Archive for the ‘vex’ tag
In the previous entry, I shared some of the features of the VEX IQ robots. Also discussed were some ideas on how to get a classroom organized. Now that we have those things established, we can move on to a discussion of how to begin programming the VEX IQ robots.
ROBOTC for VEX IQ has Natural Language commands that will help beginning programmers of the VEX IQ by supplying a set of commands that use “natural” words. For example, the “forward” command will make your robot move forwards for a specified amount of time or distance. The robot will come to a stop after the movement. Here are some examples of the command:
Move the robot forward for 2.5 rotations:
Move the robot forward to 180 degrees:
• forward(180, degrees);
Move the robot forward for 1.5 rotations at 30% speed:
• forward(1.5, rotations, 30);
Move the robot forward for 10 seconds:
• forward(10, seconds);
• forward(10000, milliseconds);
Natural Language also contains other helpful commands; such as, “backward”, “turnLeft”, “turnRight”, and “repeat”. Below is an example of a Natural Language sample program that is located within the Natural Language sample program folder in ROBOTC:
VEX IQ Natural Language – Port Names and Numbers
leftMotor – Port #1
rightMotor – Port #6
armMotor – Port #10
clawMotor – Port #11
touchLEDSensor – Port #3
gyroSensor – Port #4
distanceSensor – Port #7
bumperSensor – Port #8
colorSensor – Port #9
//Configure the Natural Language to use the VEX IQ Clawbot
//Move the robot forward for 1.5 rotations (rotations are the default unit) at 50% speed (default speed)
//Turn the robot right for 1.25 rotations at 50% speed (default speed)
//Move the robot backwards for 720 degrees at 25% speed.
backward(720, degrees, 25);
//Turn the robot left for 2.5 rotations at 50% speed (default speed)
As you can see, there are a couple things that we have to do in order to use the Natural Language functionality. To enable Natural Language, go to “Robot Menu -> Platform Type -> Natural Language”.
The easiest way to get started programming is to open a sample program or to use a template. To open a sample program in ROBOTC, go to File Menu -> Open Sample Program.
To use a Natural Language template in ROBOTC, go to File Menu -> New… -> Natural Language Template.
To make programming easier, Natural Language makes assumptions about the type of robot you are using. To configure your Natural Language program to use our VEX IQ Clawbot, use the following line of code:
More robot models will be supported in future releases.
Finally, you will notice in the sample program that port names and numbers are given specific names and ports. Make sure that your VEX IQ Clawbot’s motors and sensors are configured this way in order to work with the Natural Language commands.
Ok. We are ready to go with programming! What should we do? My suggestion would be to start with the Labyrinth Challenge.
The Labyrinth challenge gives the students an opportunity to engage with the VEX IQ robots and ROBOTC. The students are immediately engaged because they can see and test their robot’s movement as it makes its way through the course. Since this may be the first program that some students write, there are a couple of things worth remembering. First, makes sure the students create a flowchart before they begin programming. For more information on flowcharts, you can look here: VEX Teacher – Engineering.
Second, it is important that the students describe what is going on in their programs with comments. For more information on how to utilize comments, please see here: http://www.robotc.net/vex_full/reference/hp_comment.pdf
Now you are ready to go! Good luck and have fun! Remember, if you have any questions as you are working, please visit the ROBOTC forums.
- Jason McKenna
The VEX IQ robot is a great, new option for middle and high school robotics teachers. With anything new in the classroom, it’s important to have some ideas on how to best implement the new tools in the classroom.
There are some features of the VEX IQ system that teachers will notice initially. The VEX IQ brain has 12 identical ports. This means that any device (either a sensor or a motor) can be plugged into one of the ports. Also, the VEX IQ motors are smart motors; therefore, the motors can hold a position and resist external movements. Some of the sensors for the VEX IQ include a Bumper sensor, a Touch LED sensor, a Gyro Sensor, a Color sensor, and a Sonar sensor. One nice asset of the motors and sensors is the fact that they each have their own upgradeable firmware. As a result, if new features are added, the firmware for the device can be upgraded, as opposed to buying a new sensor and/or motor.
