This post was written by Sarah Stray, FIRST® Innovation Awards Manager. The eighth annual Global Innovation Award celebration was held June 19-21, 2018, in San Jose, California, USA. 

Each year, all FIRST® LEGO® League teams with exemplary Projects in the annual Challenge theme have the opportunity to compete for a chance at the Global Innovation Award.  They’re nominated by their home regions and the top 20 semi-finalist teams are invited to a multi-day event filled with judging, workshops, fun, and inspiration.  During the process, teams keep working on their Projects and explore factors for implementing them.

This implementation plan is by the St Clare Transformers #1 team, inventors of the Artists’ Miracle.


The Global Innovation Award allows us to show the world that our #STEMsquad is building the skills they need to become a creative problem-solving force like no other.  By completing a FIRST LEGO League Project, all our participants get to invent and learn skills they will use no matter what kinds of future problems they tackle.

Through planning the Global Innovation Award for a number of years, I’ve come to know that kids make the best inventors.  Perseverance and creativity come as naturally to them as breathing.  They’re ready to make an impact now, and not wait until they’re grown-up – and they do.

So, what happens over the course of the multi-faceted Global Innovation Award celebration?

Check out our recap video:

Here are some of my favorite moments from the event:

  1. Pinnacles of innovation on display. Working prototypes that knocked my [robot] socks off!

    The Rain Regents of Ontario, Canada’s Bird Spa (left) and the Aqua Allies of Minnesota, USA’s David Buoy (right)
  2. Witnessing FIRST Core Values around every corner. When team FSINGENIUM of Spain won, they received a standing ovation from the FEDAC Mix Wolvineers team, also from Spain.  During the event, I witnessed coaches encouraging teams to be their best selves, and telling students to soak up the experience of meeting and learning from other teams. I also saw humble teams with parents and younger brothers and sisters oozing pride.gia-blog-photo-3
  3. Collaboration in action. Teams embraced new learning experiences in topics like business model planning, design thinking, and storytelling. Workshop presenters had students working and learning from each other—both in their own teams and with others.  Impressively, the students all welcomed this spirit of collaboration.gia-blog-photo-4
  4. A Game Show. Sponsors were great sports and cheered on teams during our Who Wants to be an Innovator? game show. It was a blast and we tried (but failed) to stump teams with questions about innovation, technology, and how to put a dinosaur in a refrigerator.

Are you ready to keep fostering your ability to innovate?  Launch yourself into the INTO ORBITSM Challenge and focus on the Innovative Solution category of the Project rubric.  As a former astronomy class student/Star Trek: The Next Generation junkie, I literally can’t wait to see what problems FIRST LEGO League teams choose to solve next season!

Learn more and register your team for the INTO ORBIT season.