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Setting Up Robots – VEX Edition

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SettingUpVexNow 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.

Squarebot 4.0The 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.

swerve

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.

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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.

 
 

Robomatter Blog Ad VEX

 

Written by Cara Friez

September 10th, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Which Robotics Kit Should I Use? VEX Edition

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VEXiq-109Now 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.

cortex-robotOne 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.

 

Written by John Watson

August 27th, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Organizing a Robotics Classroom

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IMG_4201Getting 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 over-tablethey 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.

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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.

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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:


-Jason McKenna

Robotics Back to School Blog Series

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SCHOOL-BUS-DRIVERIt 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!

Topics

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!

VEX IQ Challenge – Add It Up

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VEX IQ LogoAt 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.

To support the VEX IQ system, the REC Foundation revealed a new VEX IQ Challenge game called “Add It Up” for the 2013-2014 robotics season.
 

VEX IQ Add It Up Field

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?

Written by Cara Friez

July 2nd, 2013 at 6:02 pm

ROBOTC Student – Mia Garbaccio

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Robotics Picture 1Every 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
socialmedia@cs2n.org
!

Written by Cara Friez

June 19th, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Earn a ROBOTC Student Certification this Summer for FREE!

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ROBOTC CertificationEvery 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.
 

Badge Pathway

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:

LEGO Icon 3VEX Icon 3 copy
 

And don’t forget about our free ROBOTC live training, starting Monday, June 17th:

Summer of Learning

 

Written by Cara Friez

June 14th, 2013 at 6:09 pm

FREE Summer of Learning ROBOTC Online Classes Start on Monday!

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Live TrainingStarting Monday, June 17th, our free online classes will begin for the Robotics Summer of Learning. The ROBOTC team will show you the best ways to get started using ROBOTC and answer your questions LIVE! The goals for these classes is to support you, our users, and help you earn a ROBOTC certification!

The classes and Q&A sessions will take place throughout the summer on WebEx at the times listed below. The length of the class will be based on how many questions we need to answer.

 
 

VEX
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays at 11:00am EDT
 
LEGO
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays at 12:00pm EDT

**Classes will be recorded and posted online after each session.**

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How to Sign Up:

1. Register for Summer of Learning - Choose one of the following Robotics Summer of Learning Courses and sign up!

LEGO Icon 3VEX Icon 3 copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Choose a WebEx Course - Join your choice of WebEx courses 30 minutes before scheduled course begins:

VEX
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays at 11:00am EDT

LEGO
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays at 12:00pm EDT

If you would like to ask questions during the live class, make sure to have a USB headset. You can also submit your questions before and during each class through the ROBOTC forum or our social media sites.

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Official RSOL Prizes Announced! 

Robotics Prize
Don’t forget, you can win some great prizes if you compete in one of our ROBOTC Robot Virtual Worlds Challenges! We will be giving away VEX IQ and NXT Kits; ROBOTC and Robot Virtual Worlds licenses; and two $1000 scholarships.
Sign-up Today!

Prizes for the Robotics Summer of Learning Announced!

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Robotics PrizeWe are very happy to announce the official prizes for the Robotics Summer of Learning competitions! We will be giving away VEX IQ and NXT Kits; ROBOTC and Robot Virtual Worlds licenses; and two $1000 scholarships. There will be three competitions eligible for prizes: CS2N VEX Toss Up Challenge, CS2N FTC “Ring It Up!” Challenge, and Robot Virtual Worlds Beacons and Barriers.

Each competition will be broken up into three divisions. Each player is eligible for only one prize per competition. The official rules are listed on the official Robotics Summer of Learning page.

Competitions are open now, so sign up today!
 

 

Divisions

  • Middle School Division – 6th to 8th Grade (for the 2013-2014 School Year)
  • High School Division - 9th to 12th Grade (for the 2013-2014 School Year)
  • Open Division - Teachers, Mentors, Coaches, Educators, Hobbyists, Everyone!

 
Prizes

VEX Prizes FTC PrizesLevel Builder Prizes

The official rules are listed on the official Robotics Summer of Learning page.

Start programming today for your chance at these awesome prizes!
 

Robot designed by Drew Ellis from The Noun Project and the Trophy is from The Noun Project.

 

Robotics Teacher Appreciation Week Challenge

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RTAW2013_BigTeacher Appreciation Week is May 6th – 10th and we are celebrating! We LOVE all teachers and appreciate everything they do for their students! Here at the Robotics Academy, we have a special place in our hearts for robotics teachers, mentors and coaches, so this year we want to make sure they get the attention they deserve.

Do you know an amazing robotics teacher, mentor, or coach? Let us know who they are and why they are AWESOME! Send us your best story, pictures, and/or video about this person to socialmedia@cs2n.org. We will share several of these stories on the Robotics Academy blog during Teacher Appreciation Week. And the Top Three Stories, voted by us, will each WIN one Classroom Annual License for Robot Virtual Worlds for their teacher/mentor/coach!

Stories must be submitted by Wednesday, May 8th at 5pm Eastern Standard Time. We will announce the winners on Friday, May 10, 2013.

RTAW2013
 

Please include contact information (name and email/school phone number) for the teacher, mentor, or coach that you’re writing about so we can make sure to get their permission to publish their name on our site. You can send any questions to socialmedia@cs2n.org.

Written by Cara Friez

May 1st, 2013 at 6:21 pm