With the VEX IQ Starter Kit, there are over 850 structural and motion components. That many parts allow teachers and students lots of flexibility when it comes to building a robot. But, that’s only if they can find the parts they need. One of the first things that teachers need to do is get their kits organized. The Starter Kit comes with a storage bin and tray that help, but the amount of parts means that different pieces will need to be stored together in the storage bin. If the students know what pieces are located in each section of the storage bin, it will make the building process much easier.
The base robot for the VEX IQ is the Clawbot. The Clawbot include a gripper and a lifter arm. These features immediately grab the attention of most students; they love the idea of being able to lift and grab an object. For teachers, it is a good idea to build the Clawbot before allowing the students the opportunity to do the same. This gives teachers an idea of what problems the students may have as they begin building, and it also allows the teachers to help those students that run into problems. You can’t start anything until all the students have their robot built. Having some groups finish their robot, while other groups lag behind can be an issue. Building a robot first, puts the teacher in the best position to get everyone started off on the right foot.
When it comes time to start building, students can work on different parts of the VEX IQ Clawbot. You can divide the Clawbot into these sections: the Base, the Claw, the Tower, and the Ball Holder. One suggestion to organize a class would be to have two students work on the Base, while one student each works on the Claw, the Tower and the Ball Holder. Or, you could have one student work on each section. It’s important to note that however the class is organized for the building of the Clawbot, there should be a uniform way that the students attach the motors and sensors.
The battery for the VEX IQ robot brain comes charged, so a teacher does not need to worry about doing that preliminarily. So, once the Clawbot is built, the next thing that needs to be done is install the ROBOTC firmware and update the VEX IQ brain, motors, and any sensors that may be on the robot. Click here for directions on how to install the ROBOTC Firmware.
To update the VEX IQ brain, motors, and sensors, the VEX IQ Firmware Update Utility needs to be downloaded to your computer. The Firmware Update Utility and directions on how to utilize it can be found here.
With the next installment, we will take a look at how to set up your first programming lesson. In the meantime, teachers can take advantage of a few readily available resources at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy VEX Teacher Site and the ROBOTC Wiki to help with questions concerning programming the VEX IQ with ROBOTC.
Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy, a research-based organization committed to teaching students how to program robots, is really excited to be able to support VEX Competition teams again this year. Follow the links below to learn about a NEW VEX Toss Up Programming Game that can be used by students, teachers in classrooms, coaches, or competition providers with FREE Programming Classes that your students can take. The new game is designed to teach programming and has over $5,000 in prizes. The Robotics Academy has also developed CS2N Group Technology that enables teachers, coaches, and regional competition sponsors to host their own programming and remote control virtual competitions.
VEX Toss Up is played on a 12′x12′ square field. The object of the game is to score your colored BuckyBalls and Large Balls into the Near Zone and Far Zone, by Locking Up your colored BuckyBalls and Large Balls into the Goals, and by Low Hanging, Hanging and Ultra Hanging off your colored Bar at the end of the match.
This Virtual World is designed to simulate the Toss Up competition field and several robot designs, allowing teams to practice their programming and form winning gameplay strategies.
See the rules documents for the full CS2N game explanation:
- VEX Toss Up – Autonomous CS2N Mode
- VEX Toss Up – Remote Control CS2N Mode
Additional information to help you get started:
- All information on CS2N Competitions can be found here
- VEX Toss Up can be downloaded at RobotVirtualWorlds.com or CS2N.org
- If you don’t already have a CS2N account, sign up for a free one here
- Updates and information will be posted on the CS2N Competition pages.
