Each year, FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge teams with stellar Innovation Projects have the opportunity to compete for a chance at the Global Innovation Award.  This year, the 20 Finalist teams were joined by teams from FIRST® Tech Challenge and FIRST® Robotics Competition for a remote multi-day experience at the end of June that included judging, mentoring, workshops, and community.  In addition to being judged on the traditional FIRST LEGO League Challenge Innovation Project elements, these teams have also explored factors for implementing their work.

So, what does a remote innovation extravaganza entail?

Mentoring, mentoring, and more mentoring!

Through the generous time of our presenting sponsor STAR WARS: Force for Change, each of our 60 Finalist teams was paired with several mentors from Disney, Lucasfilm, or Industrial Light & Magic. Each team meet with a mentor guide, specifically paired to bring them expertise for the Innovation Projects and serve as a learning facilitator to ensure teams best utilized advice from other specialty mentors in user experience design and marketing/branding.

Teams were also individually paired with mentors from other sponsors as well as pitch coaches from the socially minded business incubator SEED SPOT, through the support of Partner in Innovation Booz Allen Hamilton, to assist them in refining their business and elevator pitches. 

Vibrant Virtual Pit Spaces

All teams spent time putting together an online pit space designed to showcase themselves and their innovations.  They featured design briefs, supporting research, CAD models, videos about themselves, and regional recipes.  Teams were able to chat and ask questions of each other in these pit spaces.

Prototype picture from Climb Blind’s (Bergen, Norway) virtual pit.


Finalist teams were able to meet with each other throughout the remote event, as well as participate in some GIA-thalon themed puzzle activities designed for fun and to build community.  We also had a daily activity feed with costume day, MEME day, and get moovin’ day.  And, all teams took a pledge to become the next class of Innovation Ambassadors and keep the spirit of innovation lit in their own communities.

Image 1: D++ (2018 runners-up in the Global Innovation Award) helped the new members of D++ and Digital (Israel) take the 2021 pledge. Image 2: The pledge was administered by participants Avanti from FIRST Tech Challenge Finalist the Thunderbots and Linden from FIRST Robotics Competition team the Zebracorns.


Thanks to our Sponsors, Finalists got a taste of numerous career pathways where innovation is a key skill.  Finalists heard from dynamic employees with expertise in everything from data analytics to artificial intelligence and the cutting-edge technology they work on as well as had Q&A time with them.


This year’s RePLAYSM theme had teams thinking about how health and fitness can be achieved through active play and sports.  We saw innovations with tremendous potential to make an impact and many teams already making a difference in the lives of their end-users.  Kudos to all participating teams and to the FIRST LEGO League Challenge participants.  Here is a snapshot of teams who took home awards:

  • WINNER: FIGLOVE by Team “SESI Big Bang” of Sao Paulo, Brazil for their innovative glove that helps reduce pain during exercise in Fibromyalgia patients.
  • RUNNER-UP:  Acti-Go All Terrain Sled by “8404 Team Not Found” of New Hamburg, ON, Canada for a sled that can be used on multiple terrains, keeping kids active year-round
  • RUNNER-UP: SmartSteps System by Team 2751 “LEGO Legion” of Cincinnati, Ohio for a shoe insole with sensors to measure weight, allowing for better, more active recovery from injury or surgery.
  • Innovation Impact Award: The Corti-Monitor System by Team 5875 “Corti-Patch Kids” of Oakville, ON, Canada for a cortisol monitoring system that allows patients with Addison’s disease to exercise without concern.
  • Create Award: PlayAR by Team 33017 “#PandaPower” of Los Altos, California for their App library of augmented reality fitness games, based on classic video games like Pong, which use the camera on your computer/phone to use your face as a controller.  They already have 1300 users!
  • Implimentation Award: Limestoneopoly by Team 44949 “Robotillers” of Bedford, Indiana for an interactive, exploration exercise game that motivates players to be active outside and  inspires location-based involvement wherever the game takes place.
Team Blazing Stars Get Moovin’ after a remote day of activities.

For more information on the Global Innovation Award, visit our Innovation page on the FIRST website.

For a sponsor recap of the event, check out the Star Wars: Force for Change blog on the event.