Building the next generation of innovators, programmers and problem-solving leaders: St Paul’s Albion Park, St Paul’s Moss Vale, and St Therese West Wollongong have given their Years 5 and 6 students the opportunity to excel in VEX robotics, participating in the first CEDoW VEX Robotics Scrimmage Day.
Over 40 students from the three schools converged on St Paul’s Albion Park for a day of fun, engaging and hands-on opportunities to explore building and programming robots and furthering their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
VEX IQ is a robotics platform that can be seen as the next step up from the mBot robots many of our schools also have. It’s 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.
CEDoW Learning Technologies Officer, Ben Woods said the VEX robotics exposed students to an endless amount of possibilities and encouraged creativity; and the Scrimmage Day allowed students to experience STEM learning and engage in VEX skills development in a fun, competitive context. Beyond robotics, students also learned formative skills in teamwork, leadership, communication and troubleshooting.
“VEX IQ provides a platform where students are not only problem-solving through the coding process, but also through the design and production processes, where they’re building and redesigning their robots. Students become engineers as well as coders, who can collaboratively work together to come up with the best solution for the challenge” — Ben Woods, CEDoW Learning Technologies Officer
The students were quick to take learning into their own hands on the day and jumped right into the tasks waiting for them – starting with a focus on some of the basics, such as connecting their robots to both the controllers and iPads. Groups then worked through understanding the components of VEX robotics and how the coding differs from mBot or other robotics coding – and why this makes VEX a great platform for more control and creativity.
Then to the challenges! Students enjoyed working together and sharing their knowledge with each other to best complete the exercises, including coding their robot to move from one particular spot to another in a maze; and programming their robot to drive in a square – then once done, trying to achieve the same using the least amount of block of code possible.
The final challenge of the day was the most difficult – the ‘Next Level Challenge’ involved students working in groups to get their robots to move as many coloured ‘hubs’ to their scoring positions in the space of a minute. Different coloured hub equalled a different number of points and stacking hubs was also worth extra points – a tricky challenge, but one the students delighted in giving a good go.
Find out more about the ‘Next Level Challenge’ in this video below.
What the students said...
“The VEX robotics day was a good learning experience and opportunity to collaborate with other people. Everyone learned something new and it was lots of fun,” St Therese student, Charlotte said.
“It was an enjoyable experience, and very productive and informative. I enjoyed meeting people from other schools and helping them out. I was amazed by the design and construction of some of the robots,” her friend, Dom commented.
“There were a number of challenges set to test our robotics skills, and I liked that students all helped one another when we couldn’t complete a challenge. My partner and I had some struggles with our VEX, so we were both glad that other students shared knowledge that could assist us. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about coding my VEX,” St Paul’s Albion Park student, Janae said.
“Having a whole day to learn VEX was great. Learning how to collaborate with other students through building and coding the robots was fun and interesting, and we learned lots of new stuff,” West Wollongong student, Regan said.
“I enjoyed programming and building with VEX. We learned how to work with each other and other teams, and learned how to code VEX in different ways by listening to our peers,” classmate, Dylan observed.
“The day was awesome; it was so much fun! The challenges made my group think and we all learned so much. Thank you to Mr Woods, who was our mentor throughout the day and taught us new tips and tricks for better control of our VEX robots,” Matthew from Albion Park said.
Year 6 teacher at St Paul’s Albion Park, Andrew Edwards, said the day was highly valuable for all the students in attendance.
“It was exciting to watch the students collaborate and communicate with other schools to solve a variety of problems, and I know all students benefited and developed new skills from being able to do this. They’ve been working hard and giving up their own time to develop these VEX skills, so it was lovely to see them have an opportunity to apply them” — Andrew Edwards, St Paul’s Albion Park teacher
St Therese West Wollongong Year 6 teacher and STEM coordinator, Michelle Devine, agreed, acknowledging the great opportunity for the children to spend a whole day enjoying VEX robotics with other students, meet ‘like minds’ and learn from one another.
“Seeing what the students from other schools are doing was both inspiring and comforting – inspiring because of how far the students have come in a short time; and comforting to see the struggles experienced are common and the students could work together to overcome them. All of our students learned so much and have come back ready to share their knowledge,” she said.
Mr Woods praised the students for a fantastic day of innovation, collaboration and learning.
“There was some impressive driver control and new-look robots displayed. It’s great to see that given the opportunity, our students will come up with amazing things. All the students were so engaged and managed to further develop their skills, walking away with increased VEX coding ability” — Ben Woods, CEDoW Learning Technologies Officer
He said this was the first of many days that all schools using VEX robotics will be invited to. “The next one will be next term, leading up to the CEDoW VEX Competition that will take place in Term 4. This is with the hope of getting a team through to the VEX National Competition, run in December each year. Having seen the motivation of students today, I am confident we will have success in the challenges and competitions ahead.”