- If you need any help, don’t hesitate to post on the ROBOTC.net forums
How to Setup Your Own In-Class Competition – Teachers, coaches, and competition organizers can setup their own unique programming competitions using CS2N Groups Technology. The Robotics Academy has developed group technology that enables teachers to setup their own in-class competitions. To learn how to setup your own Group competition click here:http://www.cs2n.org/tutorials/competitions
Now that the physical robot kits are in the classroom and ROBOTC is installed and activated, you should be ready to build the physical robots for your classroom. One of the best features of a VEX Robotics kit is that they allow students to create a nearly limitless range of robots; the downside of this, however, is maintaining student-created robots in a classroom. To help with this, ROBOTC and the Video Trainer Curriculum support several standard models to help keep a baseline in the classroom.
The first of such robots we will look at is the VEX Squarebot (using the VEX Cortex), one of the standard Cortex models that are used in the VEX Cortex Video Trainer for ROBOTC. The Squarebot utilizes three VEX motors (two for driving, one for the arm), and a wide variety of sensors. These sensors include Quadrature Shaft Encoders, a Sonar Sensor, and a Potentiometer (among others; in total, there are 8 separate sensors on the Squarebot). This model allows for a variety of tasks to be completed and is designed to work with all of the challenges in the ROBOTC Curriculum.
A smaller, different alternative Cortex standard robot is the Swervebot. Like the Squarebot, the Swervebot utilizes the VEX Cortex as its main processor and uses two VEX motors for driving. However, the Swervebot’s small chassis does not utilize an arm. Instead, the Swervebot makes clever use of an Omniwheel in the rear for turning and boasts three Line Follower sensors and a Gyroscope (as well as 6 other sensors, for a total of 10) and is perfect for smaller classroom environments.
Finally, the new VEX IQ platform can be quickly assembled and ready to use in a classroom thanks to the IQ Clawbot standard model. Using 4 motors total (two for driving, one for the arm movement, and one for gripper control), the VEX IQ Clawbot can be controlled either autonomously using the VEX IQ sensors (such as the Bumper Switch and Color Sensors), remotely using the IQ Controller, or a pleasant mix of both, depending on which kit is being used.
Visit CMU’s Robotics Academy VEX site for more information on the different kits available and to find build instructions.
Now more than ever, robotics educators are faced with the important question of which kit they should purchase and use. This key question has been made even more intricate in the 2013-2014 school year due to the addition of the new robotics kits, VEX IQ kits. This article will help break down each VEX kit, their capabilities and target audiences, and allow you, the educator, to make an informed decision on which kit is best for your particular classroom.
The VEX IQ system is the brand-new robotics system from Innovation First International (IFI for short, makers of the VEX Robotics Design System). The VEX IQ can be used with any of the all-new hardware and sensors, including a unique plastic snap-fit structural system.
- Sensors include a gyroscope, color sensor, potentiometer, touch LED, and ultrasonic sensor.
- The base kits (either Sensor or Controller kits) are provided with over 650 structural components, 4 plug-and-play ‘smart motors’, at least 2 touch sensors (or more, depending on kit), and the VEX IQ microcontroller (more information on all available kits can be found here).
- The IQ contains 12 smart ports that can be used to control either analog sensors, digital sensors, or servos/motors; the ports are non-typed and can be used to control any piece of VEX IQ compatible hardware that is plugged into it.
- It also includes a micro-USB port for IQ-to-computer communication and a ‘tether’ port for direct connections to an VEX IQ Controller.
- Debugging and programming information can be displayed on the backlit LCD information to increase ease-of-use in real time.
- Wireless communication between the VEX IQ microcontroller and a VEX IQ controller is provided via a set of 900 MHz radio adapters.
- The VEX IQ system will be fully legal in the new VEX IQ Challenge (designed specifically for the VEX IQ system), for students ages 8-14.
- Recommended use: Middle School.
One of the mainstays of the educational robotics world is the VEX Cortex platform. Originally released in 2010 by IFI, the Cortex can be used with the VEX Robotics Design System’s hardware and sensors.
