The theme this season is Into Orbit - all activities and project revolve humans in outer space (especially for long term space travel). There are three parts of the competition: Core Values, Robot Game, and the Project.

Core Values

We express the FIRST philosophies of Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition through our Core Values:

  • Discovery: We explore new skills and ideas.
  • Innovation: We use creativity and persistence to solve problems.
  • Impact: We apply what we learn to improve our world.
  • Inclusion: We respect each other and embrace our differences.
  • Teamwork: We are stronger when we work together.
  • Fun: We enjoy and celebrate what we do!

We will run through plenty of Core Values activities throughout the season - take a look at the list and suggest your pick.

Robot Game

Intro Video

Watch the robot game intro video:

Game Board

The game board should look like this:

The mission model building instructions and field setup guide will be helpful early in the season as we construct the table.


There are 15 challenges, each with different variants of possible scoring. Click on each image to read the detailed description. Read each challenge carefully - every word is important. PDF

Mission Strategy

We’ll need to think through which missions to solve and in what order. The FLL Tutorials sketch planner is a useful tool to develop the plan. Read the guide to developing a mission strategy.

Programming Language & Robot Design

This year, we are enrolled in a pilot project to try languages other than Mindstorms! Each of our teams has the option to use either Mindstorms (which is what we used last year) or MakeCode (a new web-based language that was released May 2018). See the Programming page for more info about how and whether to choose MakeCode.

Regardless of language chosen, teams should complete the new design doc. The Illinois pilot instructions recommend:

All teams should be prepared to describe their programs to Judges who may not be familiar with the programming language the team used. Teams are encouraged to use the new Robot Design Summary worksheet to help document and explain their programs for Judges.

Here is the new robot design doc that each team should complete for the tournament:


Read the rules in full! Note that our rules include the extra addendum that allows us to use any software as well as include flash cards (which we probably won’t use).


Intro Video

Watch the project intro video:

Identify a Problem

Identify a human physical or social problem faced during long duration space exploration within our Sun’s solar system and propose a solution. A human physical problem is one that impacts the health or safety of a space explorer, such as the need for air, water, food or exercise. A human social problem is one that could affect the long-term ability of a human to be productive in space. This could include issues like isolation and boredom. “Long duration” space exploration means spending a year or more in outer space.

Consider questions like:

  • Where do astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts get the oxygen and water they need when they are onboard a spacecraft or space station?
  • How do humans eat in space? What kinds of food can we take to space?
  • How is trash and human waste disposed of in space?
  • What are some of the challenges humans will face as we make plans to travel to and explore Mars?
  • What kinds of things do astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts do to stay healthy and happy in space when they are there for long periods of time?
  • How do humans in space communicate with mission controllers, friends and family back on Earth?
  • What does microgravity, reduced gravity and radiation do to the human body? How do humans lessen the effect of microgravity, reduced gravity and radiation on the body?
  • What systems have been used in the past, are what methods are currently used, to provide power and life support on spacecraft and space stations?
  • What power and life support systems are being planned for future spacecraft and human habitats on other planets?
  • Humans have been going into space since 1961. How has our knowledge about living and working in space grown since then?
  • What types of people study and work on human spaceflight here on Earth?
  • What does it take to become an astronaut, cosmonaut or taikonaut?
  • How do astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts, and their mission controllers, train for spaceflight?
  • Why are spacewalks necessary, and is there a way to make them safer for humans?
  • What are some of the unique challenges encountered when making spacecraft repairs in microgravity and reduced gravity environments?

Space Videos

Ask an Expert

We will also need to ask an expert who works in an area related to the needs of humans in space. The Project Guide suggests aerospace engineers, astronauts, mathemeticians, physicists, psychologists, or psychologist.

We can brainstorm some areas where we can find experts within the Breakthrough network and in the Chicago area, such as:

  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • Adler Planetarium
  • University of Chicago

We will likely plan a field trip to either Museum of Science and Industry, Adler Planetarium, or somewhere else in Chicago.

Design a Solution

Challenge Letter

Read the raw challenge letter to see the full overview of the season requirements:

Engineering Notebook

FIRST recommends that teams keep an engineering notebook to track progress and organize their thoughts. This will be helpful for us as we navigate the season.