FIRST Robotics

In 2011, the Kaleidoscope Discovery Center helped create the first FLL Jr. (FIRST® LEGO® League Jr.) team in our region. Since then, the number of FLL Jr., FLL, and FTC teams has grown from three students to 18 teams, including students from Rolla, Newburg, Salem, Vienna, and St. Robert!

“It’s never too early to discover STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math]!”

FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. (FLL Jr.) is for kids grades K-4 and ages 6-10 to learn about robotics and programming through hands-on construction and exploration with a simple LEGO® WeDo® robot.

Kids grades 4-8 and ages 9-14 have graduated from FLL Jr. into the FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL). Using the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3, FLL teams will learn “critical thinking, team-building, and presentation skills” while tackling real-world engineering, science, and math challenges.

 Junior High and High School students, grades 7-12; ages 12-18, take the next big step in their FIRST® Robotics adventure. When they join a FIRST® Tech Challenge team, they are now constructing real, metal robots that they will take to the competition field. FTC “students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and sharing ideas.”

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Learn more about the FIRST® programs:

FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. captures young curiosity by exploring real-world scientific challenges, learning teamwork, and working with motorized LEGO® elements.

Through exploratory research, hands-on construction, teamwork, imagination, and fun with LEGO elements, FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. challenges teams of up to six kids to explore a real-world scientific concept, then build a motorized model and develop a Show Me Poster to illustrate their journey of discovery. Throughout the season, adult coaches provide guidance and inspiration.

FIRST LEGO League Jr. is designed to introduce STEM concepts to kids ages 6 to 10 (grades K-4th) while exciting them through a brand they know and love − LEGO®.

FIRST LEGO League Jr. is not just a great learning experience for kids, it is also a chance for parents to learn alongside their children. We are always in need of mentors and coaches for our multiple FLL Jr. teams. If your child is joining a team, why not consider becoming one of their coaches?

With adult Coaches to guide them, FIRST® LEGO® League teams (up to 10 members, grades 4th-8th, ages 9-14) apply science, engineering, and math concepts, plus a big dose of imagination, to develop solutions to real-world challenges. They also design, build, and program LEGO MINDSTORMS®-based robots to perform autonomous “missions” on a playing field.

It all adds up to tons of fun while they learn to apply science, technology, engineering, and math concepts (STEM), plus a big dose of imagination, to solve a problem. Along their journey, they develop critical thinking and team-building skills, basic STEM applications, and even presentation skills, as they must present their solutions with a dash of creativity to judges. They also practice the Program’s Core Values, which emphasize discovery, teamwork and good sportsmanship, and discover exciting career possibilities in science and technology. They even discover that they, too, can make positive contributions to society.

Ignite interest in robotics and STEM! Now is a great time to help your students or children experience FIRST® LEGO® League during our “off-season” and watch the thrill of STEM learning through hands-on discovery.

We’re entering our “off-season” (December – June), which gives teachers, parents and other potential Coaches an opportunity to “get their feet wet” and build a FIRST LEGO League team just for fun, without all the pressure of preparing for competition. Using the ANIMAL ALLIES theme, your child can practice teambuilding skills, build robots, and conduct a real-world research project that’s all about improving interactions between people and animals. The experience will prepare you for future FIRST LEGO League Challenges – and the whole team will have a lot of fun!

Following a sports model, FIRST® Tech Challenge teams (10+ members; Grades 7-12; ages 12-18) are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots of their own design to play a floor game in an alliance format. Guided by adult Coaches and Mentors, students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and sharing ideas. Participants have access to tens of millions of dollars in college scholarships.

What is FIRST Tech Challenge?
FIRST Tech Challenge teams (10+ members, grades 7-12) are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format. Participants call it “the hardest fun you’ll ever have!” Guided by adult Coaches and Mentors, students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles (like keeping an engineering notebook), while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and sharing ideas. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and can be programmed using a variety of languages, including Java. Teams also must raise funds, design and market their team brand, and do community outreach for which they can win awards. Participants have access to tens of millions of dollars in college scholarships. Each season concludes with Super-Regional Championships and an exciting FIRST Championship.

The positive impact on FIRST Tech Challenge participants is gratifying and well documented. Over 86% have more interest in doing well in school and 87% are more interested in attending college.

Team Basics
The really cool thing about FIRST Tech Challenge is being part of a team. All skill levels are welcomed and needed, technical and non-technical. Read on for more about team basics, time frame, commitment, and skills required.

What does every FIRST Tech Challenge team need?

  • 2 or more adult Mentors who are willing and motivated to coach the team through the build and competition season, and beyond!
  • Other adults can volunteer to help with administration, fundraising, community outreach, technical advising, and other tasks.
  • A suitable meeting place and space to design and build a robot about the size of a microwave oven.
  • A standard kit of robot parts and a common set of game and robot rules issued by FIRST Tech Challenge.
  • A budget and a fundraising plan.
  • The desire to learn, explore, strategize, build camaraderie, share ideas and talents, make new friends, be accepted, and HAVE FUN!

When does FIRST Tech Challenge happen?
The FIRST® Tech Challenge season starts in May, when teams generally form and registration opens. Season kick-off is in early September when the season’s game is announced. The design and build season runs from September to January. Tournament season varies by region and can begin as early as October and continues through April. State and Regional Tournaments advance teams to Super-Regional Championship Tournaments, and winners earn spots at FIRST Championship at the end of April. There are also many off-season events where teams participate, strategize, hone their skills, learn new technology, meet other teams, and have fun!


What is the time commitment?
Mentors or adult Volunteers meet with their team at least once per week during the build and competition season (September – April). Many mature teams also meet throughout the school year, and some compete in off-season events during the summer. You, your family, and your available free time can decide together how much time you can devote to the program.

As a team member, the same applies. Students meet at least once per week from Mid-September through April. Like any sport or other after-school activity, the more time you invest, the better you will become at your task(s).


Any special skills required?
All skill levels are welcomed and needed, technical and non-technical. Teams need all kinds of skills to succeed, so what are you good at? Chances are we have a job for you. And we’ll probably teach you a few new ones while you’re with us.


Student and adult team members are encouraged to bring any skills they already have, like programming, electronics, metalworking, graphic design, web creation, public speaking, videography, and many more. FIRST Tech Challenge welcomes every student, with or without special skills.


More information about our local Rolla Robotics FTC teams can be found here.

Ready to sign up? Have further questions? Contact us at

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