- Includes over 300 metal structural parts, 4 powerful DC motors, the VEX Cortex microcontroller, and a wide variety of fasteners, gears, and other miscellaneous hardware.
- Sensors include touch sensors, an ultrasonic sensor, integrated motor encoders, line following sensors, and a potentiometer; additional sensors are available outside of the base kits.
- Wireless communication between a VEX Cortex and a VEXNet Joystick Controller is possible by using the 802.11b/g VEXNet USB Adapter Keys.
- The VEX Cortex system can be used in the VEX Robotics Challenge (Middle, High School, and College divisions).
- Recommended use: advanced Middle School, High School or College.
We understand that choosing a robotics kit is a tough decision. The number one factor in determining which kit is right for you is the students; depending on the skill level of the students, it may be better to challenge them with a more advanced kit (VEX Cortex) or they may prefer to learn with a beginner kit to get them started (VEX IQ.) No matter which kit you decide to use, though, you can rest easy knowing ROBOTC will fully support all of these platforms.
Getting your classroom organized for the beginning of the school year is an arduous task for even the most experienced teacher. It can be even more demanding for those that teach robotics. You’ve got the robot kits, you’ve been trained in ROBOTC, but how do you set up your class for the first day of school? The goal of this article is to help answer the question for both new robotic teachers and teachers that have been teaching robotics for years.
As we all know, a robotics kit is more expensive than a textbook. Moreover, because robotics kits contain so many small pieces, they can be much more difficult to take care of than a textbook. As a result, keeping your kits organized is crucial. If using a LEGO MINDSTORM NXT, EV3, or TETRIX robot, one way that I have found that can be very helpful is to name the NXT brick. Then, give the same name to the kit. Now, assign the kit to the group of students in your class. If the students know that they are responsible for that kit, it goes a long way towards them acting more responsibly with the kit. If using a VEX robot, you won’t have the same ability to name your brick, but you can still able to label your robotics kit.
Which students are assigned to work together is also something that the teacher must put some thought into. Once again, maintaining the kits is of the utmost importance. Therefore, I am not going to allow students to work together if I feel that will not take care of the kit. Some students are more organized and careful with the kits than others. I always try to have one of those students in a group. I try to have the kits named and assigned before the first day of school. If I don’t know the students, then I may have to adjust the groups as we progress throughout the beginning of the school year.
Once the kits are organized, the teacher can then start to think about how their curriculum items are going to be accessed and utilized. A math teacher has a plan for when their students have a question about a topic, or when a student is confused about a particular concept. A robotics teacher has to have the same type of plan in mind. The beauty of teaching robotics lies in the fact that students are intrinsically motivated to find answers to their problems because they are highly engaged. Some students will still be conditioned, however, to try to elicit the answer from the teacher instead of reasoning through a problem on their own. Robotics teachers need to create a plan so the students can work towards being independent and productive problem solvers.
To that end, a good approach to a complex challenge is to examine what needs to be done before the challenge, during the challenge, and after the challenge is complete. Before the challenge, students should be focusing on create flowcharts to organize their program and writing pseudocode to reflect those flowcharts. During the challenge, students should focus on commenting their code and debugging techniques. Afterwards, students should be afforded the opportunity to reflect and respond to what went well, what went not so well, and what they learned throughout the process.
Giving students a little bit of structure while they engage a challenging task will go a long way towards ensuring that the students’ high level of engagement does not turn into a high level of frustration. Engagement works both ways in that sense: High engagement leads to students that are focused on their task, but can also lead to high levels of frustration because the students desperately want to finish that task. To avoid the frustration,teachers should provide a structure that the students can rely on when needed. Before the school year begins, teachers should spend some time planning students’ work, and then the students can spend time during school working their plan.
The beginning of the school year is always a challenge. As teachers, we understand that unforeseen difficulties will always arise. However, going into the school year with as much planned and organized as possible helps us to focus on those unpredictable events that will undoubtedly occur.
