The FIRST LEGO League tournament structure uses an advancement format. After a minimum of an eight week build season—during which time teams can participate in Challenge Academies—teams attend a qualifying tournament. Depending on their performance at the qualifier, a team can advance to a state championship. The ultimate goal is to attend either the FIRST World Festival or an Open Invitational.
A Challenge Academy is a mid-season event in which teams come together, share ideas, and network with each other. During a Challenge Academy, the host venue runs simulated Robot Game matches using nearly the same standards as an official FIRST LEGO League tournament event. The host venue also provides opportunities for teams to receive feedback on the various judging areas. Challenge Academies are designed for teams to demonstrate Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition prior to an official qualifier event by sharing their mid-season accomplishments and learning from their future competition.
A team’s performance at a Challenge Academy is not incorporated into the advancement considerations at a qualifying event.
On the first Saturday of October teams apply for their choice of regional qualifying events. To apply for qualifiers the head coach completes a Google form hosted by South Carolina FIRST LEGO League & Robotics Education, Inc. As part of the application process coaches rank their top three regional qualifier choices.
Approximately one week after the qualifier applications opens, the Affiliate Partner uses the applications to assign teams to their regional qualifying event. Every effort is made to get teams into their top choices, but their are occasions that teams may need to participate in their second, or in rare cases, their third choices. After teams are assigned to a qualifying event, the team’s registered coaches will receive an email from the system confirming the team assignment.
To participate in a qualifier teams must pay a $50 event fee. This fee is separate from the FIRST registration fee and is paid directly to the event host. Tournament directors contact participating teams prior to the event with specific payment instructions and event details.
FIRST assumes a minimum eight week “build” season following the challenge global announcement in late August. This means qualifying events can show up on the calendar as early as November. In South Carolina all qualifying events are completed before the holiday break in mid-December. Teams should set their practice schedule such that they’re ready to compete by the time of the first regional qualifier in the state.
To be eligible to advance from a regional qualifying event to one of the two state championship events a team must:
In South Carolina the top 30% of teams that compete at a regional qualifying event advance to a state championship event. This means advancement numbers vary at each tournament based on the number of competing teams. A 24 team event will advance more teams than a 12 team event.
Just because a team may have won an award at a regional qualifier does not mean they automatically advance to a state championship. It’s possible to win an award in a single category, such as scoring the most points in the Robot Game, and not advance. Only well rounded teams, teams that are significantly ranked in all areas of the competition, advance to compete another day.
Teams are expected to attend an entire competition and compete in all four categories (Robot Game, along with Core Values, Project, and Robot Design judging). If a team does not compete in every category they’re not eligible for Champions Award or advancement. All team members must participate in all four areas. Teams are not allowed to send in their “experts” into specific judging categories.
To be considered for a Champions Award, a team must meet the advancement criteria given above in addition to scoring in the top 40% in the Robot Game.
South Carolina hosts two State Championships, a West and an East Championship. Please watch for date announcements via the event calendar and partner emails. Typically the State Championships occur in late January to early February.
The qualifying event tournament directors report to the FIRST LEGO League affiliate Partner a list of teams that advanced from their event. Within a week of your qualifying event you should receive an email stating that you have been confirmed at your State Championship. Entrance fee for the State Championship is $75. The South Carolina FIRST LEGO League Partner will provide payment detail information and options shortly after your confirmation.
The Championship event tournament director will provide a Coaches Packet prior to the event and will maintain updated communications and details via the Championship webpages. All the pertinent details of the event will be included, such as event day general agenda (this does not include your team’s individual competition schedule), what to bring, what not to bring, amenities that will be available during the event, where to load in and load out, parking, etc…
In years that South Carolina receives a bid to the FIRST Championship, also referred to as the FIRST LEGO League World Festival, the overall state champion will represent the region at the event. With two South Carolina state championships the representative team will bounce back-and-forth between the West and East Championship.
The next bid to the World Festival will go to the South Carolina West Champion.
In the event that South Carolina receives two bids to the World Festival, each state championship will be invited to represent the state.
Open Invitational Championships are invitational events where the hosts invite specific regions to send a team. “Open” refers to inviting teams from outside the host region’s borders. Opens are hosted by FIRST LEGO League Partners and abide by Championship standards. They represent another great way for FIRST LEGO League teams to get together and showcase their achievements.
Open Invitationals are special championship level events. Regional champions, along with other top performing teams, are invited to compete in these extremely competitive tournaments. The quality of teams rivals those at the FIRST World Festival.
Invitation to participate in an Open Invitational comes from the host tournament director working in conjunction with the local Affiliate Partner. The list of Open Invitational events changes from year to year.
In years that South Carolina receives a single bid to the FIRST World Festival the South Carolina FIRST LEGO League Affiliate Partner tries to secure a bid to an Open Invitational for the state champion not invited to the FIRST World Festival.