what is the best software to teach 3-5th graders to use?
For IQ robots, I would look at the software I work with, Robot Mesh Studio Blockly. The basic license is free, it is based on Google’s Blockly interface (used in a LOT of the Hour of Code activities), and includes an easy upgrade path to Python for your more advanced kids. You can see the free curriculum here, and the software is here. As a bonus, it is browser based, so you don’t need to install an application on your computer. Robot Mesh Studio works on Windows, MacOS, Linux and Chromebooks.
I use Vex IQ with grades 2-5 mixed together, kids starting at various times, so everyone at different levels. I start everyone with the virtual bot (“mimic”) Hour of Code that Robot Mesh offers, then have them build that bot, then go through the (nearly identical) “Real Bot” Hour of Code at Robot Mesh. I then move them to Robot Mesh Studio, mix in giving them next-step programming assignments, modifying their bots, building other builds from https://www.vexrobotics.com/vexiq/resources/robot-builds, and day-dreaming up whatever they can invent. I show them https://www.vexforum.com/c/vex-iq-general-discussion/vex-iq-robot-showcase especially builds by @Valeria93 and @Vexatron. Whatever they build I ask them to program. I use the controllers sparingly at first, almost as reward or fatigue breaker; later we do more with them.
I have a classroom package from RM and use the local desktop application (via Parallels on my Mac at home; Windows at school) to look at the students’ saved programs and add comments for them to consider.
I have also taken the RobotC based instructor training presented by Carnegie Mellon, and I show them that environment after RM. To me, the RobotC “Graphical” environment seems intended as an intro to the RobotC text environment. See this topic: Robot C Graphical (Multi-Task) . The third post, by @Jason63, says it clearly. My totally non-expert opinion is that the linear, limited approach of Graphical RobotC might teach tighter coding skills. Lots of other discussion around about this, like Why Start with C++?.
I then show them Modkit, and I routinely write a simple program in all three environments, screenshot and Photoshop them to print and laminate for the students to inspect, and have them demonstrate all three on bots. I am using Modkit more lately, the various videos online are useful, see Would anyone be willing to share a sample code for VEX IQ Highriser and/or Ringmaster?.
I have all three applications on the laptops, and eventually they pick a favorite, though I encourage them to try all three.
There are some fun errors in the various curriculum… I do encourage you to try the examples on real bots yourself before trying to help the students.
Always good to have a plan B, software and firmware can need updating, the web-based RM environment requires good internet, a 2nd grader might walk in and “get it” all in two days and be bored without inspirational challenges while a 5th grader is “getting” nothing and wants help on everything.
At this point I put in 2 full days of prep for each 3 hour class, making sure each bot and laptop will actually download and run, Windows is updated, drivers are reloaded if necessary, charging batteries, etc., and staying ahead of the students’ learning.
So, “best”? All three are useful in different ways. Try them yourself, you’ll need to be somewhat fluent to guide students…
Best job I’ve ever had.
So it depends. If they have ready access to iPads then I go Modkit. Easy to teach, easy to use, download via bluetooth. It’s all self contained.
Otherwise it’s the text version of RobotC. People think I have way too much love for RobotC, but it’s all due to the Sample Programs. Motors to make a base go, got a sample for that. Want to know how to do brakes, got a sample for that. Touchlight, got a sample for that. I can teach roboteers the basics and when I get “how do I do…” I can go “Did you look for a sample?”
Not a big fan of things that require internet “cloud” to get to them. (Years of FRC / VEX not happy about wifi use, and doing events in schools that don’t have outsider accessible services)
I will admit that I’ve not messed with the Robot Mesh products.
Yes, I’m writing that grant request for iPads and Smart Radios today.
+1 Yes, it is good to be able to look at students’ saved programs, save comments in them, tee up examples and “what’s wrong with this program” problems to solve, all whenever, wherever I like. I use dropbox and flashdrives for RobotC and Modkit, much more trouble with 20 laptops.
And the 3D mimics work better for me than RVW, can go fullscreen, can make your own designs including physics demo machines, has virtual Controller, can be driven by keyboard I think, even the touchLED responds to being “touched”. I would love RVW environments and stored bots in RMS…
The configuration panel is way ahead of the other two for ease of use.
