Archive for the ‘General News’ Category

Updates for Ruins of Atlantis AND Expedition Atlantis Virtual Worlds!

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The Robot Virtual World team is happy to announce not one, but two early presents for you this years! Get ready for some deep sea robot programming, because we’ve updated both the Ruins of Atlantis and Expedition Atlantis virtual worlds.

Ruins of Atlantis
Robots to the Rescue: Ruins of Atlantis is our underwater programming game. This update brings it up to speed with all of the latest RVW technology, including CS2N Achievements, the Measurement Toolkit, Quality Controls, and more. The audio and visuals of the game have also undergone a major overhaul – check out the slideshow to see just how beautiful the world is!

Ruins of Atlantis can be downloaded from or Be sure to create and use a CS2N account to keep track of your achievements and game progress.

Expedition Atlantis
Expedition Atlantis is our brand new underwater math game, designed to teach and reinforce concepts like proportional reasoning. We are currently in the process of collecting and implementing feedback on the game. This update extends the trial period of the game through July 2014!

Atlantis Beta 2

Expedition Atlantis can also be downloaded from or Any feedback you have regarding the game is highly appreciated! Please share your feedback in this short survey.

Written by Jesse Flot

December 18th, 2013 at 4:18 pm

A Teacher’s POV: Programming the VEX IQ Robots

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VEX-IS-DS4In the previous entry, I shared some of the features of the VEX IQ robots. Also discussed were some ideas on how to get a classroom organized. Now that we have those things established, we can move on to a discussion of how to begin programming the VEX IQ robots.

ROBOTC for VEX IQ has Natural Language commands that will help beginning programmers of the VEX IQ by supplying a set of commands that use “natural” words. For example, the “forward” command will make your robot move forwards for a specified amount of time or distance. The robot will come to a stop after the movement. Here are some examples of the command:

Move the robot forward for 2.5 rotations:
• forward(2.5);

Move the robot forward to 180 degrees:
• forward(180, degrees);

Move the robot forward for 1.5 rotations at 30% speed:
• forward(1.5, rotations, 30);

Move the robot forward for 10 seconds:
• forward(10, seconds);
• forward(10000, milliseconds);
Natural Language also contains other helpful commands; such as, “backward”, “turnLeft”, “turnRight”, and “repeat”. Below is an example of a Natural Language sample program that is located within the Natural Language sample program folder in ROBOTC:
VEX IQ Natural Language – Port Names and Numbers
leftMotor – Port #1
rightMotor – Port #6
armMotor – Port #10
clawMotor – Port #11
touchLEDSensor – Port #3
gyroSensor – Port #4
distanceSensor – Port #7
bumperSensor – Port #8
colorSensor – Port #9

task main()
//Configure the Natural Language to use the VEX IQ Clawbot

//Move the robot forward for 1.5 rotations (rotations are the default unit) at 50% speed (default speed)

//Turn the robot right for 1.25 rotations at 50% speed (default speed)
turnRight(180, degrees);

//Move the robot backwards for 720 degrees at 25% speed.
backward(720, degrees, 25);

//Turn the robot left for 2.5 rotations at 50% speed (default speed)
turnLeft(2.5, rotations);

As you can see, there are a couple things that we have to do in order to use the Natural Language functionality. To enable Natural Language, go to “Robot Menu -> Platform Type -> Natural Language”.

The easiest way to get started programming is to open a sample program or to use a template. To open a sample program in ROBOTC, go to File Menu -> Open Sample Program.

To use a Natural Language template in ROBOTC, go to File Menu -> New… -> Natural Language Template.

To make programming easier, Natural Language makes assumptions about the type of robot you are using. To configure your Natural Language program to use our VEX IQ Clawbot, use the following line of code:
More robot models will be supported in future releases.

VEX-IQ-DSFinally, you will notice in the sample program that port names and numbers are given specific names and ports. Make sure that your VEX IQ Clawbot’s motors and sensors are configured this way in order to work with the Natural Language commands.

Ok. We are ready to go with programming! What should we do? My suggestion would be to start with the Labyrinth Challenge.

The Labyrinth challenge gives the students an opportunity to engage with the VEX IQ robots and ROBOTC. The students are immediately engaged because they can see and test their robot’s movement as it makes its way through the course. Since this may be the first program that some students write, there are a couple of things worth remembering. First, makes sure the students create a flowchart before they begin programming. For more information on flowcharts, you can look here: VEX Teacher – Engineering.

