Building Robots at School

June 30, 2009

VEX Workshop: Outline

Filed under: Uncategorized — dtengineering @ 10:37 pm


VEX Workshop Participants and Robots
VEX Workshop Participants and Robots

I’ve been asked for information on what we covered during the VEX workshop.  Most of what I have presented is summarized in the posts below.  As we expected, however, the formal presentations… with the exception of our great guests from BCIT and UBC… were not the crucial aspect of the workshop.  The crucial part was giving teachers time to get “hands on” with the VEX system, to do a bit of programming… and to let them play.  I have attached the original itinerary with post-workshop observations marked in red.  The observations can best be summarized as that we planned too much “formal presentation” time and not enough “hands-on build time”.  Teachers aren’t so different from students… we want to experiment and build with this stuff, and then solve problems as we come across them.   There needs to be a balance between providing enough “up front” material so that the VEX builder can have fun and design with purpose, but not so much that they never actually get to do that designing and building.  We may have also tried to schedule too much in to two and a half days… a lot of autonomous programming got left out… but on the other hand, everyone was having such a great time with our mini-tournament on Friday morning that no one really worried about that.  Autonomous in EasyC is easy enough to figure out when the time comes.

It was also very useful to have blog entries… even brief ones… on most topics, as it meant that teachers didn’t have to take notes and we didn’t hand out reams of paper.  We were able to cover some topics VERY quickly, as people knew they could go online and, using the links here as a starting point, find pretty much everything they need to know on-line.

In short, our goal was to get teachers to get “hands on” with their very own robot.  I think everyone went away satisfied that they had learned enough about VEX that they want to introduce it to their students in the fall, and we are expecting to see 7-9 schools entering new VEX teams in the fall as a direct result of this workshop, and probably several more teams as “word of mouth” spreads from the teachers and students at the “new” schools.

As for “where did all the robots come from”, teachers had the option of signing up for a “Basic Workshop” or a “Full Competition Package” workshop.  The latter was much more expensive, but teachers went home with a VEX classroom lab kit, with EASYC… and, for those who signed up early… two bonus motors when they took the full competition package.  Teachers will be able to continue their learning using this package over the summer, then use it to introduce VEX to their students in the fall.  Teachers taking the basic workshop built a robot using one of the fifteen VEX kits (yes, 15… the wheel collection alone covers a table by itself) belonging to Gladstone Secondary.  Unfortunately, they had to take their robot apart and put the parts away at the end of the workshop.  Others, who had a VEX kit already, brought their school’s kit along with them, but experimented with some of Gladstone’s parts, like the copious stacks of omniwheels and metres and metres of tank treads that have built up over four or five years of VEX competition.

Finally, a tip of my hat to the workshop participants… it was your energy and enthusiasm that made this workshop such a success, even though we skipped almost half of our scheduled “formal” topics and presentations.


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