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FLL: The Unofficial Guide Update

It's hard to believe, but next month most teams are going to start receiving their FLL robot kits plus the mission mat and models... and then Sept 5 will see the release of the rules for the new season and its theme, Climate Connection. I hope all of you are excited and ready to get going! Jonathan and I want to wish all of you luck in the upcoming season, and we hope you enjoy every minute of the experience. As always, we love to hear from our readers about their FLL teams, so feel free to share pictures, comments, etc. Just like last year, we'll be offering a breakdown of each new mission with plenty of discussion in future blog posts - keep your eyes open for them.

Now, as for our new book, FIRST LEGO League: The Unofficial Guide, I have been receiving your email questions about it and wanted to post replies in one post rather than individually, so please check out the Q&A below. (I've edited some questions for length...)

1. When will the book be released? - August 20, 2008 is the shoot-for date and I'm told the printer is on schedule.

2. What does the book cover? I've finally managed to get an accurate Table of Contents that you can download and check out here. It's a 5MB zip file that contains a single PDF file.

3. Where is the best place to get it? Bookstores should be carrying it, but is a sure fire best. Also, please check out this post regarding a discount that No Starch is providing - definitely a nice savings (only good thru Oct 1) if you're willing to buy 4 or more books (any No Starch titles).

4. Does the book provide building instructions for robots? No. Sorry. We do provide some sample robot attachments and programs for performing certain tasks (such as using a specific sensor) but we do not (and cannot) provide solutions. Besides, that would take the fun away from FLL, wouldn't it? We promise that the sense of accomplishment you'll get from building your OWN robot will beat anything we can provide to you.

5. Does the book provide any programs? Yes. The book's download section will contain all the .rbt files seen in the book once the book is released.

6. Is there an electronic/e-book version? Not sure yet - but I'll be checking with No Starch on this and post an update soon.

7. Can I get you and Jonathan to sign my book? Jonathan and I are happy to sign your book if you hunt us down at any gatherings we attend (World Fest, for example - I'll also be signing copies at Botoberfest in Atlanta in Sept 2008), but please PLEASE don't send us copies of your book - return postage is expensive PLUS we don't want your book to get lost in the mail. In place of signing your book, we've come up with a different solution: Once the book is released, we'll be posting a bit of info on how to obtain a bookplate (a sticker you can place inside the book) that Jonathan and I will sign. The bookplate will look like the image seen here and there will be limited quantities. (All we'll require is that you send us a self-addressed/stamped-envelope (SASE) so we can send the bookplate back to you.) More info to come...

There's also one other cool item in the book - Dean Kamen wrote a letter for us that is being included in the book - if you attend World Festival (or any event where Mr. Kamen is present), hunt him down and get him to sign the letter for you. He's very nice and approachable and can usually be found signing all kinds of things.

8. I bought the Robotic Competition Workbook (here or here)- does it have the same stuff as this book? No. Jonathan and I wrote the RCW over a year ago and it's when we realized there was SO MUCH MORE stuff that needed to be covered. The workbook also was heavy on worksheets that an existing team could use whereas the book doesn't use a worksheet approach. There is a very slight overlap of the workbook and book and it's mainly found in the attachment section - but the book goes into a LOT more detail, including sensors in the discussion. A few more differences:

* The workbook has a section on scheduling not found in the book - basically how to examine how much time your team has left before a competition and figuring out how to use it to your best advantage - uses a worksheet
* The book focuses on putting a team together and organizing it (plus integrating new members into an existing team) that isn't found in the workbook.
* Workbook is 99 pages, 10 of which are worksheets that can be photocopied (or downloaded)/
* Book is 219 pages, a few worksheets that are downloadable.

90% of the workbook is completely unique material, not found in the book - and vice-versa. If you've purchased a workbook, definitely check out the Table of Contents mentioned above (Item #2) and see what you think.

9. Any freebies with the book? Besides the bookplate (if you want it) and the downloadable .rbt files, we've also set up a discussion area in the forums for the book - Jonathan and I will be checking in regularly to answer any questions, but you'll also hopefully find a lot of other people offering advice and assistance... we want to make sure our readers get their questions answered (if we can't answer it, we'll do our best to track down someone who can). One of the freebies you can go ahead and grab now is a worksheet I created for some local teams (Atlanta) that help them with brainstorming and testing the various missions - it's a PDF file with instructions and you can get it here.

10. What other FLL resources have you created? Search the blog using "FLL" as the keyword and you can find all kinds of posts from our archives. If you have any team members who want to document their experience with pictures, notes, etc, there's a 40 page Competition Journal (sample pages/excerpts here) with space for pictures, screenshots, autographs, notes, and more. I guess our question for you is: What do you need?

If you've got any additional questions, please post as comments and we'll do our best to get you an answer...

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