The VexIQ building system is a no-tools-required robotics platform that gives students an introduction to engineering. The system gives kids practical experience in structures, motors, gears, and computer programming, guiding them in the use of these concepts in producing competition-level robots for the VexIQ Challenge. This system stands above the crowd compared to the other robotics packages available at the elementary school level in that it acts as an immediate gateway to the higher level VEX or VRC competitions. Students will learn the skills they need to compete in fun and rewarding Vex challenges, such as the 4-bar lift:
Here is a 4 bar lift built for the VEX-IQ Challenge. The 4 bar provides an effective lifting mechanism using a parallelogram structure to keep the lift platform horizontal while lifting to full height. This type of lift can be seen on delivery trucks with a lift gate. Here it is built with VEX-IQ plastic parts that snap together with pegs.
Here is a similar mechanism built using the VEX robotics system of the VRC competitions. The design and function of the lift are the same, but here it is built with metal parts, nuts and bolts and is stronger and more stable. Students that start early with the VEX-IQ system will have an advantage when building these more complex systems.
The Vex IQ challenge is new every year, evolving and adapting to push students to even greater accomplishments and making sure they never get bored. This year, the new challenge is called Highrise; in it, students build robots capable of moving and stacking cubes in order to create a High-rise stack, as the picture and video below illustrates.
Simple Description of Scoring a Match
First, students use their robots to move cubes to the scoring zone. Each cube placed in the scoring zone earns the robot's team a single point; however, if the team can stack the cubes then the total score is multiplied. For example, if the robot manages to stack 3 blue cubes, then every blue cube in the scoring zone is now worth 3 points each. So, imagine if you stack 5 cubes! You'll get 5 times as many points. Stacking is essential to winning and achieving record breaking high-scores.
A one page description of the game is found here: VEX-IQ-Highrise Game Description [PDF].
In a single competition, teams will play through several qualifying rounds each day. Also, they will be randomly paired with a partner team for each match. During the match the teams are playing together cooperatively to score the most points as a combined unit. In this way, each match is not only about competition but also functions as a teamwork activity which will determine their rankings against the other teams. This is usually a hard concept to get across to your young team before they start their first match. We have seen teams try to work against their partner when the competitive spirit grabs them. Getting used to practicing with partner teams before the competition begins is essential for victory and we highly encourage it.
After the qualification rounds are complete, the 12 highest ranked teams will move to the final round. Teams 1 and 2 are paired, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, etc. These teams then get to play one final round to determine the winner.
Awards: The most well-known award is the Tournament Teamwork Champions. This one goes to the two-team alliance which scored the most points in the final round of the tournament. But, even if you don't take home the big trophy, there are several other ways to win. Each team makes a design presentation where they describe their robot and team. Judges will ask questions about technical items as well as team management and creativity. The results of this interview determines the winner of the Design Award.
A separate presentation is then made for the STEM Project [PDF]. To compete for this award, students must present a research project describing an aspect of STEM and how it relates to their robot. Each year a different letter of 'STEM' is picked as a focal topic for the presentation; this year it's E, for Engineering. Students must research the topic and then give a presentation on a specific aspect of engineering which is then reviewed by a panel of judges. Do you all remember how hard it was to stand up and make a presentation during college or high school? Well these kids are getting the experience early; we have had 8 and 9 year olds making professional presentations on complex subjects, helping them to overcome the difficulties of public speaking early.
Teams - here is 7700J
Last year was the first year for team 7700J. They participated in 2 separate tournaments and qualified for the California State Championship. This year they competed in several tournaments and won several awards, including Design, STEM and Excellence.
Here is their robot:
Here is 7700G, a first year team
Here is their robot:
Team 7700G just got started as a team this summer. They got together before they even had a kit of parts and used Vex assembler to design their robot. (Vex assembler is a tool to introduce students to "Computer Aided Design", or CAD). In October they finally got their kit of parts and went to their first tournament on November 15th at Mount San Antonio college (Mt SAC). As a rookie team, they had a fun day but ended up second to last in the rankings. A couple more tournaments followed, also landing them near the bottom of the rankings. Then, at the Palos Verdes tournament, they made a turn for the good and finished 3rd in the final round, but they have still not won a major award.
Next up was the Our Lady of Malibu Robotics Tournament, the last chance for the 7700G team from Glendale to qualify for the state tournament. The team worked very hard in the weeks leading up to this: A new robot was designed with a reinvigorated focus on the programming skills necessary to surmount the challenge. The team had to learn the advanced technique of object oriented programming (OOP) and had to get in lots of practice on the playing field before they finally felt read.
Finally, on January 24 2015, the day of the Malibu tournament arrived. Just before their first match the software failed to work and we had to go compete with only the default code and just push a few cubes. It looked like it was going to be another dreary day near the bottom of the rankings. But,as the day progressed, the team did well in the programming skills challenge, presented their STEM project, and near the end of the day had the design interview. During the design interview our team described all of the modifications they had made to the robot during the season and described the new object-oriented approach to programming they had implemented for the competition.
At the end of the day team 7700G won the Excellence Award, the highest award of the tournament. It's given to the team that performed well in all aspects of the tournament and showed a well organized team.
Excellence Award: Top All Around Team (Robot Performance & Judged)
The Excellence Award is the highest award presented in the VEX IQ Challenge. The recipient of this award is the team that best exemplifies overall excellence in creating a well-rounded VEX IQ program. This team excels in many areas and is a shining example of dedication, devotion, hard work and teamwork. As a strong contender in numerous award categories, this team deserves to be recognized for building a quality robot, delivering an effective STEM Research Project presentation, submitting a well-documented engineering notebook, and demonstrating that their team is committed to excellence in everything that they do.
This award has qualified them to participate in the California State Championship on February 14th at the Pasadena Convention Center. The tournament is not only for Vex IQ, but also includes the Vex Robotics championships for Middle and High School. A total of 90 teams will be competing, and Rolling Robots will have 4 teams represented. So, make sure to come out this weekend to the Pasadena Convention Center and see all the excellent Robots in action.