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Large budget-What and how many pieces is sufficient?

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  • Large budget-What and how many pieces is sufficient?

    Next year, we are expanding our teams to 4 teams (maybe 5) of about 22 kids or so and fortunate enough to have a very large budget for buying LEGO pieces (I work at a large international school). We also do Lego Robotics as part of the Math and Science curriculum in Elementary so keep in mind this is to also be used for about 45 kids at other times of the year.

    My question-is if you could acquire as many ev3 pieces as you wanted, what and how many pieces would you buy? What pieces do you tend to run out of the most? I'm busy buying more and more pieces off of Bricklink to supplement.

    We will have 22 ev3 sets (with access to another 12 or so if needed), 4 expansion kits, 3 robotics tables, 8 NXT kits (used for extra parts really). We also have 14 Lego Machines and Mechanisms sets, 22 Wedo 2.0 sets. I would rather not use too many parts from here for FLL unless I need to. We also have 4 left over challenge sets from Into Orbit to use as spare parts. I've also bought every eV3 programming, building books available and subscribed to several online FLL sites (which has helped me a lot).

    From bricklink, I've tried to load up on Open frames (50 per team enough?), liftarms of all different sizes, beams, axles, different size tires, perpendicular pin connectors.

    Are there any parts that you always seem to run out of that I should also stock up on? I realize that I'm probably just becoming a LEGO hoarder at this point but I want to be better prepared as this year, we really didn't know what we were doing. I was thinking of getting the pneumatics add-on set and see if any teams get into that as well.

    We would love to have more teams (lots of interest from kids) but I feel like the biggest limiting resource are coaches. There are basically 2 of us plus another teacher who can help us but really feel like we can't support more than 4 teams.

    I'd like to have some different prototypes of robots to test and learn the basics of programming for our beginner teams. We made the mistake last season of not having enough pieces or robots for kids to test out. I realize that kids obviously need to design their own robots and attachments but it would be nice to have kids test these out before spending hours on building one design. We have a very short FLL season.
    Last edited by snowphantom; 05-13-2019, 11:20 AM.

  • #2
    Our team decides on the base robot in the first week of practice. I often have one kid really interested in trying to design a base robot. Sometimes they reuse the base robot from last year, and sometimes they go with a new design. It all depends on if someone can redesign one in between the seasons. After we get one base robot (AKA, our "competition" robot), we build some more practice robots exactly like the competition robot. We do that so there are plenty of robots for the team to practice with. We have found that one EV3 for every two kids is *just* enough. I would aim for an even closer ratio of 1:1 if it is possible. Also, note that the EV3 kits only come with one medium motor and one light sensor. Many teams like to put two medium motors and two light sensors on their robots.

    As for Lego pieces, it kind of depends on how advanced your teams are. When I first started coaching, my teams didn't build much more than the kit robot. Then as they saw what other teams were doing, each year they got more and more ambitions. They now like to build the really big robots that you see a lot of teams building. If you think they are going that way, then definitely load up on the 5x7 rectangular closed frames. We have an entire black lego bin filled with just frames. We also have a lot of beams and a couple thousand black and long blue pins. We don't use a lot of the bent beams (liftarms), but we do use a lot of the 3x5 L beams and a lot of the regular beams. Get a good collection of gears and lego chain too.

    As for prototypes of robots, definitely let the kids be a part of that. Start with the kit robot. It's tried and true, and many teams use a variant of that robot. But ask them what are the shortcomings of that robot and what can be done to make it better.
    Norfolk, Virginia, USA
    FLL Coach and Regional Tournament Head judge since 2014

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    • #3
      Thanks, great tips and helpful. We definitely plan on using 2 medium motors and 2 lights sensors and probably don't have enough 3x5 L beams. I bought some lego chains to use as well as saw some nice ways of using them in attachments. Do you find many of your teams use rubber band attachments as well?

      I think we'll try and aim for 1:1 ratios if we can manage as well.

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      • #4
        Yes, get a few packs of rubber bands. I don't think you'll need a lot of them, but there's a good chance you will need some for sure. We have a few rubber bands on a couple of our attachments this year.
        Norfolk, Virginia, USA
        FLL Coach and Regional Tournament Head judge since 2014

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        • #5
          Originally posted by SkipMorrow View Post
          Our team decides on the base robot in the first week of practice. I often have one kid really interested in trying to design a base robot. Sometimes they reuse the base robot from last year, and sometimes they go with a new design. It all depends on if someone can redesign one in between the seasons. After we get one base robot (AKA, our "competition" robot), we build some more practice robots exactly like the competition robot. We do that so there are plenty of robots for the team to practice with. We have found that one EV3 for every two kids is *just* enough. I would aim for an even closer ratio of 1:1 if it is possible. Also, note that the EV3 kits only come with one medium motor and one light sensor. Many teams like to put two medium motors and two light sensors on their robots.
          My team uses a similar strategy of designing and building a competition robot and then replicating it so we have more practice robots. I try to always have the students work in teams of at least two to help them with their teamwork. I don't think it's always the most efficient way, but I like that it forces them to work together at least a bit. My team is primarily home schoolers so working well with others is often a struggle.

          I agree that more light sensors and medium motors are helpful. Other parts that my team has asked me to buy recently include more caster wheels, particularly the metal balls as some of ours started to rust. Last season they needed more of the small H (or I) beam frames (Part #14720). I also bought a couple of cannons (57029) and the projectiles which go with them and the team ended up using those for the crater crossing mission. Some gearboxes (6585 and 6588) are great for helping with geared attachments. The already assembled gear boxes (46217 and 45360) are fun to play around with as well, but I'd rather the kids build their own as I think it helps them to better understand using the gears to change the direction of motion.

          I would also recommend getting some tracks for your team to try to use rather than wheels. I don't know that tracks are any better than wheels. I think they can be in some situations. They're certainly different and I think it's great to give students the chance to experiment with them.

          --
          Fort Worth Robotics - North Texas Region Team #455
          Technical coach, baker of the cookies, keeper of the time, transporter of the travel field walls, finder of the spare parts, maker of the pop culture references that only the other tall people understand.

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          • #6
            I concur with the recommendations of the others. We rarely use bent beams so our robot and attachments tend to be boxy. In addition to the other recommendations I would suggest plenty of 2x4L beams, 3x3 T's, lots of 3,4,5 long axles, connetors 48989, and as many black pins and 2 axle (43093) and 3 long blue pins as you can get (the pins do loosen, break and fatigue break often usually 20 to 30 a year). Also in addition to rubber bands get Lego string. The last few seasons we have used string a lot for holding assemblies together that tend to slip apart, bind and manage the motor and sensor wires, and to actuate things that are far from the activating motor.

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