FIRST LEGO League for (us) Beginners 

July 7, 2021

One of our goals for us parent coaches and our FIRST LEGO League Explore team is to document our journey into and with FIRST LEGO League (FLL). The initial step for us was to understand how this whole process is designed to work. We are new to FLL, and this is our first year. After starting and registering our team ‘High Blocks’, we were a bit lost in the process, so it was time to do some research. Here how we understand the different names, abbreviations, and goals of FLL.

First LEGO League vs First Tech Challenge vs First Robotics Competition.

There are multiple LEGO leagues under the ‘FIRST’ brand:

We are many years away from FTC and FRC, so focus will be on FLL. We learned that starting FLL is both a fun process with a lot to learn and explore but also a journey into competitive robotics.  Most relevant information about the process is listed on the FIRST main page There is a separate page with details about FLL only: whereby it states here that the latter is for FLL focused outside the United States and Canada. 

First LEGO Leagues (FLL)

FLL has three categories and each targets a different age group. 

Each league has its unique characteristics and goals, but overall, the Discover and Explore Leagues would get the kids ready for the main First LEGO League Challenge once they hit the age limit. 

How does FIRST LEGO League work?

The main Challenge League is an international competition. We understand that the Explore League is following the Challenge League but conducts much smaller projects of the same theme. The teams are introduced to real-world challenges to research, design, and program LEGO robots to complete tasks. Past challenges included “Into Orbit” (2018) to explore, challenge and innovate in space or “City Shaper” (2019) to solve missions focused on cities, such as resolving traffic jams. The challenge for the upcoming 2021 season is ‘Cargo Connect’ to learn how cargo is transported, sorted, and delivered to its destinations. 

At the beginning of the season the teams get materials sent including the items below. The items are listed on the FIRST registration page

Which LEGO Sets for which League?

Below are the LEGO sets that are being used as of July 2021. The sets can be purchased at a discount through FIRST, or acquired separately. 

A few years back, FLL was almost exclusively LEGO Mindstorms based with NXT 2.0 and EV3. But since LEGO introduced new sets and started to retire the flagship EV3, different sets are used, and each of them has its unique opportunities and challenges.

*FLL Challenge site lists specifically that EV3 sets are eligible to participate. We used their live chat if can use our existing EV3 for FLL Explore and they confirmed we could. With that, we will try to join with EV3 for the 2021 season. We think EV3 is just more versatile even with the lack of the new sensors and better hardware. Finally – per First Inspires Memphis Mindstorms Robot Inventor can be used as well.  


Our kids are all very much comfortable with basic and advanced LEGO concepts since an early age. They got exposed to Mindstorms NXT 2.0 and EV3 for a few months now following pre-designed official plans and MOCs and started their very first own basic creations. So far we are excited about our first season to kick off soon. We are meeting 1x per week right now. Absent the official challenge, we don’t have a structure for our meetings yet. We have the team work on together on fairly random projects like the Line Follower or a Custom Scooper

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