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Cool Project: VEX IQ Game of Simon

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Cool ProjectDamien Kee, a VEX IQ Super User, designed a really cool and creative Game of Simon using a VEX IQ Smart Brain, three Touch LEDs, and programmed with ROBOTC.  He says, “This is my version of the Game of Simon for the VEX IQ. The TouchLED’s are an awesome input/output device that is just so natural to use. Programmed in ROBOTC and designed to be used as a way of teaching / reinforcing the concepts of arrays, in less than 100 lines of code.”

Check out the video below that shows it in action …

 

 

For a more detailed breakdown of the code, visit his website here. Damien also is sharing his code for others to use, which you can download here! (He just asks that if you do use it, please acknowledge and forgive any errors.)

Do you have a cool ROBOTC project you want to share with the world? If so, send us an email at socialmedia@robomatter.com and we’ll post it on our blog and social media pages!

Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

November 2nd, 2015 at 6:00 am

Competing for the Future: Developing a Life-Long Interest in STEM, Part II

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Competing

Well designed competitions engage students in a range of activities, address academically challenging concepts, and teach important 21st century skills. But, these benefits don’t have to be limited to organized competitions. You can also get all of the benefits of a competition, right in your classroom!

Last week, Part I of our Competing for the Future blog talked about using virtual competitions, like our VEX Nothing But Net and VEX IQ Bank Shot Robot Virtual World Competitions, as a way for your team to compete virtually. This week, we explore how you can use virtual competitions in your classroom to provide a unique and challenging learning experience for all students!

RVW's VEX Nothing But Net

RVW’s VEX Nothing But Net


Step 1: Choose your competition type (simulation or fantasy)

The first step is to choose the type of competition you’d like to use in your classroom. Do you want to use a simulated competition, like the ones that they use in FIRST or the RECF competitions, do you want your competition to take place in a fantasy environment (underwater, outer space, on an island), or do you want to create your own competition?

Are you using LEGO or VEX?

LEGO and VEX are the two most widely used robotics competition platforms and there are great reasons to use both. The Robot Virtual Worlds team has a large selection of LEGO and VEX competitions for you to choose from:

RVW's LEGO Urban Challenge

RVW’s LEGO Urban Challenge

You can download each of these games from the Robot Virtual Worlds Download Center.

Palm Island Game

Palm Island Game

Another option is to use one of the Robot Virtual Worlds fantasy worlds. These worlds are more playful and have specific goals built into them. You can choose from:

  • Palm Island – Designed to teach and reinforce introductory and intermediate programming concepts involving sensor based robot movements.
  • Operation Reset – Programmers are assigned to recharge all of the Communication Towers in the colony of Alpha Base H99, a robotic crystal mining colony near the galactic center of the Milky Way.
  • Ruins of Atlantis – Designed to teach and reinforce introductory programming concepts such as path planning and encoder based movements.
Level Builder

Level Builder

Or, you can create your own competition using the Robot Virtual Worlds Level Builder and Model Importer. With an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface, the Level Builder makes it as easy to create a virtual challenge as it is to create a physical challenge out of classroom materials. The Level Builder provides a 12’x12′ square field on which to design your competition. It also provides several objects – from cans and boxes to line tracking tiles – that you can use to design challenging, unique, and fun competitions!

Model Importer

Model Importer

The Robot Virtual Worlds Level Builder also comes with a Model Importer that allows you to create and import your own 3D models! With the model importer, you can also modify objects to make them an unmovable object, a perilous obstacle, or a necessary checkpoint.

Step 2: Determine the rules of your competition

Regardless of whether you create your own competition or use an existing Robot Virtual World, the rules and structure of your competition will allow you to customize the experience for your class, or even for individual students. (This can also be something you discuss with your students and determine together.)

Here are a few things to consider:

  • When will the competition start?
  • Is this an individual competition, or can students work in teams?
  • What type of documentation do you want students to turn in?
    • Does the code need to be commented?
    • Do the programmers need to show pseudocode?
    • Do the programmers need to explain their use of variables and functions?
  • When does the competition end?
  • What does it take to win the competition?