VEX-IQ-DS2Second, it is important that the students describe what is going on in their programs with comments. For more information on how to utilize comments, please see here:

Now you are ready to go! Good luck and have fun! Remember, if you have any questions as you are working, please visit the ROBOTC forums.

- Jason McKenna


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Written by Cara Friez

December 13th, 2013 at 6:41 am

A Teacher’s POV: Getting Started with the VEX IQ

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VEX-IQ-Carly-and-KarriThe VEX IQ robot is a great, new option for middle and high school robotics teachers. With anything new in the classroom, it’s important to have some ideas on how to best implement the new tools in the classroom.

There are some features of the VEX IQ system that teachers will notice initially. The VEX IQ brain has 12 identical ports. This means that any device (either a sensor or a motor) can be plugged into one of the ports. Also, the VEX IQ motors are smart motors; therefore, the motors can hold a position and resist external movements. Some of the sensors for the VEX IQ include a Bumper sensor, a Touch LED sensor, a Gyro Sensor, a Color sensor, and a Sonar sensor. One nice asset of the motors and sensors is the fact that they each have their own upgradeable firmware. As a result, if new features are added, the firmware for the device can be upgraded, as opposed to buying a new sensor and/or motor.

With the VEX IQ Starter Kit, there are over 850 structural and motion components. That many parts allow teachers and students lots of flexibility when it comes to building a robot. But, that’s only if they can find the parts they need. One of the first things that teachers need to do is get their kits organized. The Starter Kit comes with a storage bin and tray that help, but the amount of parts means that different pieces will need to be stored together in the storage bin. If the students know what pieces are located in each section of the storage bin, it will make the building process much easier.

VEX-IQ-JacobThe base robot for the VEX IQ is the Clawbot. The Clawbot include a gripper and a lifter arm. These features immediately grab the attention of most students; they love the idea of being able to lift and grab an object. For teachers, it is a good idea to build the Clawbot before allowing the students the opportunity to do the same. This gives teachers an idea of what problems the students may have as they begin building, and it also allows the teachers to help those students that run into problems. You can’t start anything until all the students have their robot built. Having some groups finish their robot, while other groups lag behind can be an issue. Building a robot first, puts the teacher in the best position to get everyone started off on the right foot.

When it comes time to start building, students can work on different parts of the VEX IQ Clawbot. You can divide the Clawbot into these sections: the Base, the Claw, the Tower, and the Ball Holder. One suggestion to organize a class would be to have two students work on the Base, while one student each works on the Claw, the Tower and the Ball Holder. Or, you could have one student work on each section. It’s important to note that however the class is organized for the building of the Clawbot, there should be a uniform way that the students attach the motors and sensors.



The battery for the VEX IQ robot brain comes charged, so a teacher does not need to worry about doing that preliminarily. So, once the Clawbot is built, the next thing that needs to be done is install the ROBOTC firmware and update the VEX IQ brain, motors, and any sensors that may be on the robot. Click here for directions on how to install the ROBOTC Firmware.

To update the VEX IQ brain, motors, and sensors, the VEX IQ Firmware Update Utility needs to be downloaded to your computer. The Firmware Update Utility and directions on how to utilize it can be found here.

With the next installment, we will take a look at how to set up your first programming lesson. In the meantime, teachers can take advantage of a few readily available resources at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy VEX Teacher Site and the ROBOTC Wiki to help with questions concerning programming the VEX IQ with ROBOTC.

-Jason McKenna


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Written by Cara Friez

December 5th, 2013 at 4:43 pm

RVW FTC Block Party Competition Now Live!

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Block Party CS2N ModeCarnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy, a research-based organization committed to teaching students how to program robots, is really excited to be able to support FTC teams again this year. Follow the links below to learn about FREE Programming Classes and a new Block Party Programming Game that can be used by students, teachers in classrooms, coaches, or competition providers. The new game is designed to teach programming and has over $5,000 in prizes. We’ve also made CS2N Groups Technology that enables teachers, coaches, and regional competition sponsors to host their own competitions.

In the FTC Block Party Virtual World, program one of three robots to score as many points as possible in autonomous and driver controlled modes. Score points by:

  • Placing Blocks in Floor goals
  • Placing Blocks in Pendulum goals
  • Raising the Flag
  • Hanging from the Bar

See the rules documents for the full game explanation:

  1. FTC Block Party – Autonomous CS2N Mode
  2. FTC Block Party – Remote Control CS2N Mode


Additional information to help you get started:

How to Setup Your Own In-Class Competition – Teachers, coaches, and competition organizers can setup their own unique programming competitions using CS2N Groups Technology.  The Robotics Academy has developed groups technology that enables teachers to setup their own in-class competitions.  To learn how to setup your own Group competition click here:

Be sure to visit the or for the latest version of the FTC Block Party software. Happy Programming!

