Kiwibots is a Charitable Trust whose mission is to ‘inspire a passion for STEAM’ through VEX robotics platforms, its curriculum and learning support, and associated challenges and competitions, writes Chris Hamling.
Everything needs to have a beginning, so this description of the programming pathways associated with VEX should start with the VEX IQ Challenge. It is the VEX IQ challenge that the Kiwibots use to get students to find STEAM exciting.
The structure of the VEX IQ Challenge is such that no student ever feels that they have lost at technology, yet there is a champion at every event. This is achieved by having robots work together to maximise the points they jointly achieve. The tournament champion is the team with the highest accumulated points.
Once we have students’ attention and they’re enjoying the sport of robotics, they start wanting their robot to do more. This leads them to investigate programming and to start asking questions about robot design. Once this happens the rest is easy.
Expedition Atlantis (robotvirtualworlds.com/atlantis/)
Expedition Atlantis is a great starting point for students that have never done any programming before. Introducing them to the concept of numbers to control distance and direction.
RobotC for VEX (robotc.net/download/vexrobotics/)
Having completed the Expedition Atlantis introduction game, it is time for them to start programming. We recommend that schools use RobotC for VEX as it is not only free but it has a Scratch-like Graphical mode, a Natural Language mode and a full blown C mode.
Robot Virtual Worlds (robotvirtualworlds.com)
We suggest that students are introduced to programming with Robot Virtual Worlds (RVW) and then given the chance, at distinct points in time, to switch their code over to the real world VEX IQ robots. RVW allows every student to do the course at their own pace, creating their own virtual environment, without the need to have real world hardware all the time. Teachers and students are assisted with a wealth of free curricula that will help then through the process of learning and teaching.
CS-STEM Network (cs2n.org)
CS-STEM Network’s mission is to develop engaging educational technologies to support educators teaching computer science, engineering practices, and mathematics using robots. It allows them to create groups of lessons that their students can have their results logged against.
Real World Robots
While RVW virtual programming goes a long way to teaching students about robots, it doesn’t fully replace the excitement of see their real-world VEX IQ Robot7 obey their commands. This can be done with several students sharing one robot and taking turns programming it while others work in the virtual world.
CAD links to RVW and real robots
When the time comes teachers may want to introduce CAD into their courses. With Autodesk Fusion 360 (autodesk.com/products/fusion-360/), this is not only possible but there are great online tutorial videos available and it’s free to schools and students.
A complete solution++
The Kiwibots believe that the VEX IQ platform coupled with RobotC 4.x for VEX and Robot Virtual worlds presents the ultimate solution to teaching robotics in the classroom. classroom. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.”