Step 3: Get Ready

Once the rules are set, there are just a few more things to take care of before the competition starts:

  1. Start by installing Robot Virtual Worlds on all students’ machines. Visit our Download Center to get the latest version.
  2. If you’re using one of our Robot Virtual Worlds, such as Palm Island, Ruins of Atlantis, or Operation Reset, make sure you’ve installed that on the students’ machines as well. Visit our Download Center for the latest version of each Robot Virtual World.
  3. Make sure all students understand the competition rules
  4. Get ready to rumble and have fun! 

Need a Few Ideas for Using a Competition in Your Classroom?

With the ability to use an existing Robot Virtual World or create your own challenges, the options for in-class competitions are endless. Here are a few competition ideas if you need a little help deciding what to do:

  • Create a competition using the Palm Island Robot Virtual World by assigning points to the completion of certain tasks.
  • Create a competition that requires students to use a loop and the light/color sensor in a line tracking competition where students need to program their robots to follow a line as fast as possible. Here’s a Teachers POV blog post about the benefits of using this type of competition in your classroom, whether it’s with physical or virtual robots.
  • Robo-Slalom! Use the use the Robot Virtual Worlds Level Builder and Model Importer to create a slalom course that students must complete by programming a robot that can move along the outside of each flag. The robot’s path must prevent it from touching any flag, and allow it to cross the finish line as fast as possible.
  • You can also use a game like VEX IQ Beltway to create an in-class competition.
  • Here’s a Teacher POV blog post about how one teacher created a competition that challenged students to apply the basics of ROBOTC programming while also asking them to come up with unique strategies to try to score as many points as possible in a 2 minute game.

Written by LeeAnn Baronett

October 22nd, 2015 at 6:00 am

Competing for the Future: Developing a Life-Long Interest in STEM, Part I

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LiveCareer Quote
A few weeks ago, we published an infographic that illustrates the STEM Problem: there are more and more STEM jobs out there, but fewer and fewer candidates who are qualified to fill them. But, taking a look at the job market shows that employers need more than employees who simply understand science, technology, engineering or math.

Degrees and credentials are important, but the development of soft skills—skills that are more social than technical—are a crucial part of fostering a dynamic workforce and are always in high demand.”[i]

Today’s job market needs graduates who excel in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), and who also excel in the areas of teamwork, communication, creative problem solving, project management, critical thinking, and leadership. Research shows[ii] that competitions are a fun and exciting way to combine STEM with the development of 21st century skills.

This is part one of a series of articles that will show how easy it is to host a competition at your school, in your classroom, in a club, or at your home! Over the next few weeks we will continue this article and suggest teacher-tested strategies that enable you to teach many of the competencies that you can teach via competitions and project based learning via a Virtual Competition.

Why Competitions?

IMG_7431Competitions are generally multifaceted and require participants to engage in a range of activities. Well designed competitions address academically challenging concepts and teach important 21st century skills like: research, ideation, prototype development, design reviews, presentations, and iterative design-develop- and test cycles, just to name a few. Competitions involve contextualized activities that enable kids to develop the soft skills that employers crave: leadership, written and oral communication, the ability to think on your feet, and the ability to present and defend your ideas. In competitions, these skills are nurtured in a fun and easy-to-understand manner, helping students develop competencies that they’ll use in college and future careers.

IMG_7441Research shows that after participating in competitions, students are more likely to take on additional STEM classes in high school and pursue STEM degrees and careers. Teachers also report that students who have participated in competitions are more comfortable using computers than students who haven’t participated in competitions.[iii] Research also shows that competitions increase students’ professional skills, like understanding the value of teamwork and the role of “gracious professionalism.” Competitions also increase students’ self-confidence, with 89% of students reporting more self-confidence after being part of a competition team.[iv] These are just a few of the reasons we’re big supporters of competitions and competition teams.

Compete Virtually, From Anywhere

splash-image_RECF
Our goal is to support education with multiple toolsets that engage and teach at the highest level. But, we know it can be difficult to find the requisite resources to start a team and travel to competitions, especially with the very real resource constraints so many schools face. That’s why we’ve partnered with the REC Foundation to create the VEX and VEX IQ Programming Skills Challenge for Robot Virtual Worlds!

Robomatter, VEX Robotics, and the REC Foundation are really excited about presenting low cost, high quality virtual competitions that enable students to test their problem solving and programming skills in the VEX Nothing But Net and VEX IQ Bank Shot Robot Virtual World Competitions. And, not only do these virtual competitions provide a great learning experience, you could qualify for the 2016 VEX Worlds!