RVW VEX Toss Up Competition Now Live!

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Toss-Up-CS2N-ModeCarnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy, a research-based organization committed to teaching students how to program robots, is really excited to be able to support VEX Competition teams again this year. Follow the links below to learn about a NEW VEX Toss Up Programming Game that can be used by students, teachers in classrooms, coaches, or competition providers with FREE Programming Classes that your students can take. The new game is designed to teach programming and has over $5,000 in prizes. The Robotics Academy has also developed CS2N Group Technology that enables teachers, coaches, and regional competition sponsors to host their own programming and remote control virtual competitions.

VEX Toss Up is played on a 12′x12′ square field. The object of the game is to score your colored BuckyBalls and Large Balls into the Near Zone and Far Zone, by Locking Up your colored BuckyBalls and Large Balls into the Goals, and by Low Hanging, Hanging and Ultra Hanging off your colored Bar at the end of the match.

This Virtual World is designed to simulate the Toss Up competition field and several robot designs, allowing teams to practice their programming and form winning gameplay strategies.

See the rules documents for the full CS2N game explanation:

  1. VEX Toss Up – Autonomous CS2N Mode
  2. VEX Toss Up – Remote Control CS2N Mode

Additional information to help you get started:

How to Setup Your Own In-Class Competition – Teachers, coaches, and competition organizers can setup their own unique programming competitions using CS2N Groups Technology.  The Robotics Academy has developed group technology that enables teachers to setup their own in-class competitions.  To learn how to setup your own Group competition click here:

Be sure to visit the or for the latest version of the VEX Toss Up software. Happy Programming!


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Expedition Atlantis Beta 3 Now Available!

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We’re happy to announce a big update to the Expedition Atlantis game. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback for the previous versions – keep it coming!

One new feature that we think you’ll appreciate is the ability to create a certificate of the badges that you’ve earned, if you’ve been playing with a CS2N or Local account. It’s a great way to share the progress you’ve made in the game!

Atlantis Certificate

Here are some of the other major features and fixes we’ve made based on your feedback:

  • Fixed a bug where sometimes the game would freeze after upgrading to Helios II in Poseidon’s Courtyard
  • Improved the visibility of the distance and angle values throughout the game, especially in the Heart of Atlantis
  • Fixed a bug where the game could crash in VR Training Mode
  • Fixed a bug that could cause the game to freeze in the Underwater Base when playing in Custom Difficulty
  • Addressed possible issues when switching between difficulty levels while playing the Heart of Atlantis

To catch up on all of the latest Expedition Atlantis information, including the game unveiling and a Google Hangout with the development team, check out our Expedition Atlantis page.

Download the latest version of Expedition Atlantis at

Update for Expedition Atlantis Virtual World!

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We’re excited to announce a huge update to our brand new Expedition Atlantis Virtual World. The update includes nearly 100 fixes and improvements to the deep sea game. For a full overview of the game, check out the original announcement here. And the best news is, Expedition Atlantis is completely free through the end of the year!

Atlantis Beta 2

Download the latest version of Expedition Atlantis by clicking here.

If you downloaded and tried out Expedition Atlantis, please take 2-3 minutes and give us your feedback in this survey.

Written by Jesse Flot

October 22nd, 2013 at 5:07 pm

New Robot Virtual World: Expedition Atlantis

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The Robot Virtual World team has just released a beta version of it’s latest game, Expedition Atlantis! It’s the year 2023 and Atlantis has been discovered deep in the ocean, off of the coast of Africa. A team of elite scientists and engineers have been sent to investigate the underwater ruins, and you’re one of them! Use your skills to to maneuver the teams underwater vehicles in this expedition to Atlantis!

Proportional problems are embedded everywhere. Expedition Atlantis provides students with the big ideas needed to become proficient proportional thinkers. Check out this video to see how:

The game begins with your submarine being deployed from a large mothership, beginning your expedition to Atlantis. A large underwater storm throws the submarine off course and into a cliff side!

