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Questions for First Lego League People

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I attended my state's first-ever state championship yesterday and I'm hooked. (BTW, the winning team were a bunch of homeschool families that have been doing this for several years and competed in a neighboring state - yea them!) I had two sons participate on two separate teams and was amazed by what I saw, and what they accomplished. They did FLL through their public school and neither coach was very good at preparing parents or letting us know what was involved or even what they were trying to do. As a result, I took my boys to their meetings, and that was about it.


But, after yesterday, I love this! I'm thinking about starting a team with my three oldest boys, along with two of their cousins that live 3 blocks away and maybe a few other kids from our neighborhood. I have been poring over the FLL website and forums to gather information, but know that the Hive is the best resource out there!


So here's a few questions for someone thinking about doing this next year:


* Do I need to order the official FLL Robot Set ($395) or can I just order a Lego Mindstorms NXT set ($280) to have my kids start playing with and start figuring out before September?


* What would you recommend for me to do / learn between now and September when the next challenge is officially presented?


* Thoughts on team size / ages would be appreciated. My boys are currently 13, 11, and 9; their cousins (both boys) are currently 14 and 11.


I'm sure there are other things that I should be asking, but they just haven't occurred to me yet!

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We have coached teams for several years. This is what we have learned.


- Buy the FLL NXT. It comes with some different things and it really helps. We didn't the first year and that cost us.


- We have found 10 kids to be too many. We like 5-8 kids on a team so last year we coached two teams, a younger and older team.


- We start on the research project in July/Aug and we have a couple of training camps in July/ Aug to teach things like gears, and general programming.


We have not yet gone to state. Twice we have been the runner-up in several areas. So close!


It's great and has taught our kids so much. It's a TON of work but worth it!

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