Archive for the ‘competition’ tag

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

Extend Your STEM Robotics Classroom with Robot Virtual Worlds

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Teacher Feedback

Whether you’re just starting a robotics program, or you’ve been teaching robotics for years, you’re probably on the lookout for new and interesting activities to keep your students engaged and learning. Robomatter’s Robot Virtual Worlds, a high-end simulation environment that enables students to learn programming without a physical robot, is a great tool to help.

Palm Island GameThrough classroom environments, competitions environments, and game environments, Robot Virtual Worlds enables you to create a scaffold learning experience to teach students important math, programming, proportional reasoning, and computational thinking skills.

And, by combining Robot Virtual Worlds with our curriculum, you gain access to step-by-step tutorial videos that teach students how to program using motors, sensors and remote control, as well as practice challenges that allow students to apply what they’ve learned in either a virtual or physical robot environment.
Designed to complement a physical robot classroom, Robot Virtual Worlds is a natural fit for teachers who have limited budgets. But, not only does Robot Virtual Worlds help you do more with fewer resources, you can also use it to enhance your students’ STEM experience.

Here are just a few ideas:

Create an In-Class Robotics Competition: Robotics competitions are a great way to motivate students and keep them engaged. But, they also provide a great opportunity to teach important math, programming, proportional reasoning, and computational thinking skills. By using Robot Virtual Worlds in conjunction with our curriculum, you can create a scaffold learning experience for your students that’s both exciting and engaging. The schedule below is just one idea for how you can use an in-class Robot Virtual Worlds competition in your classroom:

RVW_Teaching_Calendar copy

RVW Info 03

Use it as a Pre-Assessment: When students return from summer break, some will have retained all or most of what they learned the previous year. Others will have retained far less. But how do you know? Most teachers work under the assumption that they need to review everything before moving on to a new concept. Using a pre-assessment can help you make intelligent instructional decision about what you need to review and when you can move on. Here’s one way you can use Robot Virtual Worlds as a pre-assessment to direct your instruction: Create a challenge in the Robot Virtual World Level Builder that asks students to utilize different programming concepts. You’ll be able to see what skills the students have retained and what skills you need to review, and that can be a tremendous time-saver.

RVW Info 05

Use it to Manage Students Working at Different Levels: One of the hardest things for a teacher to do is teach to each individual student’s current instructional level. Robot Virtual Worlds can help. Let’s say you have a student who is struggling to learn some of the beginning ROBOTC concepts and another that is breezing through the curriculum. With Robot Virtual Worlds, you can easily differentiate instruction by using the Robot Virtual World Level Builder to create a challenge for each student. Additionally, if students are working in Palm Island or Operation Reset, you can have one student program their robot to make turns while using timing, and have the other student use the Gyro Sensor. That means you can differentiate instruction within the SAME lesson.

RVW Info 02

Assign Robotics Homework: One of the problems with using physical robots alone is that there often aren’t enough robots for each student to have their own. And, even if there were, you might not want to have students take the robots home, for all sorts of reasons. With Robot Virtual Worlds and the Homework Pack, you can easily assign robotics homework without having to worry about managing the logistics of physical robots. The Homework Pack allows students to have their own individual licenses to use Robot Virtual Worlds at home. The Homework Packs also come in handy for students who have missed class and need to make up work.


Mathematize Solutions: With the Robot Virtual Worlds Measurement Toolkit, students don’t need to guess how far a robot needs to travel to solve programming problems. With intelligent path planning and navigation, you can have students do the math, show their work, and explain how they solved the problem.

RVW Info 04

Get New Students up to Speed: As teachers, your days are filled with the unexpected. One of the most challenging surprises is when you are told that you will have a new student in class because the student just moved to your district. Your class may be three or four months into the ROBOTC curriculum, and your new student may have no ROBOTC or programming experience. Here is where Robot Virtual Worlds came be a lifesaver. Instead of having the new student jump into whatever challenge your students are doing with physical robots, you can have the new student watch the lessons from the ROBOTC Curriculum and complete the challenges in the Curriculum Companion Pack. After the student begins to learn some ROBOTC basics, he or she can be introduced to the challenge that the rest of class is working on.