Hyperion Deployed

Fortunately, the submarine was equipped with an escape pod! The underwater storm is still acting up, so you’ll need to move the robot to areas with cover between outbursts. The mothership will transmit how far away the next safe zone is; you’ll need to calculate how many wheel rotations it will take to get there. Be careful not to move too far or too little or you’ll be blown around the ocean floor!

Chapter 1

A special training mode is available to help you learn how proportional relationships work, like how turning a number of wheel rotations translates into moving forward a certain distance.


Expedition Atlantis can be played with four different difficulty levels: Cadet (Easy), Explorer (Medium), Admiral (hard), and Custom. With custom mode, you can set how many problems you need to solve in each level of the game, and how hard the problems are. You’ll also notice that there are 4 main levels to the game.

Chapter Selection

After completing Level 1, the Minoan Megaliths, you’ll reach Level 2, the Pillars of Hercules. Underwater platforms appear to allow your escape pod to cross the chasm. You’ll need to calculate how much the robot needs to turn to line itself up with the next platform, before the robots thrusters engage. Be careful or your robot will thrust itself right to the bottom of the chasm!

Chapter 2

Once you cross the chasm, you’ll reach the Atlantis Base and be equipped with a robot capable of catching cargo from the mothership. The storm is still acting up and throwing the cargo off course, so you’ll need to calculate how much the robot needs to turn and move forward to catch the cargo in Poseidons Courtyard.

Chapter 3 A

The cargo you catch contains upgrades for your robot, which will be crucial for the final part of your mission. Take the cargo back to base to equip the upgrades!

Chapter 3 B

In the underwater base, you’ll be able to equip all of the upgrades that you caught in Poseidons Courtyard. Upgrades range from different wheels, different robot bodies (chassis), powerful attachments, and even paint colors.


With your upgraded robot, you’ll be ready to explore the Heart of Atlantis. You’ll be completely in charge of marking where your robot needs to go, performing the calculations to get it there. Be careful! Ancient Atlantis was highly advanced technologically – it has a reactor core and portal network which is still operational today, but sensor readings indicate that they are unstable. Your robots radiation shield will protect it from the radiation, but will also slowly drain its batteries.

Chapter 4

As you make progress in Atlantis, you’ll be rewarded with achievements. These achievements will also show up on your “My Achievements” page on CS2N, if you logged into the game with your CS2N username!


Why Use Expedition Atlantis?

  1. Proportional problems are embedded everywhere
    1. Widely applicable
    2. Students with math IEPs especially need proportional reasoning skills
  2. Expedition Atlantis provides students with the big ideas needed to become proficient proportional thinkers
    1. High student engagement through underwater robotics game
    2. Research-driven
      1. Mechanistic approach
      2. Proportional thinking, not just proportional methods
      3. Repeated, contextualized practice
      4. Unified approach
    3. Aligns with the Common Core Standards
    4. Immediate teacher and student feedback
    5. Differentiation for high- and low-performing students (manual and automatic)

Expedition Atlantis is designed to be a fun, educational tool to teach and reinforce proportional relationships. When complete, it will be accompanied with a full Teacher’s Guide that provides information on its use in the classroom, ties into mathematical standards, and other valuable information. It’s also available completely for free during our Beta and Feedback period, so download it today!

We appreciate any feedback you have about Expedition Atlantis. Feel free to share it at the Forums.

ROBOTC Curriculum Breakdown

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ROBOTC-BreakdownA curriculum pacing guide is something that teachers have to consider whenever they examine their curriculum. This fact does not escape teachers of <a href=””>ROBOTC</a>. Whenever I come across teachers who are just starting to use the ROBOTC curriculum, often their first question revolves around how long the curriculum will take. Once again, teachers are used to having some type of pacing guide that delineates how a subject is to be taught. The ROBOTC curriculum is not organized in that fashion. Instead, the curriculum is organized by topic. The topics include basic programming fundamentals, robot movement, robot sensing, etc. The teacher is then free to spend an appropriate amount of time within each topic.

As teachers, this freedom is welcome. It is welcome because the pacing that comes with most textbooks is an impossible guide to follow. In order to create a true pacing guide, student background knowledge would have to be taken into account. Since every classroom is different (sometimes within the same grade, within the same school), it is impossible to gauge how quickly the students are going to master the concepts as they are presented. Screenshot-2013-09-05_15.11.12Additionally, as the teacher becomes more familiar with ROBOTC, they will find that they spend more time on particular concepts then they did the first time they taught the curriculum. For example, when I first taught ROBOTC, I spent 20 minutes discussing Flowcharts and Pseudocode. Experience has now taught me to spend a significant amount of time on these topics. I also spend much more time talking about Errors. Specifically, what should a student do when they get the dreaded compiler errors in their program? Experience has taught me to spend much more time on thinking about the logic of a program before the writing of ROBOTC and on debugging strategies once the code has been written.