Check out how we organize robot parts at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy:
It is that time of year again … backpacks on our backs, buses on the streets, and lessons being planned. Yes, we are going back to school! To kick start the school year, we are introducing a six week robotics back to school blog series that highlights the technical and pedagogical side of planning for your robotics classroom. John Watson, from ROBOTC customer support, and Jason McKenna, a K-8 Gifted Support Teacher in the Hopewell Area School District outside of Pittsburgh, PA, will be sharing with you tips, tricks, advice, and recommendations on prepping your robotics classroom and curriculum.
As each blog is posted, the topics below will turn into hyperlinks, so feel free to bookmark this page!
- Organizing a Robotics Classroom
- Which Robotics Kit Should I Use? LEGO EDITION — VEX EDITION
- Reviewing ROBOTC Concepts After a Summer Off
- Setting up ROBOTC and RVW for the Classroom
- Robotics Curriculum Breakdown
- Setting Up Robots: LEGO EDITION — VEX EDITION
- Differentiated Instructions
- Troubleshooting Common Issues in ROBOTC and RVW
- Handling Common Teaching Issues
- Advanced ROBOTC and Robotics
- Assessment and Extension Activities
If you have any questions or would like to start a conversation on any of the topics, feel free to leave us a comment below!
At the VEX World Championship in Anaheim, VEX introduced their newest robotics platform, VEX IQ. VEX IQ is designed to transform STEM learning for students and their teachers. Students as young as 8 can begin building and programming their robot.
In the VEX IQ Challenge, students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, build a robot using the VEX IQ robotics platform to solve an engineering challenge that is presented in the form of a game. VEX IQ Challenge teams will work together scoring points in Teamwork Matches, and also get to show off their robot’s skills individually in driver controlled and autonomous Skills Challenges. VEX released a new video yesterday that explains the rules of the game.
There are a total of thirty-six (36) Small BuckyBalls and four (4) Large BuckyBalls available as Scoring Objects in the game. There are four (4) Floor Goals, two (2) Low Goals, two (2) High Goals, and four (4) Scoring Rings, as well as a Hanging Bar. Official game documents are available here: VEX Wiki – Add It Up
Registration for a VEX IQ Challenge team costs $100. Additional teams from the same schools can register for $50. Tournament entry fees vary by event. Visit RobotEvents.com for more information, to register a team and find events near you.
Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy is currently developing new curriculum and trainings for the new VEX IQ platform and ROBOTC for VEX Robotics 4.0. Curriculum, software, and training will be available this Fall. To find out more information visit: Robotics Academy VEX IQ.
What do you think of the new VEX IQ system? Are you interested in creating a team in your area?
Every year at Worlds, we get to meet some amazingly talented students. This year was no different! One of those students was the lead programmer and captain for the all-girls VEX team 355E, Mia Garbaccio. She is an avid programmer with an organized binder of code that impressed the entire Robotics Academy team. Check out her story and programming binder in this interview:
Are you a programming student who wants to share your story with us? If so, send us an email at
Every student who completes a ROBOTC Summer of Learning course will have the opportunity to take a ROBOTC Student Certification Exam! This certificate will represent a student’s programming and robot problem solving accomplishments.
Throughout the course, the student will earn badges as they successfully complete challenges. Each badge contains information to help others understand what a student knows: who awarded it, who recognizes it, when they earned it, links to example student code, their videos, their scores, the types of questions they answered, or other information designed to show off their accomplishments.
At the very end of the course, students will have the opportunity to take an exam. This certification exam will consist of 125 questions to be completed in 100 minutes. Students will need to earn a score of 70% or higher in order to earn the certification.
Every student enrolled in one of our Robotics Summer of Learning class will have the option of taking the ROBOTC for LEGO or the ROBOTC for VEX student certification exam. Sign up for a class today:
And don’t forget about our free ROBOTC live training, starting Monday, June 17th: