Archive for the ‘Competitions’ Category
“Degrees and credentials are important, but the development of soft skills—skills that are more social than technical—are a crucial part of fostering a dynamic workforce and are always in high demand.”[i]
Today’s job market needs graduates who excel in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), and who also excel in the areas of teamwork, communication, creative problem solving, project management, critical thinking, and leadership. Research shows[ii] that competitions are a fun and exciting way to combine STEM with the development of 21st century skills.
This is part one of a series of articles that will show how easy it is to host a competition at your school, in your classroom, in a club, or at your home! Over the next few weeks we will continue this article and suggest teacher-tested strategies that enable you to teach many of the competencies that you can teach via competitions and project based learning via a Virtual Competition.
Competitions are generally multifaceted and require participants to engage in a range of activities. Well designed competitions address academically challenging concepts and teach important 21st century skills like: research, ideation, prototype development, design reviews, presentations, and iterative design-develop- and test cycles, just to name a few. Competitions involve contextualized activities that enable kids to develop the soft skills that employers crave: leadership, written and oral communication, the ability to think on your feet, and the ability to present and defend your ideas. In competitions, these skills are nurtured in a fun and easy-to-understand manner, helping students develop competencies that they’ll use in college and future careers.
Research shows that after participating in competitions, students are more likely to take on additional STEM classes in high school and pursue STEM degrees and careers. Teachers also report that students who have participated in competitions are more comfortable using computers than students who haven’t participated in competitions.[iii] Research also shows that competitions increase students’ professional skills, like understanding the value of teamwork and the role of “gracious professionalism.” Competitions also increase students’ self-confidence, with 89% of students reporting more self-confidence after being part of a competition team.[iv] These are just a few of the reasons we’re big supporters of competitions and competition teams.
Compete Virtually, From Anywhere
Robomatter, VEX Robotics, and the REC Foundation are really excited about presenting low cost, high quality virtual competitions that enable students to test their problem solving and programming skills in the VEX Nothing But Net and VEX IQ Bank Shot Robot Virtual World Competitions. And, not only do these virtual competitions provide a great learning experience, you could qualify for the 2016 VEX Worlds!
This Year’s Games
In the Nothing But Net Robot Virtual Worlds Competition, your goal is to program your virtual robot to put as many balls as you can in the Low and High goals, and by Elevating Robots in your Climbing Zone.
For the Bank Shot Robot Virtual Worlds Competition, your robot will need to pick up balls and make some tricky bank shots! The object of Bank Shot is to attain the highest score by Emptying Cutouts, Scoring Balls into the Scoring Zone and Goals, and by Parking Robots on the Ramp. There are a total of forty-four Balls available as Scoring Objects in the game, with one Scoring Zone, one Goal, and one Ramp on the field.
Winners Qualify for VEX Worlds!
The winners of the Robomatter sponsored VEX Nothing But Net and VEX IQ Bank Shot Robot Virtual World competition will receive an invitation to the VEX World Championship April 20-23, 2016 at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville Kentucky!
- Submissions for both contests are due by March 1, 2016.
- Winners will be announced on March 11, 2016!
Announcing the 2016 REC Foundation & Robomatter Scholarship!
[i] “Careers | Top 10 Soft Skills in Demand | LiveCareer.” LiveCareer. LiveCareer.com, n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2015. <http://www.livecareer.com/career-tips/career-advice/soft-skills-in-demand>.
[ii] Robotics Competition: Providing Structure, Flexibility, and an Extensive Learning Experience – http://users.csc.calpoly.edu/~jseng/papers/grimes_seng.pdf
[iii] The Impact of Participation in VEX Robotics Competition on middle and high school students – http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CDcQFjADahUKEwj9nJmlkq7IAhXE_R4KHRpxC3Q&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.asee.org%2Fpublic%2Fconferences%2F8%2Fpapers%2F2994%2Fdownload&usg=AFQjCNGeCaxBzSsxmeyN7jMVLlaOFwFIXA&bvm=bv.104317490,d.dmo
[iv] More that Robots: An evaluation of the FIRST Robotics Competition – http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Who/Impact/Brandeis_Studies/FRC_eval_finalrpt.pdf
You may have seen our blog post from this past Friday on how to get a robotics competition team up and running but you may still be on the fence about whether or not to start a team.
