VEX Robots. Practical STEM in your classroom!

in STEMGeeks2 years ago

VEX sensor bot and 2 wheel drive chassis

Ahoy HIVE STEM lovers. I have started a new job. Teaching STEM to young students in the grades of K-6. I am working for a school in Nunavut and they were in need of a technology expert to start up a STEM course for the children. The school provided me with several things to accomplish this task and I will be doing a blog on the three major tools I will be using to help children love STEM subjects as much as I do. Today we will start with the VEX robots.

VEX robotics are educational robots that span all levels of education, both formal and informal. VEX not only teaches children about science and engineering principles, it also encourages teamwork, creativity and leadership as well as group problem solving.

VEX Clawbot example photo

Drag, Drop, Play.

VEXcode uses a block-based interface which is the perfect way to I toduce young students to coding programs. VEXcode is designed so that each block's purpose can be seen at a glance, using visual cues like shape, color and labels. This allows students unfamiliar with traditional written code to program their robots and get it up and running in a matter of minutes, allowing students to focus on other tasks in the classroom instead of being stuck trying to figure out the coding interface. Eventually, the student can transfer to a full text based coding platform to get up to speed on more advanced coding practices.

Coding in VEX's block programming software

VEX Robots use a peg and hole system to snap pieces together with no screwdrivers or pliers required! It's a lot like a mixture of Lego and K-Nex building kits. Building instructions are clearly labeled and provide helpful tips for the builders in your student groups to accomplish their task in short order, leaving more time for you, the teacher, to get into the lesson plan.

Snap together pieces with an organization tray

VEX also holds regional, national, and international competitions that has attendance rates in the thousands, with many hundreds of schools taking part from all over the world. Competition tournaments take place several times a year and help form the base foundation of what makes VEX so great in the classroom. Your students have to work together to accomplish tasks, such as shooting a tennis ball into a basket, or stacking a bunch of objects to score points.

Admittedly, VEX robots are quite expensive for the home gamer. But as for a classroom teaching too, I think they are CHEAP! The kits are designed to be used in multiple different grades, so a group of grade 4 students can use the same kits right on through to grade 6 and beyond. Plus, the amount of engineering that went into developing VEX robots, VEXcode and the lesson plans and STEM Labs that VEX provides are invaluable to saving you time in the classroom.

The price of some of the robot kits from VEX

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This is quite similar with Lego robotics kit, but with a lot of details on its miniature parts.

Number one reason I'm not having children myself. I WILL GO BROKE BUYING LEGO

Not for the little tykes. Well, yes for the little tykes. But mostly for me! The electronic lego kits look phenomenal and I often get sucked into youtube videos of them while trying to figure out the latest problem in one of my Arduino projects.

These look awesome. I wish I would have had access to these when I was growing up. I might have to donate a couple to my daughters school. How many to you want in a classroom? Or per child? Do you have a recommendation on which kits to get?

The kits are quite expensive, but they do have entire classroom kits that the schools can purchase if there is an interest in them.

Personally, I think the VEX GO (gr 3-5) and VEX IQ (gr 6+) would be the two best options to kickstart that STEM bug. Students statistically start "hating" STEM subjects by grade 4 so it's best to find a way to build that love for STEM early and these kits do just that. The STEM lab are great for the teachers because they're designed to be done in any order. The labs are also designed to only take 40 minutes to complete so a teacher doesn't have to worry about going over time and conform to several education standards.

There is also VEX VR which allows the student to code a bot and then run the program right in their browser! No kit required. Great for testing code before applying it to a bot if kits are limited. You could have 1-2 robots the kids take turns uploading their code to.

Something I forgot to mention in the post is that there is also a grant program to help fund student travel and accommodations while attending Vex tournaments around the region, nation and WORLD!

Nice! Unfortunately, you didn't actually answer my question. lol How many kits per classroom? Or per child? Like I kit for 10 kids? Or one kit per classroom? Or one kit per 2 kids? What's optimal?

Bahahaha derp. Sorry I initially did write all that out, but then accidentally refreshed the page and had to rewrite it and forgot to put that part in.

The labs are designed to be collaborative between the students so 1 kit for every 2-4 kids is good. One kid is the builder, the other is the journalist who documents their progress, what they think the bot will do based on their programming and what the bot actually does.

Got it. Thank you! So you're right, that's a pretty big buy for a classroom. I'll have to look into it though. If the government wants to keep sending us money I might as well use it for something positive. :-)

Nice! My sisters kids play with this too.
I did this in school too, but it wasn't drag and drop type of thing. It used to be like pseudo c++ or something... fun times!

They have the option to switch over to Python at the click of a button if they are already skilled up beyond block-based coding, which is nice. Lets you show them whats really under the hood without having to do anything fancy.

I got into arduinos for a hobby in my 30's lol. If only we had these we had these as a kid!

Ahh I didn't know... so you can actually program! My sisters kid told me he was programming and I laughed but I guess he was really coding something.
But yeah...those things are expensive and you need all kinds of sensors for more fun stuff like programming human "feelings" into the bot. It can be an "adult toy" too lol