Go to to learn more and get started with a free, 10-day trial!

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Written by Cara Friez

September 1st, 2015 at 6:15 am

You spoke, we listened!

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Webinar Series

We’re here to help you make the most of your school year. That’s why we’re making some small tweaks to our webinar schedule, based on your feedback. To help you guys gear up for the competition season, we’re making the following changes:

  • Wednesday, September 9: Using ROBOTC and Robot Virtual Worlds to prepare for VEX Competitions
  • Tuesday, September 29: CS2N Automated Assessment Tools
  • Tuesday, October 21st: Using Robot Virtual Worlds in the Classroom

Read more about each webinars here!

Visit to join. In the meantime, if you have any questions, visit our forums for lots of great discussions and tips about Robot Virtual Worlds, ROBOTC, and competitions!

Written by Cara Friez

August 26th, 2015 at 11:02 am

VEX CORTEX Trainer: Competition Programming

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Engineering ProgrammingThe 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


Competition Chapters

Check out one of the chapter videos here:


Check out the entire curriculum here!

Written by Cara Friez

August 6th, 2015 at 11:49 am

Pittsburgh Area – May Madness Info!

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DSC_0221We 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. IMG_2271A 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.
  4. Robot Virtual Worlds – Beltway competition where you will play a modified version of the VEX Highrise game.
  5. Lego Competition which will use the VEX IQ Highrise game elements.
  6. 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!

DSC_0248Cost of Registration

The cost will be $20 per team. With this twenty dollars we will give you vex highrise cubes.

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.

To sign up and for more info, visit the Sarah Heinz House’s May Madness page!



China ROBOTC Teams Advanced to World Championship!

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IMG_8324Two 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 innoIMG_8418vate 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.

Written by Cara Friez

March 16th, 2015 at 6:35 am

Asia-Pacific Robotic Championships 2014

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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 …

photo 5The 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

Written by Cara Friez

December 17th, 2014 at 8:18 am

FTC Cascade Effect Virtual World Available!

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Hot on the heels of the official game unveiling, the ROBOTC and Robot Virtual World team is proud to announce the availability of the new FTC Cascade Effect virtual world! Check out the rules for the new game here.

ftc game
Like past FTC Robot Virtual Worlds, the game elements, scoring, autonomous period, and tele-operated period are all simulated. We also provide three different robot models that can interact with this year’s game objects.

Conveyorbot is capable of picking up 4 balls at a time, and dropping them into the movable tube goals. The 4 balls can be any combination of the small golf balls or larger wiffle balls.


Scissorbot can pick up any of this year’s game objects: the larger wiffle balls, smaller golf balls, and the movable tube goals. It’s gripper can extend high into the air, allowing it to also drop the balls into any of the goals!


Gripperbot can also pick up all of this year’s game objects: the larger wiffle balls, smaller golf balls, and the movable tube goals. Its streamlined design and low center of gravity allow it to quickly score balls and move tubes across the playing field.


All robots this year have been upgraded with “ball guards” around their chassis and wheels, which will help them to traverse the field once it has been covered in balls. They can also be equipped with either a Gyro sensor for precise turns, even if the robot slips, or an IR Receiver for tracking the center goal! Click here to download some sample code we’ve written to help you get started with all of the robots.

sensors ir

Download and try out the game today. If you are using ROBOTC 4, make sure that your Platform Type is set to LEGO Mindstorms NXT, and that you have “External Motor/Servo Controllers” enabled.

We appreciate any feedback you have! Please feel free to share it at the forums. Also, be on the lookout for future updates on our blog. We will be releasing a game video, along with an update that includes additional features along with robot-to-game object interaction tweaks.

Gear Up with FTC: ROBOTC Presentation

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FTCFIRST TECH Challenge invited us to participate in their Summer Conference this week! Tim Friez, Senior Software Engineer, shared some advanced concepts in using ROBOTC such as understanding more about the Debugger, using 3rd Party Sensors, and coding practices to make your team more efficient and productive to develop reliable competition code. Check out the video below featuring his full presentation …





Written by Cara Friez

July 25th, 2014 at 7:30 am