This Year’s Games

3Both games simulate the single-player Robot Skills and Programming Skills modes of the physical Nothing But Net and Bank Shot competitions.

In the Nothing But Net Robot Virtual Worlds Competition, your goal is to program your virtual robot to put as many balls as you can in the Low and High goals, and by Elevating Robots in your Climbing Zone.

F3or the Bank Shot Robot Virtual Worlds Competition, your robot will need to pick up balls and make some tricky bank shots! The object of Bank Shot is to attain the highest score by Emptying Cutouts, Scoring Balls into the Scoring Zone and Goals, and by Parking Robots on the Ramp. There are a total of forty-four Balls available as Scoring Objects in the game, with one Scoring Zone, one Goal, and one Ramp on the field.

Winners Qualify for VEX Worlds!

The winners of the Robomatter sponsored VEX Nothing But Net and VEX IQ Bank Shot Robot Virtual World competition will receive an invitation to the VEX World Championship April 20-23, 2016 at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville Kentucky!

Important Deadlines:

  • Submissions for both contests are due by March 1, 2016.
  • Winners will be announced on March 11, 2016!

To learn more about the VEX and VEX IQ Programming Skills Challenge for Robot Virtual Worlds, visit www.robotc.net/recf and visit www.cs2n.org/competitions to sign up!

Announcing the 2016 REC Foundation & Robomatter Scholarship!

REC Foundation Robomatter Banner
Because Robomatter is so committed to advancing STEM education, we’re pleased to partner with the REC Foundation to offer one $5,000 scholarship to a high school junior or senior who will be pursuing a STEM degree in college! The deadline to apply is January 31, 2016. Learn more about the The 2016 REC Foundation & Robomatter Scholarship by reading our blog (link to blog) or visiting the REC Foundation website.

 

 

[i] “Careers | Top 10 Soft Skills in Demand | LiveCareer.” LiveCareer. LiveCareer.com, n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2015. <http://www.livecareer.com/career-tips/career-advice/soft-skills-in-demand>.

[ii] Robotics Competition: Providing Structure, Flexibility, and an Extensive Learning Experience – http://users.csc.calpoly.edu/~jseng/papers/grimes_seng.pdf

[iii] The Impact of Participation in VEX Robotics Competition on middle and high school students – http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CDcQFjADahUKEwj9nJmlkq7IAhXE_R4KHRpxC3Q&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.asee.org%2Fpublic%2Fconferences%2F8%2Fpapers%2F2994%2Fdownload&usg=AFQjCNGeCaxBzSsxmeyN7jMVLlaOFwFIXA&bvm=bv.104317490,d.dmo

[iv] More that Robots: An evaluation of the FIRST Robotics Competition – http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Who/Impact/Brandeis_Studies/FRC_eval_finalrpt.pdf

 

ROBOTC 4.50 for VEX Robotics Available Today!!

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ROBOTC 4-50 VEX

The ROBOTC Development Team is very excited to announce our latest update, ROBOTC 4.50. This update is for the VEX Robotics (VEX EDR CORTEX and VEX IQ) robotics systems and includes new features, functionality and a load of bug fixes.

Click here to download 4.50!

Important Setup Information for ROBOTC 4.50:

VEX IQ Users:

  • Run the “VEX IQ Firmware Update Utility” and update your VEX IQ Brain to firmware version 1.15.
  • Also update your VEX IQ Wireless Controller and any other VEX IQ Devices (sensors, motors).
  • After updating to the latest VEX IQ Brain firmware, install the latest ROBOTC firmware from inside of ROBOTC.

VEX Cortex Users (with Black VEXnet 1.0 Keys):

  • You will need to update your VEX Cortex and VEX Game Controllers with Master Firmware Version 4.25 from inside of ROBOTC.
  • After updating the master firmware, you will also have to update the VEX Cortex with the latest ROBOTC firmware.

VEX Cortex Users (with White VEXnet 2.0 Keys):

  • The new VEXnet 2.0 keys have a specific “radio firmware” that you will need to upgrade to enable “Download and Debugging” support. You can download the VEXnet Key 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Utility here.
    • Download the “VEXnet Key 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Utility” and insert your VEXnet 2.0 key to any free USB port on your computer. Follow the instructions on the utility to update each key individually. All VEXnet 2.0 keys must be running the same version in order to function properly.
  • After updating your VEXnet 2.0 keys, you will need to update your VEX Cortex and VEX Game Controllers with Master Firmware Version 4.25 from inside of ROBOTC.
  • After updating the master firmware, you will also have to update the VEX Cortex with the latest ROBOTC firmware.

ROBOTC 4.32 —> 4.50 Change Log:

General new features:

  • Graphical blocks can now be copied, cut and pasted

Copy Paste

  • Graphical actions, such as adding, deleting and moving a blocks, changing parameters and their values can be undone and redone.
  • The Graphical repeat and while blocks values can now be adjusted without a keyboard using spin buttons.

Number Scroll
Color Loop
VEX new features:

  • Added support for the new VEX IQ Smart Radio in ROBOTC Firmware (for use with iOS applications)
  • Added Smart Radio based User Messaging system (for use with iOS applications)

General fixes:

  • Large amounts of data in debug stream no longer causes debugger to hang.
  • Fixed issue when mixing PLTW building licenses with other license types.
  • When changing the motor type in the Motor and Sensor Setup utility, the additional parameters, such as PID, drive side, encoder type, are reset to their default values.
  • UAC prompt now appear only once for installing multiple RVW packages.

RVW Package Manager

  • The toolbar buttons are sized to the individual content, instead of the largest one.
  • Recursive pre-compiler statements are correctly identified and no longer crash the IDE.
  • The Graphical block library’s expansion/collapse state is now preserved when switching between files.
  • LineTrackLeft help text has been corrected.
  • Fixed issue of undefined entries in text libraries.
  • Hover over text for NL text commands no longer has artifacts.
  • Building licenses now check and update their local status whenever an active internet connection is available.
  • Fixed issue with the Advanced RBC file saving adding an additional “rbc” to the file name.
  • Opening RBC/RBG files with “download on open” no longer prompts for save and add a “00#” to the end of the file name.
  • Fixed issue where the “Advanced save as macro” feature did not load RVW options correctly.
  • Joystick issue with Graphical and Natural Language fixed;’ waitUntil(), displayButtonValues() and displayControllerValues() now function correctly.

VEX bug fixes:

  • Fixed issue where IQ Graphical playSound() block dropdown displayed internal values.
  • VEX IQ displayButtonValues does not display correct value in RVW.

Happy Programming!

Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

August 27th, 2015 at 8:16 pm

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 socialmedia@robotc.net.

Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

August 13th, 2015 at 7:15 am

Robotics Summer of Learning Starts Today!

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SummerOfLearning2015_UPDATED

Robotics Summer of Learning Opens Today!

The Robotics Summer of Learning (RSOL) opens today! This summer, students have the opportunity to learn how to program virtual robots using a FREE copy of Robot Virtual Worlds where they can program VEX IQ or LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 virtual robotsAll RSOL courses are self-paced with e-mail support available at rsol@cs2n.org.

Sign up here!

 

 


Learn to Code : Learn to Think!

Just a few of the great reasons to join this year’s Robotics Summer of Learning:

  • All software and trainings are free for the entire summer.
  • No robotics hardware required.
  • Access to self-paced training and high quality curriculum designed to help new users.
  • Learning to program with Virtual robots takes 1/3 less time compared to physical robots! Read more about the study results here!
  • ROBOTC Graphical allows you to drag and drop blocks of code from the menu to get your program created even faster!
  • Earn a programming certificate and badges from CMU’s Robotics Academy.

 

It’s Easy To Get Started!

1. Visit The Computer Science Student Network

If you do not already have aCS2N account, sign up for free! Then click one of our Summer of Learning Courses (VEX IQ or LEGO EV3) to register.

 

 

 

 

2. Download the Software

Follow the instructions on CS2N to download bothRobot Virtual Worlds andROBOTC for free!

 

 

 

 

 

3. Start Programming!

Have fun learning how to code with fun Robot Virtual Worlds!

 

 

 

Sign up here!

 

Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

June 15th, 2015 at 9:09 am

Download ROBOTC for VEX Robotics 4.32 Today!

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ROBOTC 4-32
 

The ROBOTC Development Team is very excited to announce our latest update, ROBOTC 4.32. This update is for the VEX Robotics (VEX EDR CORTEX and VEX IQ) robotics systems and includes new features, functionality and a load of bug fixes.