Screenshot-2013-08-05_15.01.181Each of the aforementioned sections of the ROBOTC curriculum contains a programming challenge. The programming challenged is designed to showcase the skills that were emphasized in that section. Each section also contains an assortment of “mini challenges”. These challenges can be used at the teacher’s discretion. They all do not have to be completed. However, they can be very useful. For example, after the students have spent a day or two learning a topic, I will begin the following class with one of these mini challenges. They might not know all of the skills needed to complete the section challenge, but the mini challenge is a good assessment of what has been presented so far in that section. This also serves as a good change of pace for the class. Simply, you can’t learn to program without actually programming. In order to really understand the applications of while loops or if/else statements, students need to apply them. The mini challenges found within the ROBOTC curriculum serve as a great opportunity to scaffold skills toward their more challenging applications.

A beginning teacher of ROBOTC could teach the basic ROBOTC curriculum in one semester. By including many of the mini challenges, the curriculum can be stretched easily over a semester. I often tell teachers who are teaching the class for a year to do this, and then to end the year with a larger programming challenge. After the students have made it through the ROBOTC curriculum, I enjoy introducing them to Multi-Robot Communication. The sensor needed (NXTBee) is inexpensive, and there are a lot of great ideas for activities and programming challenges.



If you have a stronger background in computer science, and maybe you are teaching older students, you may be able to navigate through the curriculum much faster. What then do you do with students if you have them for an entire year? Luckily, there are many great ROBOTC projects on Moreover, the ROBOTC forum is also a wonderful place to look for ideas for projects, in-class competitions, and programming challenges.

Teaching robotics and ROBOTC is a lot of fun. The ability to watch your students apply what they learn in the ROBOTC curriculum in such engaging and open-ended activities is one of the main reasons why.

Setting up ROBOTC and RVW for the Classroom

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Setting-Up-ClassroomOnce the physical hardware (robotics kits) are secured for a classroom, the next step is to install the software (ROBOTC and Robot Virtual Worlds). It would be nearly impossible to cover every single specific setup that could be encountered on a classroom’s computers, but this blog post will cover the basic installation steps and some of the more common installation issues that educators may run into when installing ROBOTC in a classroom.

The first thing you will need to do is install ROBOTC on the computers in your classroom. To do this, always make sure to grab the latest version of ROBOTC that your license supports from the correct ROBOTC download page. If the wrong version is downloaded and installed, or if there is already a different up-to-date version of ROBOTC installed on the computers, you will not need to uninstall and reinstall the program; instead, you will simply need to activate your license in ROBOTC (more on this later). During the download process, ROBOTC will also attempt to install the necessary drivers for communications with physical robots. Depending on the level of security on the computers, you may need to get your IT department involved in order to ensure that the drivers are installed properly.

Activating_ManageOnce ROBOTC and the appropriate drivers have been installed, you will need to activate ROBOTC on each computer manually. The license activation ‘unlocks’ the ability to download code to either a physical robot or a Virtual World, depending on which license is used.  When ROBOTC is installed on a computer, all versions of ROBOTC (including different robotics platforms, such as the VEX and LEGO platforms, and different compiler options, such as Virtual Worlds compiler options) are installed at the same time. Instead of installing additional copies of the software  on the same computer (or opening a new program every time you would like to change the compiler target), the additional platforms and compiler options are ‘unlocked’ by activating their respective keys.

Before we move on to the next blog (Setting up the Robots), here a couple more tips that may come in handy when setting up ROBOTC in a classroom:

  • Depending on the programs, policies, and restrictions in place on the machines, your school’s IT department may need to be present for the installation or activation of ROBOTC, Virtual Worlds, or the installation of any drivers for the physical robots.
  • If your school’s IT department images and deploys the classroom’s computers, make sure they reference the ROBOTC Deployment Guide on the ROBOTC wiki for important help and information.
  • Make sure to check the computers’ hardware to the minimum requirements for ROBOTC or Robot Virtual Worlds before
  • Always test one computer first! If there is a problem with the installation, it is better to find out about it early and fix it before they same issue appears on a classroom full of computers.

- John Watson