Their graphical Blocks paradigm has a great contextual right-click menu that the other two desperately need. (Don’t try to delete a single block out of a long Modkit stack! And no undo!?!) Duplicating stacks of blocks is easy, just slam then into a loop, right-click dup that, take them out and use. Area select would be nice and sensable scrollwheel use, but there’s always something…
There’s variables and functions, debugger, datalogging (I think), more math (than Modkit), rounding and lists. And their integer math seems real (I’m looking at you, Modkit… ). Oh yeah, and has multi-theading, which I didn’t know until a 2nd grader showed me…
I would like more formatting control when writing to the LCD.
The “help” is aimed at Python, Modkit has arguably the most direct help. All three need much better help systems. And while there are nice tutorials out there, more can be done.
The Python text is always visible, doesn’t become a separate file, updates real-time, shows errors.
Again, they are all special in their own way, and each has their foibles. I completely respect the work that went into RobotC, and the power and utility of the text version. Modkit’s object/broadcast (accurate terms?) paradigm, in my unexpert opinion, maybe prepares students for modern real-world programming work (anyone agree/disagree?)
Sometimes it is slow to load (could be on my end). There can be some cute gliches in the “mimics”. I wish the virtual world used exact physics; real-world friction and inertia needs to taught in the real world, after the math is working for them. I would love a pro makeover of their website and the system to save, sort, and open user programs, and also the whole tab panel blue line thing. The virtual (mimic) editor could use a user saved (symbol) library.
All three are provided essentially for free! Pie in the sky in my hand. Thank you all for person-years of work on these tools!
As usual, I welcome correction of my views. (or confirmation…) (tl;dr?)
ps, is this really the right category for this topic?
Is there some reason I can’t have RobotC? ( 4500 words deleted, just free up RobotC)
Well, I was more responding to OP, and others with perhaps less experience than you have.
We do work with 3 and 4 wheel holonomic omnibots. A 3rd grader just built an H-drive bot. Can anyone tell me how to use the Controller with those, in RobotC Graphical?
No, but I can in the text version
Long thing that I deleted was a request to not scrap RobotC for whatever you want to call VCS for IQ. Fine with messing with the older roboteers. I have a hard time with elementary roboteers building robots, why add to the pain?
Ah, agree on that, unless they can get the magic to work, and include what you like about current RobotC. Tell them (I’m sure you have) how to include the goodness you like in the new stuff they make.
RobotC will still work, yes? Just not supported in some way?
Actually would like to read those 4500 words…
I would love to learn Python!
Can I do it with virtual robot?
My school season ended and we couldn’t build anymore.
“Hour of Code” is Blockly (drag and drop graphical) but you can look at the Python (click on “Generated Code” tab) that the Blocks create. I don’t know if you will see best practices, but I think good for the basics. You can add your own programming inside any of the 11 activities and see the results.
If you copy a “Project” (click on “Options” gear icon), the 3D virtual tools activate, and you can add sensors, game elements, rebuild bot.
allows you to create and program an IQ or EDR “mimic” (virtual bot) in Python. The learning curve for the 3D build might be steep, but there is an active public offering of user programs, some have complex bots and Python programs that you can copy and modify. Sort by type (I have to click twice to get it to sort) on the “Public” tab and scroll sideways, look for “An empty Python project for VEX EDR (or IQ) Mimic” (the default description). The descriptions can be changed and the project names might not help, so you have to learn to recognize project types by the Icon…
Some will be private, but for an EDR example:
Again, if you copy it, the 3D virtual tools activate, and you can add sensors, game elements, rebuild bot.
There are some V5 projects.
Wait, what grade are you in? Considering the title of this topic " Best software for vex iq 3-5th graders"…
Thank you for detailed steps. I will try it when I get home.
Our middle school doesn’t have VEX IQ. We got V5 in November.
Our Vex build sessions are over and I couldn’t use V5 untill the next school year begins.
Robot Mesh Studio also includes V5 mimics. You can check out learning options at curriculum.robotmesh.com.