September 7, 2015

Progression of Programs (MI FLL Team Blast 2015.01)

Michigan is strongly committed to the FIRST® progression of programs. Each FIRST program, from Jr. FLL® to FLL® to FTC® to FRC®, offers our students unique opportunities to learn, grow, and build upon previous knowledge.

Outstanding growth across all of our programs in the past few years positions Michigan well to implement a FIRST Robotics program progression pilot across the state. Many of our school districts now have the full complement of FIRST programs from K12, enabling participants to start in Jr. FLL in early elementary, progress through all of our FIRST programs, and be on a high school FRC team when it comes time to make that critical decision to pursue a STEM career.

When we established FIRST in Michigan in 2008, we adopted Dean Kamen’s vision at the time as our mission: to establish a sustainable FRC team in every high school. Dean’s vision has expanded to give younger students the opportunity to experience STEM through hands on, real world challenges too. Jr. FLL, FLL, and FTC are now critical building blocks to FRC. A few years ago, we took the first step by piloting FTC in the middle school to build a stronger bridge between FLL and FRC. Using extensive grants to incentivize middle schools to choose FTC, the results after just four FTC seasons were overwhelmingly positive: the majority of students on FTC teams finished middle school eager and ready to join their high school FRC team. Furthermore, their skills and expectations better align with FRC.

It’s now time to formalize the lessons we’ve learned. FIRST and FIRST in Michigan are pleased to announce phase two of the pilot in Michigan, which utilizes an adjusted progression of programs:

Transitioning Your FLL Middle School Teams to FTC
Starting in 2015, all new teams forming in late elementary (4th grade through the end of elementary), or the equivalent outside of the school system, register for FLL. All new teams forming in middle school, or the equivalent outside of the school system, register for FTC. Existing middle school FLL teams within or outside of a school setting have the choice to stay with FLL for up to two more years, or move to FTC beginning this season.

Several events have transpired to make this the perfect season to start, or transition your middle school team to FTC, and pass your FLL kit down to the elementary level. Foremost is the new platform for FTC: The LEGO MINDSTORMS® NXT has been replaced with the Javabased Android platform powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. This means new and old FTC teams will be on equal footing with programming this year, as all FTC teams will learn Java for the first time.
With grants through FIRST in Michigan and the state of Michigan, along with potential grants FIRST is working to secure with sponsors, the transition from FLL to FTC could be essentially free. Passing your kit down to elementary students is easy. We can show you how to run a community night to engage families and students of all ages in FIRST.

If you have already registered a middle school FLL team this season but would prefer to move to FTC, we can help. Please contact Tammy Damrath at or Gail Alpert at
We are looking forward to another incredible year.

Pamela Williamson
Michigan FLL Partner