FLL Tournament Coaches and Teams,
I know all teams are excited about getting ready for the upcoming
qualifying tournaments, and I am looking forward to our opening
weekend. At your tournament you have a "pit area" to serve as your
base of operations, and there will be tables available in or near the
pit for your team to test things and rehearse on--so you won't need to
bring your own mat, table, or mission models. Most tournaments will
have a practice round (the score will not count in the tournament
total) and 3 or 4 competition rounds. In addition to your matches at
the competition tables, you'll be scheduled to meet the judges for
Project, Robot Design and Core Values, so it will be a busy day! Try
to get to your next activity several minutes (5-10) before it is
scheduled to begin--that should reduce stress for you and the judges
and the referees.
Remember that your competition table will be back-to-back with
another table where a different team is competing. Make sure to
follow directions about where to wait before going to the tables and
where to stand when you are at the table. When your team is sent to
the table, go ahead and begin your before-match preparations--lay out
items in base, get your robot prepared and ready to run. The ref will
ask your robot handlers if you are ready to begin, and there will be a
countdown or sound to let you know when to start your robot.
After the match is over, don't touch anything without guidance from
the referee. The referee will mark your scoresheet with the status of
the field. One or two team members should check that the referee has
marked the scoresheet correctly, and sign or initial the sheet to show
agreement. Then you should quickly remove all your items from the
field (but don't take the mission models!) and leave the area. The
scorekeeper will tally the score from the scoresheet--referees aren't
going to be able to tell you your score at the table. They'll be
getting the table ready for the next team who is about to come in.
Your tournament director should let you know if tables or other
supports will be available to hold your storage box during
competition, and how many people can accompany the team at the
tables--don't worry, there should be plenty of room in the audience
All teams should plan to review the Robot Game Updates at
http://firstlegoleague.org/challenge/robotgameupdates (the official
version is available after Friday at 3pm) as well as the rules and
missions and field setup at
Now that you've been working with the Robot Game and your robot for a
while, you'll probably notice things by rereading the game documents
that you didn't see the first time or two.
I'd like to point out several items that sometimes surprise teams:
Setup and Calibration
Rule 6 tells you that you'll get at least one minute to prepare your
robot and other equipment, and Rule 14-Calibration lets you calibrate
your light and color sensors outside Base during that time. Once your
referee brings you to the table, you don't have to wait or ask
permission to do preparation or calibration, unless he or she is still
setting up the field.
Rule 10 tells us that Mission Models are already at the table when you
walk up to it. You earn points by doing things with the Mission
Models (and your robot). Don't bring your own mission models--you have
to use the ones at the table. If you accidentally take Mission Models
away from the table after you are done, your table referee will be
sad, and might have to send someone after you. However, if you do
discover that a mission model has traveled with you back to the pit
area, please take it back to the scorekeeper's area as soon as
possible. There are lots and lots of mission models this year, so we
will all have to be extra careful to keep them at the competition
tables and the tables in the pit.
Checking the Field and Rescuing your Robot
You are encouraged to look at the field when you get to the table to
ensure that all the Mission Models look properly set up. If you have
any questions at all, please ask your table referee to check it. If
the field looks dirty, ask your referee or the referee assistant to
clean it--they should have dusting supplies. Remember that Rule 14
says that YOU may not move or adjust anything outside of base.
You may always intercept/rescue your robot or a damaged attachment
whenever you choose to, or you may ask the referee to do it for you.
Try not to bump anything when standing at the table or rescuing your
robot. The referee won't move or reset anything changed by robot
action--but that's okay, because your team gets at least three tries
to do its best.
Rule 26 says that downloading programs to robots must take place in
the pits and not the competition area. It tells you how to do it
Rule 26 also says that Bluetooth must be turned off at all times. If
you don't know how to turn Bluetooth on, then your team may never have
turned it off in the first place. If your robot shows a Bluetooth B
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bluetooth.svg) in the upper left
corner of the display, then please turn it off before coming to the
competition. There's a top-level menu item named "Bluetooth" with an
Rule 4 tells you what you are allowed to bring to the competition
area. It doesn't list computers. On the other hand, it doesn't
forbid them this year. If your team has a computer and doesn't want
to leave it alone in the pit, or leave it with a guardian, please make
sure it is turned off and closed when you are in the competition area.
Please double-check Rule 4, because sometimes we forget to re-read it
because we think we know what it says. Do not bring two controllers,
or more than three motors, or too many sensors to the competition
floor, even if they are not plugged in. Note that you are only
supposed to write on your robot in "hidden areas". If this wasn't
possible for your team, let the head ref know at the Coaches meeting
before the tournament--it reassures the referees that your team has
read and understood the rules!
Starting your Robot
As you know, Rules 16 and 17 emphasize that you aren't touching your
robot before you cause it to start, or adjusting it while it is
moving. This is psychologically very hard--the competition area may
be a stressful place: there are strangers watching, and loud music
playing, and there's a competition going on. The robot is a familiar
object, and a team member may unconsciously want to "cuddle" it during
the countdown, especially if you haven't spent a lot of time
practicing clean starts. Listen to the comments from the referees
during the practice round and later, and try to do your best in each
Remember, after you touch the robot to make it inactive (or the
referee rescues it at your request), the robot must be brought back to
base and restarted. You don't have to wait for a signal from the
referee to restart the robot, but you still need to have a clean
start, as described in Rules 16 and 17.
The referees are at the tournament to support the teams. Team members
may always ask the ref to check the field before the start, to explain
why a ruling or a scoring decision has been made, and may express
whether they agree or disagree with that ruling or decision. The Head
Referee may have to take the team away from the table to explain a
ruling, and to make room for the next team to compete. Decisions made
by the Head Referee are final (Rule 28).
Finally, Gracious Professionalism is Rule One--we expect that FLL is
fun, and the tournament is exciting, and the teams are competing like
crazy against problems--and the referees volunteer so we can see all
the inventiveness and neat ideas that FLL teams come up with (even
when the robot does things you don't like) --we are there so teams can
show what they can do!
VA/DC FLL Referee Advisor
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