Lesson Plan: How to Start a FIRST Lego League Team

Start a school-based FIRST Lego League Team and compete in a regional challenge.

Christopher Joy-Hogg

Download the lesson and supporting materials here.


Start a school-based FIRST Lego League Team and compete in a regional challenge.


Introduce Renaissance West STEAM Academy students to the STEM field of robotics.


The idea of starting a FIRST Lego League team at my school came as a result of my interactions with my mentor and a staff member at Bosch Rexroth during my summer internship. I had recently watched an HBO Real Sports episode where the creator of FIRST Robotics was profiled and it showed the life changing events of students who participated in FIRST Robotics. The next day, I realized that Bosch had a banner of FIRST Robotics in their work area as the Olympic High School team was sponsored by Bosch; they placed in the Sacramento Regional Challenge. This led to discussions about the various levels of leagues based on age/grade level: FIRST Lego League Jr. (ages 6 – 10), FIRST Lego League (ages 9 – 14), FIRST Tech Challenge (grades 7 – 12), and FIRST Robotics Competition (high school students). I chose the FIRST Lego League age group as I wanted to focus on 5th and 6th graders this year.


Step 1: The first step to starting a team and participating in a challenge was to pay the registration fee. I was fortunate that my school already had the Lego EV3 kits so we didn’t have to pay for that. I was able to talk with my Kenan mentor and he indicated he would be willing to sponsor the registration fee for the inaugural year. I completed the required forms online https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/fll/pricing-and-payment and registered our team name, “RWSA Robo Eagles”.

Step 2: The next step was to recruit students. This would be done in late September (ideally this would have been done in the spring of the previous school year). I put out an open invitation to any RWSA 5th or 6th grade student who was interested in applying (see application attached). There is a limit of 10 official team members, but I would end up taking 3 more students to serve as alternates if needed on the day of the challenge.


Step 3:  I needed adults to help. Our 5th grade science teacher, Shachia Graham, and a recent high school graduate, Jonathan Gamble, who was a member of a FIRST Robotic Competition team, agreed to assist me. We met every Tuesday and Thursday after school (3:45 – 5:00pm) from October to December (the Regional Competition was on December 15th).

Step 4: As this was our first year, Jonathan was a godsend as he offered advice and made suggestions throughout the season. He put me in touch with a local leader in the field of FIRST, Lia Schwinghammer. She has a warehouse space where various teams meet to practice and she has a wealth of knowledge and materials. She let us borrow a practice board to keep at our school so that we could simulate what the boards would look like during the competition. This was no small gesture, as the board is 93” X 45” made out of 2x4s and plywood.

Step 5: Lia suggested that we participate in a local scrimmage she was hosting so that we could get a better feel of what the regional competition will look like. She even waived our registration fee since we were a first year team. We competed in the scrimmage and it helped our team to see what other teams created as their robots and how they presented their work.

Step 6: We continued to work on the FIRST Lego League Core Values during each practice:

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!

Step 7: The competition was held at Olympic High School in Charlotte on December 15th with approximately 30 teams participating. While we did not win any awards, we learned a lot about teamwork, innovation, and design by being around other teams from across the state. Anmeris Solano from the Kenan Fellows Program was gracious enough to attend part of the competition and took pictures.


As mentioned above, it would have been ideal to recruit and select team members in the spring of the previous academic year. The reason being because the challenge for the year is announced in August and teams can begin to plan how to proceed with the challenge well in advance of the competition. Most competitions take place in November and December, so if my team could have started practicing as soon as the school year began, we may have fared better.

My mentor made it clear that he could not commit to funding us each year, so I need to figure out how to collaborate with local companies to sponsor us and/or pay some of our fees. This will be my biggest challenge.

This year it was just the three adults who supervised/facilitated the practices. Next year, I hope to have more volunteers and/or parents. Based on what I have heard from other coaches, I need to increase the length of each practice as well (probably 3:45 – 5:30 twice a week).

I believe I met my goal of starting a FIRST Lego League team at my school and competing in a regional challenge. I was successful in introducing my team members to the field of robotics and believe that many of them will choose to return to the team next year. With a year under our belts, I believe we will continue to make improvements and may start a FIRST Tech Challenge team in 2 years (2020-21) when we add 8th grade to our school and will be a full-fledged K-8 school.