Showcase.
T-shirts/hats if wanted (varies)
Office supplies, etc: $10-50

Start-up costs (per team, once)
WeDo 2.0: $190 (buy through FIRST or through LEGO Education)
Two rechargeable AA batteries ($5) and a good charger (~$30). Buy pre-charged rechargeable 2000mAh batteries and you probably won’t need to recharge all season. Or buy the battery pack and charging cord ($90).
Extra Legos (variable, OK to go without).
15’x15’ baseplate ($15 each) or two to help keep models together. (Optional)
Tablet or computer. I’m a big fan of 8” Kindle Fire tablets (~$60 on Amazon Warehouse), but if you have iPads or something already, great!

Challenge released August 1 (register in May-July if possible)
You choose the schedule! Many teams meet weekly.
Expos throughout the year, mostly in Spring.

Curriculum for FLL Jr:
Full curriculum – includes a coach’s handbook and student workbooks for twelve 1-1.5 hour meetings, ships to registered teams in early August.
The workbooks are a bit light on content. Many sessions could be improved by adding a book or video to the session (FIRST usually provides some recommendations) or by assigning some research as homework. You have the flexibility to adapt the material as best suits your team(s).
Standards alignment:

Other WeDo curricula and lessons (not specifically for FLL Jr):
Built into the WeDo 2.0 app (access on the tablet)! (includes standards alignment and overview of built-in lessons)

How to fund it:
FIRST DonorsChoose (restricted to teachers) -
Ask local sponsors: businesses, community groups, etc
FIRST grants (diversity & equity): (NOI likely to be due in early November)
Ask parents/school/PTA to contribute
Check in with your local FRC/FTC team (if any) – they may have funds to sponsor!
Blacksburg/Roanoke: (Note: costs outdated but kit availability confirmed for 2019.)
More information from Lego Education:

Other advice:
FLL Jr is non-competitive. Follow the curriculum and the guidelines as much as suits you, but if your team wants to deviate from the guidelines, no big deal. If they’re excited about learning something, run with it! [This is very different from FIRST LEGO League.]
Expos are non-competitive. Reviewers (like judges, but not judging) will visit each team and ask questions. Awesome reviewers (and they’re almost always awesome) will ask the kids about their learning and have a positive conversation about whatever the team has done, regardless of whether it perfectly follows the guidelines.
Large teams can’t all work on the same thing at once. Plan together the work together, then split up into pairs/threes to build/program/research/brainstorm/write/draw/assemble posters/etc.
Have fun!

Where to get help:
FLL Jr Share and Learn (on Facebook)
No teams nearby? Need a mentor? Find one here!
FIRST training:
Online WeDo course:
Need local help? Ask me! Cathy Sarisky: / 540-375-2438
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So you're thinking about starting an FLL Jr team.  Here are some FAQs and answers.  If you have other questions, comments, or corrections, please get in touch!  --Cathy Sarisky

  1. How is FLL Jr different from FLL?
    (See also:  Choosing between FLL and FLL Jr.)  
    Competition vs Expo:  One of the big differences between FLL and FLL Jr that can't be over-emphasized is that FLL is competitive, and Jr is not.  In FLL Jr, if the kids show up, they'll get celebrated. Everyone gets a certificate and/or medal, and everyone's a winner. If the kids follow the directions and do everything they're supposed to do, great. If they don't, still great. Reviewers will celebrate whatever they did. Last year, one of my JR teams really wanted to do a project, like their older sibs in FLL. So they did. There wasn't anything like that anywhere in the directions, but the reviewers had a nice conversation with them about it, and it was all good. JR coaches can take whatever excites the kids and run with it, and it'll be all good. FLL coaches should absolutely try to get the kids working on stuff they're excited about, but there are a lot of deliverables, and they matter.
  2. What do we buy?
    • You need to register on FirstInspires, just like you would for an FLL team.  The $99 registration fee (US numbers) includes the "Inspires" set (a model all teams build, plus lots of extra parts), coach's manual, workbooks for the kids, etc.
    • You need a WeDo 2.0 (or original WeDo 1, but the rest of the directions assume a WeDo 2).  The cheapest way in the US is to register a team and then buy it through the "Order product" link on the FirstInspires dashboard.  You'll save $10 compared to buying from LEGO Education.  The WeDo 2.0 kit is $179.95 (plus shipping) through FirstInspires.  They also offer a bundle with the rechargeable battery pack and charger (for 269.95), but the WeDo 2.0 can go quite a while (sometimes all season!) with two AA batteries, so it may not make sense to buy the battery pack kit  The battery pack is certainly more convenient, but $90 per kit for convenience?  I didn't buy it.
    • You need a tablet (or laptop) capable of connecting to the WeDo 2.0.  Most iPads work.  So do many Android tablets, or Kindle Fires with a little work.  Here's the official compatibility list.  And here's a longer unofficial list of Android tablets thanks to the Wedo 2.0 Community on Facebook.
    • Your regional organization will also collect a registration fee for the Expo.  In my region (VA/DC), that's $50 per team and covers a medal for each team member and a certificate for each team.
  3. What curriculum/planning support is there?
    The Inspire set will ship with a full curriculum for FLL Jr, with 12 sessions.  The sessions are nominally an hour long, but you could easily rearrange to accommodate longer meetings (if your kids can handle them - mine can't) or more meetings.  The WeDo 2.0 app also has a whole curriculum built in (and you can find the teacher's guide online).
  4. How long should we meet?  How many times?
    You could very easily run a year of FLL Jr if you did the WeDo lessons, took some field trips or had some visitors, read some books as a group, and so on. Or you could do a fast twelve weeks, or six weeks if you met twice a week.  Since the deliverables are minimal, you can do whatever fits your schedule.  I wouldn't try to do it in less than twelve hour-long sessions.  If you're going to extend the season, doing the WeDo projects early (before parts of your WeDo are built into the team model) likely makes the most sense.
  5. What's in the season pass?
    The season passes are for organizations that will run a lot of teams and will do their own "in house" Expo(s).  The "small" season pass includes:
    • Instructions to host your own Expo.  (Teams can't register for the official Expos, although you'll want to confirm that with your regional organization.)
    • Challenge Season Kit included (18 Inspire Sets, 24 Team Meeting Guides, 2 Program Administrator Guides, 144 Engineering Notebooks).  NOTE: you need an inspire set per team per Expo.  You need an engineering notebook per team member.
    • Rights to use products to run multiple sessions

To learn more about starting teams, visit our Team Basics section.

See also the presentation I gave to teachers on teaching with WeDo / FLL Jr for more information and helpful links.
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Choosing between FLL and FLL Jr

A quick look at eligibility requirements for FLL and FLL Jr may leave you scratching your head.  So what do you do with a 9 year old, if either program is an option?  Let’s examine the two programs, as it may help with the decision.

Before we dive into the data, let's note that both programs have a different challenge topic (theme) each year.  As a result, both programs are very repeatable.  The kids can use programming and project management skills from one year to jump-start the next year, but they’ll be solving all new problems and learning about a new STEM topic each year.

We try to keep this document up to date, but pricing and schedule information is mostly from the 2017-2018 season, as 2018-2019 season information isn't yet available. Some information is Virginia- or Roanoke-centric.
US age requirements: Ages 6-9, on Jan 1 of challenge release year. (Kids who don't turn 10 until after Jan 1, 2018 can do 2018-2019 Mission Moon.). Lower age limit is not enforced. “Ages 9-14”, on Jan 1 of challenge release year. (Kids who don't turn 15 until after Jan 1, 2018 can do 2018-2019 Into Orbit.)  Lower age limit is not enforced in some regions.
Size of team 2-6 2-10
Equipment needed (reusable each year, per team) WeDo 2.0 ($185), a laptop or tablet to run it with (you probably have something, or $35-50 for a Kindle Fire, if you install the Play store), an inspire set (included in registration fee). EV3 set ($350-500) or SPIKE Prime, a laptop/computer/tablet (strong preference for laptop), field setup kit ($75), 4x8ft table ($100-200 to build)
Registration (per team) $99 (includes inspire set) + $35 for an Expo (region-specific)$225 + $150 to VA/DC (includes qualifying tournament) + $150 (2017 price) if you progress to the state tournament.  
Format Non-competitive. Do what you do.  Rules are vague in spots, and you won’t be judged anyway. Competitive. Judging and awards.  Core values say that “what we learn is more important than what we win” but competition is clear at tournaments.  Important to follow the 30+ page rule book carefully.
Timing: Challenge release is August 1, Expos are mostly in February-April. 1-2 hours per week for 12 weeks is sufficient, but you could expand the season by doing more preliminary work with the WeDo or delving more into the challenge topic. Challenge release is August 1. Tournaments are in November in VA/DC.  2-4 (or even a lot more) hours per week needed, with many teams doing more.  The time pressure is real.  
Curriculum: Jr includes a session by session meeting guide (comes printed with each Inspire set, not online) and color workbook for each student.  Very doable for a rookie coach without much extra time. Some curriculum materials available, but much more open-ended = a lot more rookie coach planning time.
Meeting format: FLL Jr includes substantial free/creative building time within the curriculum.  The kit includes enough minifigure parts for the kids to build themselves, and they will.  The final team model has few restrictions. No free/creative building time. The team will need to build a robot that does specific missions, and most teams only have time and parts to explore a handful of robot designs before refining one.  
The Project and challenge topic Learn about the topic and build a Lego model showing how the challenge topic could be improved.  Present the team model and a poster to reviewers.  (Kids can do more if they want to.)Learn about the topic, a problem with the topic, and propose a solution/improvement.  Consult with experts and/or members of a community affected by the problem.  Some teams build a (non-Lego) prototype of their solution.   Give a presentation to the judges.

So what should you pick for kids on the line?
Start-up costs and time commitment are much less for FLL Jr.  It is a much easier program to start as a rookie coach and less workload for both kids and coaches.  
An apparent downside to starting in FLL Jr for a parent-coach is that you’ll need to buy a WeDo now and an EV3 in a couple years when your kid ages out of FLL Jr.  However, the cost of the yearly FLL registration is so much higher than FLL Jr participation that you won’t actually spend more money, even if you don’t resell the WeDo when done with it.

When should you put a nine-year old into FLL instead of FLL Jr?  
Perhaps after several years of FLL Jr or similar experiences, where you feel like you’ve exhausted the potential of FLL Jr. Or for a kid with really strong research skills (i.e. science fair) and/or strong programming (any language) and/or strong skills with Lego Technic and who enjoys competition.  Or if your child’s peer group (or older siblings) includes kids who are too old for FLL Jr, and it makes sense to keep the group together.

This document was created by Cathy Sarisky, FLL and FLL Jr coach.  Feedback and questions are very welcome to
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