Coding, creativity and communication success at CEDoW VEX Robotics Final

News | Coding, creativity and communication success at CEDoW VEX Robotics Final

Posted 31 October 2019 by Catholic Education in News

Over 50 students from six of our Catholic schools have put their innovative engineering, problem-solving and teamwork skills to the test, competing in the inaugural Diocesan VEX Robotics Final – with four impressive teams qualifying for the VEX Robotics Nationals Competition! 

The event, hosted by the seaside at Ss Peter and Paul Kiama, builds on previous CEDoW VEX Robotics Scrimmage Days, which give students from Years 3 to 8 engaging, hands-on opportunities to explore, build and program VEX robots, as well as develop an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The Final was CEDoW’s first official Wollongong Region Qualifying Tournament, with 15 primary school teams from St Paul’s Moss ValeSt Therese West WollongongSs Peter and Paul KiamaSt Clare’s Narellan Vale and St Paul’s Albion Park (plus three from St Paul's International College in the Middle School division) showcasing their skills and battling it out for top honours and an invitation to this year's VEX Nationals Competition in Adelaide in December.

VEX robotics is an international platform that takes students beyond basic robotics coding. It involves a snap-together robotics system using motors, gears, modular construction pieces, sensors and many more add-ons – accessible to a range of skill levels and useful for exposing students to STEM fundamentals. 

camera galleryView the photo gallery from the Diocesan VEX Robotics Final here

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CEDoW Learning Technologies Officer and VEX event partner, Ben Woods, said the VEX robotics days encourage the students’ creativity and skills development in a fun, competitive context. They become innovators and engineers as well as coders, collaboratively working together to build and redesign their robots to come up with the best solution for each challenge.

“VEX robotics is STEM education at its best, and it’s taking off in the diocese, with seven schools currently competing and at least another four looking to participate in 2020. The program is really something special, and students are loving it. They are super engaged and learning future skills that will provide them with a great foundation to succeed in life – skills in teamwork, leadership, communication and problem-solving” — Ben Woods, CEDoW Learning Technologies Officer

“With VEX, students are engaged in the engineering and design of their robots, coding components to perform the best they can and scoring the highest amount of points in 60-second rounds. Students work collaboratively within their teams in the lead up to the event and build alliances with other teams on the day to progress their skills,” Mr Woods said. 

“The growth of the students in VEX in 2019 has been impressive, with most schools starting with little to no knowledge of coding and robotics, to now being invited to participate in a national competition – it’s really exciting.”

The students worked on two competitions during the Final – a Teamwork Challenge and Driver Skills Challenge – and loved the experience of coding, collaborating and competing to achieve the best solutions with their VEX robots.

arrow sideSkip to the Diocesan VEX Robotics Final results and awards

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whattheysaidWhat the students said:

“I think VEX is a fantastic opportunity because it helps develop social skills, cooperation and problem-solving. It is enjoyable and something that kids of all ages can enjoy” — Regan, St Therese West Wollongong

"The Final was a great learning day and lots of fun! We definitely want to do more. It's a great team experience and working out strategies with our alliance partners was really fun" — Spencer, St Paul’s Moss Vale

“I think VEX is a great way to learn how to work as part of a team using each other’s strengths. I think it is also a way to learn to problem solve. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience VEX at least once” — Kaity, St Therese West Wollongong

"We learned from listening to others on the day. They offered some good advice about pinions and we will be researching and experimenting with this concept” —  Finley, St Paul’s Moss Vale

“I enjoy VEX because you get to make new friends from other schools. The Final was challenging and fun” — Dylan, St Therese West Wollongong

"We were excited to see how far we had come in our learning. It has made us want to improve even more" — Lilian, St Paul’s Moss Vale

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St Therese West Wollongong had 15 students participating across four teams in total – two from Year 5, and two from Year 6. Year 6 teacher and STEM Coordinator at the school, Michelle Devine, said St Therese embraces robotics and coding in the classroom, using SPHERES robots and mBots to support students’ STEM learning in an interactive way. 

Since Term 1 this year, the school has also been holding VEX challenges at lunchtimes for students of all years to come and try their hand at VEX robotics, where Year 6 students would mentor the younger students.

“Then during Terms 3 and 4, our Stage 3 VEX teams went into training,” she explained. “A new challenge would be revealed and the students would begin designing and building a purpose-made robot to complete the challenge. The design of the robot is trial and error, and throughout the scrimmages, the students would develop their skills and begin to learn how best to achieve maximum points.”

