Archive for the ‘Cool projects’ Category

5 Reasons to Start a Robotics Competition Team

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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:

Prepare students for the real world: In robotics competitions, students must work as a team to design, build, and program their own robot. Not only are students responsible for all aspects of project planning and preparing for the competition, if a robot breaks or malfunctions while competing, students must think on their feet and work together to come up with a solution. This teaches students what it’s like to work as a team to creatively solve problems under the pressure of a looming deadline.


Foster intense learning at all levels: If you’ve been part of a robotics competition team, you know that they’re anything but dull. Competitions immerse students in dynamic teamwork, creative challenges, technical problems, project planning, project management, time management, computational thinking, design thinking, and a whole lot of other stuff. As they work to apply the engineering process to real-world problems, students must figure out how to work within the parameters they’re given, but must also figure out how to be as creative as possible within those parameters.

This adds up to a whole lot of STEM and 21st century learning as students plan, adapt, iterate, improvise, prototype, design, and redesign their robots. And, since competition teams often travel, kids get the added bonus of meeting new people and traveling to new places, sometimes even internationally.


Get students interested in STEM: Did you know that three-quarters of the fastest growing occupations require significant mathematics or science preparation? And that by 2018, there could be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs in the U.S? And did you know that twenty-eight percent of US companies say that at least half of their new entry-level hires lack basic STEM literacy?*

There are more and more STEM jobs out there, but fewer and fewer candidates who are qualified to fill them. One way to stop this “STEM crisis” is to get more kids interested in pursuing STEM careers, and robotics competitions are a great way to do that. By using STEM skills and concepts to solve real-world problems, student get to apply their math and science skills in a fun and interesting way, and this can help spark students’ life-long interest in STEM.


There’s something fun for everyone: While building and programming your robot may be the team’s focus, there’s a lot more involved. Just like any IT company, the team also needs people who can design logos, create team merchandise, help with fundraising, track spending, coordinate and manage logistics, and all sorts of tasks that aren’t directly related to programming. This is a great way for kids to see how their skills can add value in a STEM-related field.


It’s a sport where everyone can turn pro: Unlike football, basketball, or even marching band, robotics is a field that provides each and every participant with a real chance to make it in the big leagues. Not only does being part of a competition team provide students with important real-world skills, competitions are also a great place to make industry connections, and they can also be a great way for kids to earn scholarships.


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.


Don’t have the funding to start a full competition team? You can still start competing using our Robot Virtual Worlds software and our online competitions. These can be a great way to give kids the benefits of being part of a competition team, without making a significant investment in resources.

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 to join.


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



Written by LeeAnn Baronett

September 9th, 2015 at 6:22 am

Want to Start a Robotics Competition Team but Don’t Know Where to Start?

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Prepare a budget and get funding
    Your budget will need to take into account:

    • Robot kits and pats
    • Software
    • Parts organizers
    • Computers
    • 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.

  6. 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)
  7. 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 to join.



Written by LeeAnn Baronett

September 4th, 2015 at 6:30 am

Cool Project: VEX IQ Motorized Skateboard

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Burf SkateboardSimon Burfield (a.k.a. Burf …an amazing nickname!) designed and programmed a VEX IQ Motorized Skateboard! This VEX IQ skateboard uses  2 VEXIQ brains / batteries, and 16 motors connected to 8 omnidirectional wheels. It is also programmed in ROBOTC!


Check out Burf’s website here for more cool project!

Do you have a cool project you’d like to share? If so, send us an email at

Written by Cara Friez

August 13th, 2015 at 7:15 am

Cool Project: LEGO EV3 Sorter Machine

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CH Chen created a cool project and shared it with us! This LEGO EV3 Sorter machine is able to detect the color of Lego Technic beams and then add it to the appropriate slot of the three colors.






Click here to see the code! And check out CH Chen’s blog with even more of his projects.

Do you have a cool project you’d like to share? If so, send us an email at

Written by Cara Friez

July 22nd, 2015 at 7:00 am

Best #ROBOTC Twitter Posts – 3rd Edition

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We LOVE getting Twitter posts sent to us about ROBOTC. In the last few months, you have shared even more great posts and pictures with us. We decided to make a THIRD compilation of some of our favorites so you can check out some of the cool projects going on …

Do you have a ROBOTC picture/video/post you would like to share with us on Twitter? If so, include #ROBOTC or @ROBOTC in your message.

Written by Cara Friez

June 18th, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Do you have a Cool ROBOTC Project??

