2016 Animal Allies

In late August of each year FIRST releases details about the latest FIRST LEGO League challenge. This year the challenge is …

Animal Allies

Get ready. Get set. Roar! Or you could bark, quack, or squeak, because the 2016 Animal Allies season is all about our furry, feathered, and finned friends. In the 2016 FIRST LEGO League Challenge, more than 28,000 teams of students age 9 to 14 will look into the eyes of our Animal Allies. What might become possible when we learn to help each other?



The Animal Allies Challenge Document Animal Allies Challenge Documentsummarizes this year’s challenge. This is a great starting place for learning about the challenge and what’s expected of teams. It isn’t the only details about this year’s FIRST LEGO League challenge!


Animal Allies GuideThe Animal Allies Challenge Guide gives a detailed description of all things FIRST LEGO League for the season.

Teams are expected to have thoroughly read this document prior to competing at a FIRST LEGO League event.

Occasionally things need updated after the challenge release. There are the Challenge Updates hosted by FIRST and then there are the South Carolina Challenge Updates which are specific to teams competing only in South Carolina.



Animal Allies Coaches' Handbook CoverEach year FIRST releases a Coaches’ Handbook. This is an outstanding resource for guiding coaches and mentors through the season. It includes information on

  • what the FIRST LEGO League is all about
  • building a team
  • suggestions for how to prepare the team for the Robot Game and three judging areas
  • what to expect at a tournament

One of the most helpful aides in the Coaches’ Handbook is a Sample Schedule (found in the appendix) to help newer coaches navigate the season from beginning to end.



When we say challenge what do we mean?  Well, that’s a great question!  In a nutshell, it consists of the three parts: The Robot Game and the Project while competing under the FIRST LEGO League Core Values.

Robot Game

In preparing for a qualifying event, teams spend time at practice designing, building, and programming a LEGO MINDSTORMS robot. The goal is bring robot should be able this year’s mission challenges. Robot Game designer and Engineer, Scott Evans, describes the Animal Allies Robot Game.

The build instructions for the Animal Allies missions are found here.

The first place to go for answers to Robot Game questions is the Challenge Guide. Read it thoroughly! If you can’t find your answer there, try the FIRST Challenge Updates. Visit this site often even if you don’t have questions because the postings here contain official information that will be in effect at tournaments.

The last place to go for Robot Game answers Robot Game is the South Carolina Challenge Updates page. These updates are specific to the South Carolina region and address questions not specifically described in the original Challenge document and the updates. It’s also a good idea to periodically check back on this site because what it says also goes at tournaments.

If you still have remaining questions about the Robot Game, reach out to the State Head Referee at ref@scrobotics.org.


The Robot Game is but one of the four areas teams compete in. The other three areas are all related to judging. Wise teams will study the judging rubrics in advance to make sure they’ve satisfied the various areas judges will be looking for.

For questions related to judging please feel free to contact the State Judge Advisor at judge@scrobotics.org.


Like the Robot Game, each year’s FIRST LEGO League challenge comes with a new themed research project. The overview video for the Animal Allies project is an entertaining starting point.

The Challenge Guide gives a more detailed description of what’s expected of teams as part of their research project.

On rare occasions there will be updates to the Project, which are also announced through the Challenge Updates. If you have remaining questions about the Project, reach out to the State Judge Advisor at judge@scrobotics.org.

Please be advised, that even though this year’s theme is centered around animals, teams will not be allowed to bring live animals to any FIRST LEGO League tournaments.

Core Values

An important part, if not the most important part of the FIRST LEGO League are the core values:

  • We are a team.
  • We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.
  • We know our coaches and mentors don’t have all the answers; we learn together.
  • We honor the spirit of friendly competition.
  • What we discover is more important than what we win.
  • We share our experiences with others.
  • We display Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition in everything we do.
  • We have FUN!

At all official South Carolina FIRST LEGO League events teams are required to present a core values poster. Core Values PosterFor more information on the FIRST LEGO League core values and the Core Values Poster, please read the Challenge Guide.

Robot Design

It’s not enough to simply build a robot and have it compete in the Robot Game. An essential aspect of the judging is to demonstrate the engineering of the robot. This is an opportunity for teams to show off their creative and amazing robots to the judges.

At all official South Caroline FIRST LEGO League teams are required to present a Robot Design Executive Summary. Teams can elect how they want to make this presentation, but the Executive Summary should include facts about the robot in addition to design details. The design details should include summaries of

  • strategy
  • design process
  • innovation
  • mechanical design
  • programming
  • fun

Teams should also expect to demonstrate one or two trial runs of their robot during the Robot Design Judging session.