Best software for programming with Elementary and Middle School students

Our club is relatively new to Robotics & VEX IQ. In your new experience, what is the best programming software to use for 4th-8th grade? Just want to figure out how to best get started with them for programming in VEX IQ. We are an iPad school, so I am currently having them learning from simple programming apps on their devices to get them started. Let me know when you can. Thanks!

​- Tim (HFGS)

My opinion may be a tiny bit biased (full disclosure: I am the technical support lead for ROBOTC) but I highly suggest taking a look at the Graphical Natural Language option in ROBOTC. We’ve designed this programming option to be as easy-to-use as possible for newer programmers while keeping the actual C-based code visibly present on the screen at all times. This allows students to get used to the syntax and flow of C programming, without having to worry about misspelling a command or forgetting to add key characters to the commands.

ROBOTC Graphical Natural Language for VEX IQ:

The students can use the ROBOTC Graphical code they create to program both physical and Virtual Worlds robots. The Virtual Worlds environment we’ve developed is designed to simulate real VEX IQ robots as closely as possible and allows programmers to test their code in a virtual environment; no robots required (this is allows you to give students programming assignments/practice outside of the classroom and at home, without having to send a physical robot home with them). One of the coolest features of the Virtual Worlds environment are the different level packs available which range from the exotic (Ruins of Atlantis, Operation Reset, Palm Island Training Grounds) to the ‘real-life’ tables (VEX IQ Bank Shot, VEX IQ Challenge Pack).

Robot Virtual Worlds main page:

The VEX IQ Challenge Pack is unique as it maps directly to the ROBOTC Graphical: Introduction to Programming VEX IQ curriculum that we offer free-of-charge through the ROBOTC website. This curriculum assumes no prior knowledge and walks through all of the aspects of programming a VEX IQ robot using ROBOTC Graphical Natural Language. Each core concept (Getting Started, Basic Movement, Sensors, Program Flow, and Direct Control) are broken down into specific sub-sections, which are then broken down into specific video based lessons. This allows students to work through each video section (and the relevant challenges and support material) at their own pace.

The individual challenges for each section are emulated in the VEX IQ Challenge Pack Virtual World, or you can build them yourself for your physical robots to solve (each challenge has a PDF guide to show how to set it up in the classroom and how the challenge should be solved, etc).

ROBOTC Graphical Introduction to Programming VEX IQ:
Sample Challenge PDF:

We also have an iOS app available for iPads that can be used to program the VEX IQ Challenge Pack on an iPad. This app uses the same ROBOTC Graphical commands found in the standard ROBOTC computer programs, and maps directly to the VEX IQ curriculum that we offer (just like the VEX IQ Challenge Pack Virtual World). Most of the challenges found in the curriculum are currently available and we plan on adding additional levels in the future.

ROBOTC Graphical Virtual Worlds App:

We are also currently developing a version of the app that will allow users to communicate with a physical VEX IQ robot through the use of the recently announced VEX IQ Smart Radio (through the use of Bluetooth communications). More information on this functionality and build will be released on our blog,, as it becomes available.

Finally, we are currently giving VEX Cortex and VEX IQ teams a Robot Virtual Worlds license to use during the summer free-of-charge. This license can be used by you (or your students) to get started with programming the VEX IQ robots through the Virtual Worlds environment. You can have your students sign up for the license via the link below, run through the curriculum during the summer (at their own pace, on their own computers using the Virtual Worlds environment), then have them bring their own custom programs into school in the following summer to run on the physical robots (since the same code is used for the physical and Virtual Worlds robots).

ROBOTC for VEX Summer 2015 license details:

I know this has been a lot of information, and there is still a lot more that we offer that I haven’t touched on yet. If you have any questions on any of this information, how to get started with the VEX IQ platform, etc, please feel free to contact me directly via PM or our support ticketing system ( and we will be more than happy to guide you in the right direction. Also, check out for an easy-to-use site that aggregates almost all of the information I’ve provided above (as well as additional information such as the research aspects of the Virtual Worlds software, Professional Development certification courses, etc).

VEX Teacher website: