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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

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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

 

Announcing the 2016 REC Foundation & Robomatter Scholarship!

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scholarship--1080x234
The REC Foundation and Robomatter are pleased to partner to offer one (1) $5,000 non-renewable scholarship to one (1) high school junior or senior intent on pursuing a degree related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics in college. The award will be presented at the VEX Robotics Competition World Championship in April 2016, but the student does not need to be present to win.

Eligible students must have participated in the VEX Robotics Competition and submit a 500-word essay explaining how their participation in both the VEX Robotics Competition and the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy Sponsored Robot Virtual World Competition enabled them to develop a high competency and appreciation for programming. In addition, students must indicate how programing skills and use of ROBOTC enhanced their understanding of robotics or aided their participation in the VEX Robotics Competition.

Entries must include:

  • Student’s name
  • School name
  • Grade level (i.e. Junior or Senior at time of application)
  • Team number
  • Document/statement from team mentor verifying student’s participation/role in the challenge
  • Student’s email, mailing address with city, and state and should be submitted to scholarships@roboticseducation.org

Deadline: January 31, 2016

Click here to apply.

Written by LeeAnn Baronett

October 12th, 2015 at 11:20 am

New Robot Virtual World Level Packs Updates!

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RVWThe Robot Virtual Worlds team has put out some updates to a few Level Packs to improve your experience. Download the latest versions today!

Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

October 12th, 2015 at 8:13 am

Congratulations to the Joe Walker Vex Jets!

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Congratulations to the Joe Walker Middle School Vex Jets, from the Westside Union School District in Quartz Hill, CA, for being selected as the grand prize winners in our Uncomplicate Your Classroom Video Contest!

The goal of the Vex Jets is to show teamwork, communication, and a big smile on your face when doing what you love. They take what they do very seriously and put hard work and sweat into every robot they build. There’s no doubt their attitude is what helps make them an award winning team!

Check out the great video they created about how they plan to use Robot Virtual Worlds to help their team:

The Joe Walker Vex Jets were established in 2011 by student, Justin Sowa, and teacher, Matt Anderson. This strong student-teacher team achieved 75th place in VEX World Championship in the “Gateway” game that year. In 2012, the Vex Jets continued their dominance and returned to the World Championships under the leadership of Kristy Bear, Cody White, and Joseph Nielson, where they took 69th place and won the World Championships Energy award! For the 2015-2016 school year, Amber Stricklen, Seth Torres-Beam, and Nassim Tavakoli will lead the team into battle, along with Noah DeHay as programmer, and Carson Davis as the driver.

In addition to competing, the Vex Jets have also helped start and mentor new high school and middle school teams all over the nation. And, this year, they’re helping start a team in Japan! The Vex Jets also work within their community to spread the word about the benefits or robotics and robotics competitions.

We’ll be checking in with the Joe Walker VEX Jets throughout the year so look for updates to see what these guys are up to. We’re excited to see what they do!

Congrats again and go Jets!

 

Written by LeeAnn Baronett

October 2nd, 2015 at 6:30 am

Posted in General News

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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.

Measurement

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 robotvirtualworlds.com to learn more and get started with a free, 10-day trial!

Featured Tools and Products:

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Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

September 1st, 2015 at 6:15 am

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

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 robotc.net/hangouts 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-LeWinter

August 26th, 2015 at 11:02 am

Join Us for the Back to School Webinar Series – UPDATED!

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Webinar Series 2

To make sure you’re ready to take on the school year, we’ll be hosting a series of webinars to help you get your robotics classroom up and running. Check out our webinar schedule below and visit http://robotc.net/hangouts to join!

If you can’t make a webinar, don’t worry! Each webinar will be recorded, post here, and posted on  http://robotc.net/hangouts the following day. Check out the past webinars below …

  • Getting started with ROBOTC for PLTW: August 19 @ 7:00 pm EDT
  • Learn everything you need to know about getting your PLTW robotics classroom up and running with ROBOTC. This C-based programming language has an easy-to-use development environment and is the premier robotics programming language for educational robotics and competitions. 

(Starts at 1:56)

  • Using ROBOTC and Robot Virtual Worlds to prepare for VEX Competitions: September 9 @ 7:00 pm EDT

  • ROBOTC is the most used language for the VEX IQ Challenge, and for the VEX Robotics Competition. Robot Virtual Worlds provides a virtual environment for robotics teams to learn the program. Put the two together and you have a powerful combination that can help your team be competition-ready. And, you also have a great way to provide open-ended programming challenge for students of all abilities, whether those students will be competing or not. Learn more in this great webinar!

  • CS2N Assessment Tools: September 29 @ 7:00 pm EDT
  • We know that all teachers love grading, right? Computer Science Student Network’s (CS2N) Automated Assessment allows teachers to keep track of their students’ submissions, scores, and progress. Learn how to create a CS2N Group for your different classrooms, import student rosters, automatically track progress of Robot Virtual Worlds, and how to utilize some of the free courses offered through CS2N

  • You may have heard about Robot Virtual Worlds, a high-end simulation environment that enables students to learn programming without a physical robot. But, how do you use it in the classroom? Join this webinar to learn the many ways Robot Virtual Worlds can help you simplify and extend your robotics classroom.

 

Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

August 14th, 2015 at 10:43 am

Cool Project: VEX IQ Motorized Skateboard

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

 
 
 
 
 
 


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

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

Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

August 13th, 2015 at 7:15 am

Uncomplicate Your Classroom with Robot Virtual Worlds!

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Teach Faster Flexible

You’ve probably heard of Robot Virtual Worlds, a high-end simulation environment that enables students to learn programming, even if they don’t have direct access to a physical robot. But what are the benefits of Robot Virtual Worlds and how can you use it in your classroom?

Robot Virtual Worlds is a great tool for you, your students, and your classroom. Our infographic shows just a few of the ways 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

 

 
Robot Virtual Worlds is not designed to replace your physical robots. Instead, it’s designed to help you enhance what you’re already doing in your classroom, and help you teach faster and more efficiently with fewer resources. Looking for ideas on how you can use Robot Virtual Worlds in your classroom? Here are just a few:

  • Have students use Robot Virtual Worlds to test their code before working with a physical robot
  • Use Robot Virtual Worlds to assign robotics homework
  • Use Robot Virtual Worlds to create your own virtual challenges
  • Use simulated fantasy worlds to capture students’ attention and make learning fun
  • Provide a virtual environment for robotics teams to learn to program

You can also check out these real-world stories from teachers who have used Robot Virtual Worlds in their classroom:

Palisades Middle School

Read about how Palisades Middle School is using Robot Virtual Worlds to teach 8th grade students how to build and program a robot through collaborative teamwork

Hopewell Area School District

Learn how a teacher in the Hopewell Area School District used Robot Virtual Worlds to challenge students to apply the basics of ROBOTC programming while also asking them to come up with unique strategies for solving an open-ended challenge
 

Want to learn more about using Robot Virtual Worlds in your classroom? Tune into our “Using Robot Virtual Worlds in the PLTW Classroom” webinar on Wednesday, September 9th at 7:00 pm EDT.

 

Written by Cara Friez-LeWinter

August 12th, 2015 at 9:28 pm