Archive for the ‘Students’ tag

What is the STEM Problem and What is the Solution?

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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?*

The bottom line is this: there are more and more STEM jobs out there, but fewer and fewer candidates who are qualified to fill them. This is what people mean when they talk about the “STEM Problem” or “STEM Crisis.”

We’ve created a new infographic that talks about the “STEM Problem” and some of the ways to address it. One of the best ways is to get more kids access to STEM education. That’s one of the main reasons Mayor Bill De Blassio announced a 10-year deadline to offer computer science to all students in New York City schools.

The Solution

But simply providing STEM education isn’t enough on its own. In order to make sure that our students are prepared for the emerging economy, kids need STEM education that:

  • Effectively motivates and engages students
  • Employs real world problem solving
  • Is easily adopted
  • Teaches critical 21st century career skills
  • And is cost effective 


Robots to the Rescue! 


This is why we love robots so much, and especially why we love virtual robotics. Not only are robots cool, they also:

  • Use real-world engineering projects to engage students and motivate them to learn
  • Provide a natural platform for engaging STEM learning
  • Promote 21st Century skills like teamwork, communication, collaboration, creativity, and problem solving
  • Are a fun way for students to learn foundational mathematics, engineering, programming, problem-solving, creative thinking, and computational thinking


And, with Robot Virtual Worlds, starting a STEM robotics program can be a cost-effective solution to the STEM Problem. Read our blog post from earlier this summer about how Robot Virtual Worlds can help you uncomplicate your classroom by:

  • Helping you teach more efficiently with fewer resources
  • Lowering the cost of staring a robotics classroom
  • Managing students working at different levels
  • Keeping students engaged
  • Capturing authentic assessment and tracking individual student progress

Need More Info?

If you’re interested in starting a STEM robotics program, but need more information, Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy has a great resource for getting your robotics program started.

Already have a STEM robotics program but want to do more? Check out our blog post from a few weeks back that talks about how you can use virtual robotics to extend your STEM classroom.

We also recommend you check out our:

*Survey on CEOs Say Skills Gap Threatens U.S Economic Future, Dec 3, 2014 –

Written by LeeAnn Baronett

September 22nd, 2015 at 6:00 am

Explore Robot Virtual Worlds with Free Access to Expedition Atlantis for the 2015 – 2016 School Year!

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Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about Robot Virtual Worlds, a high-end simulation environment that enables students to learn programming, even if they don’t have access to a physical robot. If you’re still not sure whether or not Robot Virtual Worlds is right for your classroom, give it a try with a free version of Expedition Atlantis!

Chapter-1We’re happy to announce that we’ve extended our free version of Expedition Atlantis until July 1, 2016! That means that you can have free access to this classroom tested robot math game for the entire 2015 – 2016 school year!

With Expedition Atlantis, you can use a game-like environment to motivate students to learn about math and teach kids important proportional reasoning skills.


Research Tested, Classroom Approved

Expedition Atlantis is part of the Robot Algebra Project, an ongoing research and development project conducted by Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy (CMU) and the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC). The goal of the Robot Algebra Project is to develop informal educational tools that effectively and significantly increase algebraic reasoning skills for middle-school age students.

Designed to enable teachers to foreground the mathematics in their robotics classrooms, Expedition Atlantis allows students to focus on learning mathematical strategies, without having to worry about the nuances of programming. You can learn more about the study that shows significant improvement in students’ proportional reasoning skills here.


Tools for Teachers and Their Classrooms

VRWe know that the majority of students guess and check their way through robot programming. Playing Expedition Atlantis is a classroom-proven method to teach kids the math that they need to program their robots! We are so convinced that it works that we include it in our free online VEX IQ and LEGO EV3 curriculum to help beginners learn behavior-based programming.

Expedition Atlantis includes an easy to follow Teacher’s Guide that guides step-by-step how to properly implement this game in your classroom.

You can download the latest version of Expedition Atlantis here:


Automatically Collect Students’ Progress  

BadgesYou can track your students’ progress in Expedition Atlantis (and all of our Robot Virtual Worlds) using CS2N’s Automated Assessment tools!

In Robot Virtual Worlds, students earn badges when they complete certain tasks or behaviors. By setting up a “group” in CS2N, teachers can setup courses and track all students’ progress as they work their way through a Robot Virtual World. To learn more about creating Groups and Generating Student accounts by going to: 


Your Next Classroom Adventure

Screenshot-2014-01-15_14.12.03Designed as a follow-up activity to Expedition Atlantis, Ruins of Atlantis reinforces behavior-based programming in a fun and meaningful way. While immersed in a scaffolded programming environment, students practice robot programming, using a full set of virtual motors and sensors on exciting new robots, 6000 meters below the surface of the ocean. Like Expedition Atlantis, Ruins of Atlantis also goes hand-in-hand, and is embedded within our free online VEX IQ and LEGO EV3 curriculum.


We Speak Your Language

Expedition Atlantis, Ruins of Atlantis, and all of our other Robot Virtual Worlds can be used directly with the ROBOTC programming environment. ROBOTC is a C-Based Programming Language with an easy-to-use development environment. It’s also the premiere robotics programming language for educational robotics and competitions.

Download a free, 14-day trial at:

Virtual-NXT-with-MenuUsing our Virtual Brick, you can also use Robot Virtual Worlds with the NXT-G, EV3, and LabVIEW software. NXT-G is a graphical, drag-and-drop style programming language that can be used with the LEGO NXT. EV3 is a graphical, drag-and-drop style programming language that can be used with the LEGO NXT
and EV3 robots.

To learn more about the Virtual Brick, visit:





Written by LeeAnn Baronett

September 16th, 2015 at 6:00 am

ROBOTC and Science Week in China

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IMG_3433In China, there’s a week dedicated to science and our China ROBOTC team was there to participate in the big event! “Science Week” is an annual nationwide event where students are encouraged to attend their area science and technology center to feel and see the latest development and innovation of the technical world.

“Beijing Science Week” is the largest exhibition in China. By winning the 2015 VEX World Champion title in VEX IQ programing challenge, China ROBOTC team was the only robotic educational institution invited to showcase the VEX IQ robot and Maker idea with the powerful ROBOTC programming software.

As honorable guest of the event,  Professor Kim Hyatt and Labash from CMU visited China ROBOTC booth and joined the award ceremony of Beijing Science Week in China.

As honorable guest of the event, Professor Kim Hyatt and Labash from CMU visited China ROBOTC booth and joined the award ceremony of Beijing Science Week in China.

At the closing event, China ROBOTC VEX IQ was awarded with the most popular demo by the crowd and Terry Sy, director of China ROBOTC, was awarded with Science Week Event Ambassador. Congrats to everyone involved!











Written by Cara Friez

July 7th, 2015 at 9:56 am

National Robotics Week – VEX IQ Challenge!

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To celebrate National Robotics Week, we’ve opened up our FREE VEX IQ Virtual Challenge for everyone to participate!!

The VEX IQ Virtual Challenge is part of an ongoing research project by Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy and the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center designed to assist robotics teams learning to program.

Participating students will learn programming that enables them to solve this year’s VEX IQ Virtual Highrise Challenge. As they learn they will also earn an Introduction to Robotics and Programming Certification.

Robomatter is pleased to be working closely with the Robotics Academy to create high quality STEM learning experiences, and has agreed to provide access to all related materials FOR FREE to celebrate National Robotics Week!

beltway medium

The game available for the challenge is VEX IQ Highrise Beltway! In Beltway, you will program your VEX IQ robot to autonomously score as many cubes as possible during the 2 minute period. The standard Highrise game has been augmented with a conveyor belt around the perimeter and several other game play elements. Click here for a more extensive list of the new rules and game play. Beltway is available in the latest update to the VEX IQ Highrise Robot Virtual World download.

Check out our gameplay video to see it in action …

And also read our most recent Teacher POV post that highlight VEX IQ Beltway!

Sign up for the challenge today!

Happy Programming!!

Written by Cara Friez

March 30th, 2015 at 10:12 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

First ROBOTC VEX Training in Xi’an, China!

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Pic 00

The China ROBOTC team sent us some great photos from their very first VEX training in Xi’an, China. Check them out below from our Facebook Photo Album!


Written by Cara Friez

August 13th, 2014 at 8:11 am

ROBOTC Graphical Programming Preview Available!

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clickanddragAfter months of work, the ROBOTC Development Team is excited to announce the availability of the first preview release of ROBOTC Graphical Language for the VEX IQ platform. This new interface will allow you to program robots from inside ROBOTC with easy-to-use graphical blocks that can be drag-and-dropped to form a program. Each block represents an individual command from the “text-based” ROBOTC and Natural Language. The new click and drag interface along with the simplified commands of Natural Language will allow any robotics user to get up and running with programming their robots as soon as possible.

The first release of ROBOTC Graphical Language is available for the VEX IQ platform for use with the standard VEX IQ Clawbot and Autopilot Robots. All ROBOTC 4.0 users will receive access to the new Graphical Language interface at no additional cost! Our plans over the next few months are to extend the Graphical Language interface to all of ROBOTC’s support platforms, including the Robot Virtual Worlds technology. You can download the preview version today at


The new ROBOTC Graphical programming environment adds a number of new features we’d like to highlight:

Graphical Language Command List (Drag and Drop)

With the new ROBOTC Graphical Mode, we’ve updated our “Functions Library” to match the style of the Graphical interface. This new mode will allow you to drag and drop blocks of code from the “Graphical Functions” menu into your program to get your program created even faster!

New Language Commands for Easier Programs

We also added some new language extensions to both ROBOTC and Natural Language; such as the simplistic “Repeat” command. Prior to the Repeat command, users would need to copy and paste large sections of code or use a looping structure (like a ‘for’ or ‘while’ loop) in order to have a set of actions repeat a number of times. With the new “Repeat” command, however, users can simply specify how many times they would like the code to run, with no complex coding required. And users who wish to make an “infinite loop” can use the “repeat forever” command to accomplish this task quickly!

Commenting Blocks of Code!

Another awesome tool that we’ve implemented in ROBOTC Graphical is the “comment out” feature. You can now comment out an entire line of code just by clicking on the block’s line number. The robot ignores lines of code that are “commented out” when the program runs, which makes this feature very useful when testing or debugging code. This new tool is unique to ROBOTC’s Graphical interface.

Updated and Simplified Toolbar

Sometimes navigating menus as a new user can be a little overwhelming – so many options to choose from and lots of questions about what each option is used for. To help with this, we’ve redesigned ROBOTC’s toolbar to make getting up and running easier. We put the most used commands on a larger toolbar so new users have an area to easily click to download firmware, send their code to their robot, and run their programs without having to use the standard menu interface.

Convert to Text-Based Natural Language

ConvertToText ConvertToText2
Because each Graphical Natural Language block corresponds to a real ROBOTC or Natural Language function, users will be able to graduate from Graphical Programming to full text-based programming with the press of a single button. This allows users to naturally transition from Graphical Natural Language to the text based Natural Language (or ROBOTC), without having to worry about manually converting the code line-by-line!

Teacher’s Guide and Sample Programs

The new graphical interface includes over 50 new sample programs to help you get up and running with working examples and demo code. In addition, we’ve also developed a 30+page guide to walk new (and existing) users through the new Graphical Programming interface and getting started with the VEX IQ platform. You can find a link to the programming guide here and also on the ROBOTC Graphical page.


This initial release is only the beginning and we’re planning on improving the software with more features and flexibility over the coming months.

Future Support/Features:

  • Copy and Paste
  • Undo/Redo Support
  • Support for custom robots/configurations via an updated “Motors and Sensor Setup” interface.
  • Dynamic Loop and Command Parameters (based on Motors and Sensor Setup / Robot Configuration)
  • Tooltips, Contextual Help, and more!

Click here to download the installer!

Let us know what you think! If you have any feedback or questions, please send them along via the ROBOTC’s VEX IQ forums.


Robomatter Blog Ad VEX IQ


A Teacher’s POV: Fun With VEX IQ Remote Controls

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Whether they are in elementary school, middle school, or high school, students really enjoy programming their robots with remote controls. Luckily, the VEX IQ wireless controller allows you to do just that. ROBOTC allows you to create your own remote control programs to customize each joystick axis and button controls. Moreover, you can use both Natural Language and full ROBOTC with the remote controls.

Both the VEX IQ brain and the remote control require a radio controller for communication. The radio controller has to be in each in order to use the remote control. Additionally, a battery needs to be placed into the remote control for the wireless communication. Just like the battery for the VEX IQ brain, the battery for the remote control is rechargeable.

Vex Remote 1In order for the VEX IQ brain and the controller to communicate, they must be paired together. With both devices turned off, connect the two devices together with the tether cable that is included with the VEX IQ Starter Kit with Controller. The tether cable is just a standard Ethernet cable. Turn on the VEX IQ brain by pressing the check button. The controller will automatically link and pair with the VEX IQ brain.

Once your connection has been established, the green light will blink on both the remote control and the VEX IQ brain. You will not have to link the tether cable with the remote control the next time you turn on the VEX IQ brain or the remote control. In the classroom, you can assign each robot to a remote control by giving each a number. That way, you never have to link the remote control with the VEX IQ brain. Or, you can just have the students do a quick set up at the beginning of class. Either way will work.

ROBOTC can access all of the data from the VEX IQ remote control by referencing the button and axes by their described names. Joystick buttons return values of..

• 1 – Pressed
• 0 – Not Pressed/Released

Joystick Axis return values of…
• -100 to +100 (0 when centered)

Vex Remote 2 Vex Remote 3

When using the VEX IQ remote control, make sure you switch to your “Controller Mode” to Tele-Op.

Vex Remote 4

Alright, now you can begin programming (either in Natural Language or full ROBOTC) and have some fun.

Remote controlAs teachers, we all know to expect the unexpected. I recently had the students on a Friday, with a long weekend in front of them. Therefore, I did not want to start a new concept, for I would have to re-teach it after the long weekend. So, I decided to set up a quick in-class competition with the VEX IQ Challenge Field and some Bucky Balls and rings.

I allowed the students to make up the parameters for the game, gave them some time to devise some strategy, downloaded some sample programs to run the remote controls, and let the fun begin. The students had a great time and the activity will serve as a springboard for future investigation into how to customize the remote control programs.

– Jason McKenna


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Written by Cara Friez

February 4th, 2014 at 9:55 am

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

ROBOTC Assessment and Extension Activities

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AssessmentThe ROBOTC Curriculum contains quizzes to help assess what students have learned, or for that matter, what they haven’t learned. However, as we discussed in a previous blog post, one of the great things about teaching ROBOTC is the ability to differentiate instruction to your students. This can present some issues when it comes to assessment. If a student is progressing quickly through the curriculum, he/she cannot have more assessments than another student. Students all have to be assessed equally. This then begs the question of how you can have the students move through the curriculum at different rates while still assessing them equally.

One of the ways I’ve been able to address this is through the use of rubrics, like the one below:


Programming Rubric

The programmer uses Pseudocode within the comments to display a logical plan to solve the Mission.

Unsatisfactory – No Pseudocode included.

Satisfactory – Pseudocode is included but it does not display a logical plan to solve the mission.

Good – Pseudocode is included and it displays some logical thinking and something of a plan to solve the mission.

Exemplary – Pseudocode displays a logical plan to solve the mission. The plan is well thought out and clear.

The programmer is able to solve the Mission efficiently and repeatedly.

Unsatisfactory – Less than 70% of the mission is completed.

Satisfactory – Between 70 and 80% of the mission is completed.

Good – Between 80-90% of the mission is completed.

Exemplary – All of the mission is completed, and is able to be completed repeatedly.


Unsatisfactory – Code is hard to read and understand.

Satisfactory – Code is readable but is difficult to understand completely.

Good – Code is readable and understandable, but unclear is certain places.

Exemplary – The code is tabbed well and takes good advantage of white space in order to make it very easy to read.


Unsatisfactory – No Comments included.

Satisfactory – Basic Comments are included but some important parts of the code are not explained.

Good – All of the code is commented but explanations could be more complete.

Exemplary – All of the code is commented and the comments are thorough and comprehensive.


The nice thing about this rubric is that the student does not have to complete the programming challenge in order to be assessed. Just like in any other class, students might not learn a concept to mastery on its initial presentation. You never want a student to reach their frustration level, so this gives the teacher an opportunity to clear up misconceptions while still assessing the student.

Another thing that a teacher can do is utilize Exit Slips. Once again, if students are working at different instructional paces, then the Exit Slips can general. You can ask questions like, “What part(s) of the programming challenge were you able to finish today?” This type of metacognition is valuable for students as they complete projects that last several days. Or, the exit slip can be a review of previously learned concepts. Either way, Exit Slips can play an important role in both teaching and assessing.

Fortunately for teachers, contains a wealth of information for extension activities. The ROBOTC blog contains a section entitled “Cool ROBOTC Projects.” Here, there is a wealth of ideas that teachers can look at in order to create an interesting activity.

Moreover, the ROBOTC forum contains a section dedicated to projects. This can also be researched in order to find ideas or interesting projects for your class. Also, the forum can be used to ask questions as you begin to plan and implement a project. Here, you really get the best of both worlds: A wealth of ideas and choose from and a dedicated community willing to help you with those ideas.

Have a great school year!