 

Click here to download 4.32!
Important Setup Information for ROBOTC 4.32:

VEX IQ Users:

  • Run the “VEX IQ Firmware Update Utility” and update your VEX IQ Brain to firmware version 1.15.
  • Users will also have to update their VEX IQ Wireless Controller in addition to any other VEX IQ Devices (sensors, motors) that may need to be updated as well.
  • After updating to the latest VEX IQ Brain firmware, users will also have to install the latest ROBOTC firmware from inside of ROBOTC.

VEX Cortex Users (with Black VEXnet 1.0 Keys):

  • You will need to update your VEX Cortex and VEX Game Controllers with Master Firmware Version 4.25 from inside of ROBOTC.
  • After updating the master firmware, users will also have to update the VEX Cortex with the latest ROBOTC firmware as well.

VEX Cortex Users (with White VEXnet 2.0 Keys):

  • The new VEXnet 2.0 keys have a specific “radio firmware” that you will need to upgrade to enable “Download and Debugging” support. You can download the VEXnet Key 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Utility here.
  • Download the “VEXnet Key 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Utility” and insert your VEXnet 2.0 key to any free USB port on your computer. Follow the instructions on the utility to update each key individually. All VEXnet 2.0 keys must be running the same version in order to function properly.
  • After updating your VEXnet 2.0 keys, you will need to update your VEX Cortex and VEX Game Controllers with Master Firmware Version 4.25 from inside of ROBOTC.
  • After updating the master firmware, users will also have to update the VEX Cortex with the latest ROBOTC firmware as well.

ROBOTC 4.30 —> 4.32 Change Log:

Robot Virtual Worlds Package Manager

Robot Virtual Worlds Package Manager simplifies keeping your RVW worlds up-to-date and allows you to easily download new ones.

RBC Macro Editor

The RBC Macro Editor allows you to quickly create a ROBOTC Text-Based or Graphical macro file that will pre-configure many aspects of the UI, such as platform, the debugger windows that are to be opened, the default save-as file name and many others. If you are targeting Virtual Worlds, you can also select which world should be used.

General Changes

  • Debugstream has been made more robust to prevent buffer overflows and corrupted data.
  • Added quick access, “Add License” menu item.
  • Added command line option to deactivate all active, non-building licenses (-DEACTIVATE).
  • “SensorValue” intrinsic definition changed from ‘word’ to ‘int’. This will allow it be be either ‘short’ or ‘long’ depending on the native “int” format of specific platform.
  • CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+D” is new keyboard accelerator to open preferences.
  • All libraries (DLLs) and executables are now signed.

General Bug Fixes

  • Fix issue where a “save as” with a new document -> then a subsequent “save” would cause a “save as” prompt in the wrong location.
  • Fix enumeration bug in Joystick Driver
  • Context menu for large ICON toolbar changes now take immediate effect.
  • Fix the repeatUntil(0) warning message to say “‘repeat until’ expression is constant ‘0’. Loop will never exit.”
  • Fix issue with command line deactivation with building licenses
  • IDE was not removing error flags from graphical blocks.
  • Long operands on opcodes “&” “|”, “^” and “~” were incorrectly handling negative 16-bit constants.
  • Fix bug in addTo/MinusTo/DivideTo/TimesTo opcode when variable is a global short variable and the operand is a 16-bit or less compile time constant.
  • Fix issue that prevented functions that return pointers to be dereferenced in an expression.
  • Fixed a bug where the missing “Name” field would cause a crash for the command line activation.

Graphical

  • Hitting the Control key no longer deselects all the things.
  • Bug causing Graphical Block artefacts on the screen has been fixed.

VEX

  • Added 2 more RVW Cortex Standard Models.
  • Enhancements to improve the VEX Cortex IME functionality in Virtual Worlds
  • Fixed download firmware button not allowing you to cancel the procedure
  • Small fix for VEX Cortex to disable sensor ports during initialization to prevent solenoid jitter.
  • Fixed issue of “SQUAREBOT” standard model having PID control enabled with quadrature encoders.
  • Fixed issue of “SQUAREBOT” standard model not having the VEX LCD configured.
  • Removed the quadrature encoders from the “SQUAREBOT – IME” standard model.

Happy Programming!

Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

June 12th, 2015 at 5:29 pm

The Robotics Summer of Learning is Back!

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SOL Coming Soon

We are proud to announce the return of our Robotics Summer of Learning program! This summer, students have the opportunity to learn how to program robots, earn a programming certificate and badges, and play with cool software for FREE! We will provide all of the software and training materials at no cost to you or your students.  The course will consist of three modules: movement, sensing, and program flow and will be taught using the Robot Virtual World software.

The Robotics Summer of Learning starts June 15th, register here and we’ll send you a reminder when it opens up!

Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

June 11th, 2015 at 6:00 am

VEX Users: Program Virtual Robots Without Downloading Anything New!

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Have You Explored New Worlds with ROBOTC?

ROBOTC has provided you with many challenges and learning opportunities, but did you know you can explore exciting new virtual worlds without downloading anything new? Try out Robot Virtual Worlds for FREE in ROBOTC with a 10-day trial!

See the instructions to get started at the bottom of this email!

What are Robot Virtual Worlds?

Robot Virtual Worlds are high-end simulation environments that enables users, without robots, to learn programming with game and competition worlds. Watch our video for more information!

Game Worlds!

Escape to one of our fantastic game worlds where you can use your programming skills to explore and complete challenges!

Ruins of Atlantis

We thought Atlantis was a myth. We were wrong. Your mission is to explore the Ruins of Atlantis, 6,000 meters below the surface of the ocean, collecting data and treasure as you do.

Palm Island Luau Edition

Visit the beautiful Palm Island and program your robot to drive along its boardwalk path. Collect coconut clusters and set lobster traps for the Luau.

Operation Reset

The mining colony of Alpha Base H99 needs your help! A terrible storm has damaged the colony’s equipment and we need you to use your programming skills to complete the mission.

Competition Worlds!

Practice your programming skills with virtual versions of popular robotic competitions.

VEX Nothing But Net

Try to get the most points by collecting and scoring the balls and bonus balls into the Low and High Goals. Elevate your robot into the climbing zone for bonus points!

VEX IQ Bank Shot

Get the highest score by emptying the ball cutouts, and scoring the balls into the scoring zone. More points if you can make a bank shot into the goal!

VEX Highrise Beltway

Autonomously score as many cubes as possible during the time period. Zoom around the beltway to move around. Beltway is a modified version of the VEX IQ Highrise competition game.

Getting Started

Starting your Virtual Worlds trial:

1.  Open ROBOTC (from the icon on your desktop or Start Menu).

2.  Click “Help”
in the menu and select “Manage Licenses”.


3.
  Click “Add License” in the menu and select “Robot Virtual Worlds – VEX” from the Product drop-down.

4.  Click “Start Trial”.

5.  Click “Close”.

Using Virtual Worlds:

1.  Click “Robot” in the menu and set the “Compiler Target” to “Virtual Worlds”.

2.  Click “Window” in the menu and set “Select a Virtual World to Use” to any of the virtual worlds installed.

Visit robotvirtualworlds.com to explore and download more levels!

If you need to go back to programming your physical robot, select “Physical Robot” from the “Compiler Target” menu.

Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

June 9th, 2015 at 9:42 am

VEX Worlds Recap: iPueo Robotics Team

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Branden Hazlet, Director of Technology for Maui Prep, shares with us his team’s experience at the 2015 VEX Worlds Championship in Louisville, KY!

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imageIt was a wonderful learning and exploring experience for our Maui students to participate with students from 29 countries in the VEX World robotics championships. Seeing hard working students from so many cultures coming together to cooperate in using intriguing technology was something wonderful. The student teams from across the world clearly felt honored to participate in such a massive gathering of clever young minds, an unparalleled gathering of student intellect in a massive 1.2 million square foot facility. That is roughly 200 football fields worth of great learning happening at the same time. As a culture, we honor the hard work of athletic teams with fanfare regularly, but it is something too rare that we honor our bright young minds in such a way that reflects their importance for leading the future. The Vex World Championships uses an intriguing model sometimes called coop-ertition — meaning that in every event there is a premium put on working with alliance teams. There is little chance of success in these events without a high degree teamwork within your own team, but of equal importance is cooperation across many partnerships with other teams. It is a model that ensures our students’ robotics experience is about more than robots…it is about working with other students. Beyond the coop-ertition of live robotics matches, teams must present an Engineering justification which documents their robotics build through multimedia and writing as well as through an oral presentation of student’s design thinking / structural reasoning. Then there is also an Autonomous robotics element where an emphasis is put on programming skills by doubling point awards for scoring that can be completed entirely by the robot running pre-coded programs with the use of sensors for direction, distance, light color, etc. Through all these elements, balancing the the human interactions with the technical knowledge, a model of education emerges that brings out the whole package of real world skills our students need to thrive in a changing world. And the best part…the students are just having a great time through it all…

image-3Our students spent a great week immersed in dynamic teamwork, creative challenges, technical puzzles, multicultural communication, planning and practicing strategies with alliance teams, rapid-fire as well as big-picture time management, resource management, interpersonal diplomacy, recovery from setbacks, getting right back to work after successes, identifying and depending on each other’s strengths, helping balance each other’s needs, constantly practicing, improvising, analyzing, prototyping, redesigning, finding consensus, stepping back from disagreement, stepping forward together …. Intense learning was going on across so many levels. The atmosphere of competition, total stimulation, constantly shifting team alliances and language challenges for communication all really put the emotional maturity expected of middle school students to the test…and it was satisfying to see we had given our Maui students the skills to rise to those challenges. We had matches with several teams from South America and Asia where the other teams spoke only a few words of English at best, some none at all. Between our students and the international students the teams managed to communicate their robot strengths, assess each other’s abilities then formulate a specific plan for making highly coordinated moves while continually giving each other feedback on positioning and making adjustments to the plan throughout the match. Thinking and communication skills that have been developed in years of parenting and education were called on for our students’ efforts. Thanks to all who have shaped these kids over the years. They have so much potential and such bright futures.

image-2Here is a quote from the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, which puts on the World Championships: “These students spent countless hours designing, building, programming and testing their robots over the course of the season at more than 1,000 local, state, and regional competitions (with participation from over 12,000 teams worldwide),” said Jason Morrella, President of the REC Foundation. “The truth is that all of these students leave the competition as winners. The teamwork and problem-solving skills they take away from this experience will successfully prepare them for future careers in STEM fields and serve them throughout their lives.”

For middle school students, beyond the STEM skills of technical and strategic optimization for competition, the ‘learning’ certainly extended to self-discipline and maturity dynamics…Staying focused, managing emotions, following through on directions/plans and keeping a positive tone in talking to each other despite stress were things the students became more aware of working on. As a middle school team the juggling of information streams, technical info along with the social processing and attentional demands despite so much stimulation are key parts of their developmental growth. These students certainly stepped their game up and grew through the experience. I think they have come back from this experience with a bit more capacity for directing their attention and managing themselves in a big pond; it is fair to say we have high expectations to push ourselves to new levels.

image-4For me, there were some super colleagues and coaches to watch in action and make connections with. Amazing high school and university teams for inspiration….as well as some middle school teams that were setting high water marks that expanded what I thought was possible for 12-14 year olds.

Out of the thousands of teams that competed this season, only 105 teams qualified for the VexIQ World Championship event. Maui Prep’s students worked hard to be among those teams and our iPueo’s final rankings, after a roller coaster of some early nerves, hitting stride mid-competition, then some hard fought last rounds where we earned both our lowest to our highest scores in the final two matches, gave us the following rankings:

Programming Skills / Autonomous – 21st in World Championships
Robotic Operations / Driver Skills – 21st in World Championships
Robot Team Work Skills – 33rd in World Championships

…Our goal was to take Maui Prep into the ranking of the top 30 middle schools in the world, so we hit the mark in two judged competitions, but missed by a small margin in the third category.

ipueo collageBeyond the rankings, our students from this little tropical island gained huge experience in competing at the world level, interacting on a technical and human level with many cultures, and working as a cooperative team with well known classmates as well as strangers. I think it is safe to say these students return to Maui as more mature young people with broader perspectives of than when they left two weeks ago.

I am proud of their effort, proud of their growth, proud of their accomplishment and proud of their potential as we look to take these 6th and 7th graders into next year’s season as 7th and 8th graders. One of the event highlights was the announcement of the new 2016 robotics challenge, along with new hardware and software releases which got the team pumped and creatively talking about next year’s robot design.

To have a little school from the pineapple fields of Maui competing with the world’s best in robotics was a great feeling of genuinely helping our kids prepare for dynamic futures in this changing economy where both intercultural and technical skills are required. Our students and school have definitely grown through this experience of participation in our first World Championship.

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Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

May 12th, 2015 at 9:10 am