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Cool Projects 2

The end of the school year is here and to celebrate, we’d love to showcase some of the ROBOTC projects and code you’ve been working on all year long! If you have a cool project (like these!) send us an email at with a description and your code, pictures, and/or videos. We’ll share it on our blog in an upcoming post!

Written by Cara Friez

June 4th, 2015 at 6:00 am

Cool Project: Automated Work Cell

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Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 5.00.53 PM

Take a look at this video of an automated work cell that was put together using VEX parts.









Written by Vu Nguyen

April 2nd, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Cool projects

Cool Project: ColumnBot

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We recently asked a group of engineering students from the University of Aalborg in Denmark to write about their experience using ROBOTC on a recent project. Check it out below!


A model of the robot we built.

A model of the robot we built.

Hi all! We are 6 software engineering students from the University of Aalborg in Denmark. As part of our Bachelor’s degree, we had to design and implement an embedded system, and we chose to design and implement a robot that would solve the Simultaneous Localization And Mapping (SLAM) problem. We called the robot ColumBot.

The hardware we were issued were LEGO NXT bricks and sensors as well as a few from MindSensors. MindSensors provided libraries for use with ROBOTC, which was one of the reasons why we ended up choosing ROBOTC as our IDE.

This shows the generated map for TestCourse.

This shows a map of the test course we ran.

Work in Aalborg is group-based and many of the other groups spent the first weeks trying to get their NXT bricks set up for the firmwares they were using, but ROBOTC allowed us to have the part of the project kept to a minimum. ROBOTC provided us with a strong and versatile tool in solving our project, and was of great help.

Using ROBOTC, we were able to implement a mapping robot with a drive queue, with enough memory for 100m2, as well as a particle filter to correct the inaccuracies that arose from sensing when mapping. All this functionality was scheduled using a real time scheduling scheme. We do not believe this would have been possible with some of the IDEs used by the other groups.

This shows a map of the test course we ran.

TestCourse map.

ROBOTC has its quirks, namely much of the documentation is faulty. [Editor’s Note: ROBOTC recently went through a complete documentation overhaul to address issues like these – take a look at our help docs here.] As the focus of our project was to fit as much functionality as possible into the limited space, this problem mainly arose with the sizes of different types, where the documentation deviated from the reality. But the community is fantastic and many answers to difficult questions were found in the forums during the project period. The most useful features in our project were the Bluetooth Communication and the Debug Stream, which allowed us to monitor the robot remotely and communicate with it.

We would recommend ROBOTC to anyone attempting a build of the same size as ours, but advice you to be wary and test things for yourself, because this was sometimes a problem for us.

Check out one of our test runs here:

Written by Cara Friez

February 23rd, 2015 at 11:01 am

Cool Project: Conway’s Game of Life

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ROBOTC Game LifeXander over at BotBench (and future colleague!) created an awesome ROBOTC version of Conway’s famous Game of Life. As he states on his blog, “It was first thought of back in 1940, so it’s a real piece of computer science history.” The Game of Life has very simple rules: (taken from WikiPedia)

The universe of the Game of Life is an infinite two-dimensional orthogonal grid of square cells, each of which is in one of two possible states, alive or dead. Every cell interacts with its eight neighbours, which are the cells that are horizontally, vertically, or diagonally adjacent. At each step in time, the following transitions occur:

  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbours dies, as if caused by under-population.
  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbours lives on to the next generation.
  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbours dies, as if by overcrowding.
  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.

The initial pattern constitutes the seed of the system. The first generation is created by applying the above rules simultaneously to every cell in the seed—births and deaths occur simultaneously, and the discrete moment at which this happens is sometimes called a tick (in other words, each generation is a pure function of the preceding one). The rules continue to be applied repeatedly to create further generations.


You can download the source code here: [LINK]. He tested it on a physical and emulated EV3 as well as an emulated NXT. It will work with ROBOTC 4.26 and up, which you can download here: [LINK].

Written by Cara Friez

October 10th, 2014 at 6:45 am

Cool Project: VEX IQ GoProBot

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2014-09-05-14.30.09Xander over at BotBench shared a really cool video a couple weeks ago when he attached a GoPro to his VEX IQ that was programmed in ROBOTC. He didn’t get any pictures of the robot with the camera on it, but you can see where it was held by the rubber bands on the end of the boom in the pictures below. The angle of the boom was also remote controllable.

And check out the video here …

Read more about this cool project and other things going on over at BotBench, here!

Written by Cara Friez

September 30th, 2014 at 7:30 am