Mrs Devine said the VEX Final Day was a “huge success”, showing how hard all the teams had worked since the last CEDoW VEX Scrimmage event to better their design and driver skills.

“Throughout the day there was a great spirit of fun, encouragement and cooperation. The growth in the students as problem-solvers and engineers was outstanding. The inter-school cooperation is also a real feature of VEX and allows the children to learn from the experiences of others as well as building collegiality” — Michelle Devine, STEM Coordinator, St Therese West Wollongong

St Clare’s Narellan Vale teacher, Leonie Ryan, agreed. “It was such a great experience for the students. They had so much fun and learned lifelong skills,” she said. St Clare’s had eight students comprising three teams participating in the Final.

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St Paul’s Moss Vale Year 6 teacher, Joanne Smith, brought two teams of five students to the day. She said St Paul’s had also fostered a good culture of STEM learning across the curriculum at the school – including students not just “coding for the sake of coding” but coding with a user-friendly purpose or use, such as the older primary students creating digital games to teach phonics and maths to the infants children.

Ms Smith said the VEX robotics program has been “fantastic... the learning has been intense and so positive, both for the students and teachers”.

“Teaching STEM and VEX might seem daunting at first...but once you start, you can’t stop! It’s rich and deep learning. It gives students the life skills of problem-solving, cooperative learning and compromise. It teaches them to plan and manage their time; about the design process; and to 'plan, do, review' as we say, until you get a solution just right” — Joanne Smith, teacher, St Paul’s Moss Vale

“We are introducing it across Stage 3 fully next year, and working towards spiralling our robotics, engineering and design areas of the Science curriculum throughout the school,” she said. 

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Diocesan VEX Robotics Final Awards & Results

Diocesan VEX Robotics Final Awards

The following awards were presented on the day:

Award Name

Winning Team

gold trophycupExcellence Award

St Paul's Primary Moss Vale Gon Robo
Team 2577A)

1st gold medalTeamwork Champion

St Paul's Primary Moss Vale Blueberries
(Team 2577Z)

2nd silver medalTeamwork 2nd Place

St Paul's Primary Moss Vale Gon Robo
Team 2577A)

2nd silver medalTeamwork 2nd Place

St Therese West Wollongong Thunder
(Team 29351B)

1st gold medalRobot Skills Champion         

St Paul's Primary Moss Vale Blueberries
(Team 2577Z)

2nd silver medalRobot Skills 2nd Place

St Clare’s Narellan Vale VEXperts
(Team 65234A)

winnermedalDesign Award

St Therese West Wollongong Turtles
(Team 29351C)

winnermedalSportsmanship Award

St Paul's Albion Park Power
(Team 70672B) 

1st gold medalTeamwork Champion
(Middle School)
St Paul's International College IQ A
(Team 64834A)

Nationals Invitations

Congratulations to the following teams, who received invitations to Nationals:

winnermedalSt Paul's Moss Vale Gon Robo (Team 2577A)
winnermedalSt Paul's Moss Vale Blueberries (Team 2577Z)
winnermedalSt Therese Turtles (Team 29351C)
winnermedalSt Paul's International College IQ A (Team 64834A)

The two St Paul’s Moss Vale teams won two of the four invitations to Nationals for teams at the Final – an incredible achievement!

The 'St Paul’s Blueberries' (Lillian, Jessica, Shan, Caspian, Finley) had a fantastic day, taking out first place in both the Teamwork Challenge and the Driver Skills Challenge; while the 'St Paul’s Gon Robo' team (Lucia, Rachael, Spencer, Jarvis, Harrison) [pictured below] celebrated coming 2nd in the Teamwork Challenge and winning the overall Excellence Award.

The St Therese West Wollongong Year 6 girls team, the ‘St Therese Turtles’ (Regan, Charlotte, Isabella and Kaitlyn) were also successful, winning the Design Award and the final qualifying spot for Adelaide.

“To have a team heading to Nationals is a real honour. It is recognition of the countless lunchtimes the students have given up and the hard work they have put in. It has also inspired other students to come and give VEX a go”  — Michelle Devine, STEM Coordinator, St Therese West Wollongong

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CEDoW thanks Learning Technologies Officers, Ben Woods and Mark Woolley, for organising and supporting this event; Ss Peter and Paul's Kiama for hosting, and the organising teachers from our schools for facilitating their robotics teams: Joanne Smith, Michelle Devine, Andrew Edwards, Ashley Rae, Leonie Riley and Anton Planting.

In the Media

Southern Highland News - 21 October 2019 - St Paul's Primary students shine in robotics competition

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