Some of the benefits of robotics competition teams are the same as any extracurricular activity: social development, improving self-esteem, helping bolster a college application, giving kids a sense of belonging, etc. But, robotics competitions do even more. They inspire young people to pursue STEM careers, to be leaders in science and technology, and to be successful in the 21st century.
Here are just a few of the compelling reasons to start a robotics competition team:
When you’re ready to start your competition team, remember that Robomatter has everything you need to get your team started. From hardware, software, free curriculum to help students learn to program, and training to help you get things up and running.
Get an inside glimpse into what it’s like to run a robotics competition team. Check out this story from our Teacher POV blog series where Branden Hazlet, Director of Technology for Maui Prep, shares his team’s experience at the 2015 VEX Worlds Championship in Louisville, KY.
*Survey on CEOs Say Skills Gap Threatens U.S Economic Future, Dec 3, 2014
Starting a robotics competition team can seem overwhelming, but it’s not as scary as it seems. Here’s a high-level overview of what you need to do to get a team up and running:
- Choose a platform
Now more than ever, robotics teams are faced with the important question of which platform they should purchase and use. LEGO and VEX are the two most widely used platforms. LEGO is primarily used for elementary through middle school (Ages 9 – 14), while VEX can be used for kids in elementary school through college (Ages 8 – 18+).Whether you choose LEGO or VEX, Robomatter has the resources you need to make your team successful, including hardware, software, free curriculum to help students learn to program, and training to help you get things up and running.
- Pick your equipment
Once you’ve chosen a platform, the next step is to pick your equipment. Whether you’ve decided to go with VEX or with LEGO, Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy has a great resources page to provide you with all of the tools and information you need to get started.You can access the VEX page here and the LEGO page here.
- Choose your software
ROBOTC is a C-based programming language with a Windows-based environment for writing and debugging programs. It’s also the most used language for the VEX IQ Challenge, and for the VEX Robotics Competition. ROBOTC is the only solution that offers a comprehensive, real time debugger. It also comes with a Graphical interface, which is a great way to get new students started.In addition to ROBOTC, you may also want to check out Robot Virtual Worlds, a high-end simulation environment that enables students to learn programming without a physical robot. With Robot Virtual Worlds, students can develop and test code on a simulated robot before running code on a real robot. They can also work on the robot when they’re at home, which means they don’t need to be in the classroom to prepare for the competition. With Robot Virtual Worlds, VEX users can also take part in online competitions.LEGO users can use Robot Virtual Worlds by adding on the Virtual Brick. By looking and acting like a LEGO Brain, the Virtual Brick allows teams to program virtual robots using the same programming language as they use to program real LEGO robots.
- Identify your technical and logistical requirements
Here are some things you’ll need to think about:
- Computers: You’ll want to have one computer for each robot/team of students.
- Practice Area: The space should be large enough to accommodate the team, computer, practice table, and storage area for the robots.
- Parts storage: To keep parts organized and accessible, parts organizers are a must. There are many options – portable organizers, drawer cabinets, boxes, caddies, etc. These are readily available online and at local hardware and craft stores.
- Network – The software will need to be loaded on each computer or available via the network on each computer. Programs should be included in the regular system backup or a leader should make a backup to a separate disk or memory stick.
- Prepare a budget and get funding
Your budget will need to take into account:
- Robot kits and pats
- Parts organizers
- Miscellaneous tools, parts, and supplies
- Competition entry fees
- Travel expenses, including gas, food, and lodging
- Team shirts or other items to promote your team at the event
Some potential sources of funding include your school district, local businesses, and local non-profit organizations. You may also consider having a fund raiser, like a bake sale or car wash. Be sure to acknowledge your sponsors at every opportunity, such as printing their names on your team shirts, etc.
- Build your team and assign rolesIn terms of team size, we’ve found that first-time coaches typically do well with about eight students. For larger teams, or if you have the resources, recruit other mentors for your team to lead the subgroups.Once you’ve built your team, the next step is to define roles. We recommend having students change roles on a regular basis, allowing them to share responsibility for all aspects of building, programming, etc. These are the roles we recommend:
- Engineer (Builder)
- Software Specialist (Programmer)
- Information Specialist (Gets the necessary information for the team to move forward)
- Project Manager (Whip-cracker)
- Plan, build, test, and iterate Once you have your equipment, funding, and team in place, you’re ready to get started!To make your team most effective, it’s a good idea to stick to a schedule. Create a schedule that fits your team’s objectives and resources. When you’re ready to build your robot, be sure to familiarize yourself with the competition rules and requirements. If you have questions, reach out to the community for help. There are a lot of great forums out there, such as the ROBOTC forum.Remember, an important part of the process is testing and iteration. Make sure your team knows it’s going to take time to get it right. Luckily, both the VEX and LEGO platforms allow teams to quickly build, test, iterate, and repeat. Even still, students may get frustrated by this process. Remind them that building, programming, and testing a robot doesn’t always go as planned. But, even though a design may have failed, it’s still a valuable learning opportunity, with lessons that can be applied to the next time you try.
If you’re interested in starting a robotics competition team, be sure to tune into our Webinar on September 9th and 7:00 pm ET, Using ROBOTC and RVW to prepare for VEX Competitions. Visit www.robotc.net/hangouts to join.
The latest chapter within the VEX CORTEX Video Trainer Curriculum is now available … Competition Programming! Located in the Engineering Section, this chapter includes lessons designed to help students prepare their programs for a VEX Competition.
Some of the lessons you’ll learn within this chapter includes:
- Creating a Competition Legal Program with the ROBOTC Competition Program Template
- Performing a hardware-based test of a competition program with the VEXnet Competition Switch
- Testing a competition program through ROBTOC with the Programming Hardware Kit
The Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation is pleased to announce the winner of the 2015 Robomatter Scholarship, valued at $5,000 which invited students participating in the VEX Robotics Competition to submit an essay explaining how their participation in both the VEX Robotics Competition and the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy sponsored Robot Virtual World Competition enhanced their understanding and application of programming. In addition, students were encouraged to share how programing skills and use of ROBOTC improved their robotics experience.
“It’s rewarding to hear that students, like Max Farr, gain valuable hands-on experience in programming through participation in the VEX Robotics Competition,” said Jason Morrella, president of the REC Foundation. “The REC Foundation is extremely grateful to partners, such as Robomatter, who make it possible for students to secure the resources they need to continue their education and pursue a post-secondary degree in STEM.”
The winner of the 2015 Robomatter Scholarship is: Max Farr, VEX Robotics Competition Team 21, from CHAMPS Charter High School in California.
“As our team’s driver and programmer, I rely on ROBOTC’s easy and approachable format to enable me to quickly plan, set up and execute commands that improve our game strategy and overall execution,” said Max Farr. “I also rely on Robomatter’s Virtual World at the beginning of every season to better understand the game and quickly begin brainstorming robot designs.”
The 2015/2016 season is now open with VEX IQ Challenge Bank Shot and VEX Robotics Competition Nothing But Net. Both games are available through the Robot Virtual Worlds too!
The Robot Virtual Worlds team is thrilled to announce the availability of two brand new virtual environments, the VEX Robotics Competition – Nothing But Net and VEX IQ Challenge – Bank Shot Robot Virtual Worlds. As in years past, these worlds were made available at the same time as their real world counterparts were unveiled at VEX Worlds!
The competitions for this year are both extremely exciting; teams will actually need to shoot balls into goals. The purpose of these virtual environments is to provide teams with an environment that allows for some strategic planning, and to act as a platform to start programming with the same kinds of motors and sensors that are available in the real world. To that end, we’ve added exciting new “Launchbots” that are capable of shooting balls across the field and are fully programmable with a full array of motors and sensors. One feature we’re really excited about is the “trajectory line”, which shows exactly where your shot will go based on the robots angle and motor power! Game scoring, timing, pre-loads, match loads, climbing, and other elements are all implemented, too.
Check out our video of the VEX Robotics Competition – Nothing But Net RVW in action:
And here is footage from the VEX IQ Challenge – Bank Shot RVW:
To help you get started with these new Robot Virtual Worlds, we are providing a FREE summer license, available at: http://robotc.net/vex/. Our video-based VEX IQ Curriculum is also available completely for free to help you get started with programming.
Click here for more information on the VEX Robotics Competition – Nothing But Net Robot Virtual World, and here for the VEX IQ Challenge – Bank Shot Robot Virtual World.
We are excited to announce the Sarah Heinz House May Madness event for 2015! This year’s event will take place Saturday, May 2 at the Sarah Heinz House in Pittsburgh, PA.
This Year’s Game:
We will be using the VEX IQ Highrise game. Both VEX IQ and LEGO robots can compete! We will have claw bots of VEX IQ for you to use to compete if you wish! You can sign up for Remote control or Autonomous. The games will be scored separately.
Other games will include:
- A grand challenge like game where students will not know the programming or building components until they arrive. They will then have to program and build to complete the challenge. Each student, or group of students, that completes this challenge will be winners of this competition. You should know how to do things such as forward, turn, backwards, line follow.
- Pick up the most VEX Highrise game cubes at once.
Must be able to start with the blocks on the ground and then raise them into the air.
- A robot Parade where the robot must be able to follow the line, must be able to stop when it gets close to the float in front of it.
- Robot Virtual Worlds – Beltway competition where you will play a modified version of the VEX Highrise game.
- Lego Competition which will use the VEX IQ Highrise game elements.
- VEX CORTEX (EDR) Competition where we will be hosting a VEX Skyrise scrimmage for teams who wish to try out VEX Skyrise in a competitive setting. We must have at least 8 teams sign up to have this competition!
The cost will be $20 per team. With this twenty dollars we will give you vex highrise cubes.
LIMITED SPOTS AVAILABLE!
The first 25 teams who register will be guaranteed a spot in May Madness. If you are registering more than one team then they will be placed in a waiting list.
Two of China ROBOTC high school VEX teams (3288A and 3288B) earned their 2014-15 VEX World Championship tickets on Singapore South Programming Skill Challenge on Feb 27. With power ROBOTC programming software, team 3288B tied with Singapore Champion team and team 3288A advanced to VEX World Champion with Asia’s best programming score. China ROBOTC’s middle and elementary school teams earned spots to Louisville as well!
Two High School Teams:
3288A: #1 in Asia ; #14 in world ranking
3288B: #2 in Asia ; #24 in world ranking
Mid School Team:
10790: #1 in Asia ; #5 in world ranking
Elementary School Teams:
10579: #1 in Asia ; #4 in world ranking
10689: #2 in Asia ; #12 in world ranking
China ROBOTC, in cooperate with Shaanxi Science and Technology Department, is also jump starting a new robotic competition platform under the name of “iSTEMn”! iSTEMn provides opportunities for members worldwide to collaborate and innovate in the STEM arena. iSTEMnetwork promotes new levels of educational achievement and economic productivity. iSTEMn robotic competition is a K-14 event and students are divided into 4 different age groups: elementary; middle; high schools and colleges. iSTEMn robotic competition features all ROBOTC supported hardware platforms: VEX; LEGO and Makeblock as well as the RVW competition.
After this two days event, students are learning robotic at their schools and preparing for Shaanxi province tournament at the end of 2015. The winning teams will advance to China National Championship in Beijing early 2016. The winning teams with national title are going to California to compete with US teams for the iSTEM Robotic World Championship in late 2016.
The ROBOTC Development Team is very excited to announce our latest BETA release, ROBOTC 4.28 BETA. This update is for the VEX Robotics (Cortex EDR and VEX IQ) robotics systems and includes new features, functionality and a load of bug fixes!
This new BETA release of ROBOTC includes the brand new “Natural Language 2.0″ libraries for the ROBOTC Graphical interface.
The new Natural Language 2.0 for Cortex allows users to customize and use their own robot configurations with our new Graphical Interface.
In addition, users can also program their VEX Cortex Competition Robots using our new “Graphical Competition Template”!
We’ll have more videos and tutorials on using the VEX Cortex Graphical Language mode in the near future, but try out the new software today and let us know what you think!
To download the 4.28 BETA, use the following links:
Important Setup Information for ROBOTC 4.28 Beta:
VEX IQ Users:
- Run the “VEX IQ Firmware Update Utility” and update your VEX IQ Brain to firmware version 1.13 (may not be available at time of release, but will be available soon).
- Users will also have to update their VEX IQ Wireless Controller in addition to any other VEX IQ Devices (sensors, motors) that may need to be updated as well.
- After updating to the latest VEX IQ Brain firmware, users will also have to install the latest ROBOTC firmware from inside of ROBOTC.
VEX Cortex Users (with Black VEXnet 1.0 Keys):
- You will need to update your VEX Cortex and VEX Game Controllers with Master Firmware Version 4.23 from inside of ROBOTC.
- After updating the master firmware, users will also have to update the VEX Cortex with the latest ROBOTC firmware as well.
VEX Cortex Users (with White VEXnet 2.0 Keys):
- The new VEXnet 2.0 keys have a specific “radio firmware” that you will need to upgrade to enable “Download and Debugging” support. You can download the VEXnet Key 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Utility here.
- Download the “VEXnet Key 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Utility” and insert your VEXnet 2.0 key to any free USB port on your computer. Follow the instructions on the utility to update each key individually. All VEXnet 2.0 keys must be running the same version in order to function properly.
- After updating your VEXnet 2.0 keys, you will need to update your VEX Cortex and VEX Game Controllers with Master Firmware Version 4.23 from inside of ROBOTC.
- After updating the master firmware, users will also have to update the VEX Cortex with the latest ROBOTC firmware as well.
ROBOTC 4.27 -> 4.28 BETA Change Log:
- All – Updated Help System Documentation for new commands and features.
- All – Updated Firmware for 10.28 / 4.28 compatibility.
- All – Added a compiler error when ‘switch’ expression was illegal.
- All – Support for optional “int” keyword as in the declaration “short int” or “int short” in addition to “short”.
- All – Add USB Joystick control to Graphical (in loop blocks)
- Cortex – Fixed issue where performing a new motor PID movement when an existing PID movement is in progress didn’t work properly.
- Cortex – Allow users to select “Xmtr2″ for VEX Cortex Graphical (Expert and higher menu level)
- Cortex – Added competition control and competition template for Cortex Graphical
- Cortex – Added Virtual Worlds Natural Language 2.0 Library for VEX Cortex
- Cortex – Renamed old-style Natural Language mode to “Natural Language PLTW”
- Cortex – Fixed issue where software inspection would fail without a radio link on VEX Cortex
- Cortex – Added dialog message to Cortex “Download Firmware” button on large icon toolbar.
- Cortex – Multiple incomplete consecutive PID moves. Fix issue when current move is in “ramp down” and new PID movement is initiated.
- VEX IQ – Added additional standard models for VEX IQ.
- VEX IQ – Fix issue where mode wasn’t being set for Graphical for VEX IQ Color Sensor.
Executive director of China ROBOTC, Terry Sy, shares their latest robotics competition adventure with us from the 2014 Asia-Pacific Robotic Championships. Read about it below …
The Asia-Pacific Robotic Championships 2014 were held in Dongguan, China from December 1st to December 4th. The first time in its history, China ROBOTC took 4 teams down there to compete. Among those making the trip down to the southern city were a China ROBOTC VEX team, Qingdao ROBOTC Boca Primary School team, Qingdao ROBOTC Boca Secondary School team, and ROBOTC-Experimental Primary School team affiliated to Shaanxi Normal University.
All the team members had a great time, competing in both the VEX and the VEX IQ competitions. Many new friendships were forged and the fantastic experience will be cherished by all those who took part for many years to come. But our teams weren’t just going down there to make friends and have fun. They had come to challenge for the championships.
Altogether, the teams had a lot of success in their respective competitions. In the VEX IQ programming skills competition, one of our primary schools took first place, while the other was a close runner-up. In addition, our secondary schools joined the primary school with a first-placed finish. Meanwhile, in the team competition, our elementary school and secondary school both finished in the runner-up position. As well as this, one member from the primary school and one member from the secondary school excelled in the robot skills competition, both taking 2nd place, and they also received 3 gold awards in IQ and an inspire award in VEX to cap off a fantastically successful event.
Well done to all those students who took part, and keep up the good work!
– Terry Sy