Curriculum suggestions

I’ve recently encountered a couple situations where non-technical parents are thinking of starting up a Vex team (they will probably be a home-based team, possibly an extracurricular school team where the teacher is not involved, so the parents will have to carry the technical load).

Do you have any curriculum suggestions? Has anyone used the Autodesk curriculum, and if so, do you think it would be appropriate in this setting? These are people who have never done CAD or robotics of any kind.

I once got a quick look-over of the curriculum, but I don’t have Autodesk Inventor (or a computer with enough memory to support it), so I haven’t been able to look it over thoroughly.

I’m also putting the finishing touches on a “Clueless Coach’s Companion for VRC”, intended as advice for non-technical parents/coaches. When I get some curriculum suggestions, I’ll post it for suggestions/commentary, which would be greatly appreciated.

First, the VEX Inventor’s Guide is a terrific resource, and not just for non-technical people.

Second, the Autodesk/VEX curriculum is really good, and included with every Classroom Lab Kit. If you don’t want to use CAD, skip the CAD parts, it’s still a good way to learn about the mechatronics side of VEX.

Both Intelitek and CMU have good programming-oriented curricula, and cover the mechantronics, too. They are not free, but tend to be more comprehensive.

For someone just starting out, and presumably short of money and knowledge, you could do a lot worse than downloading both the 2005 and 2008 versions of the Inventor’s Guide:’s_Guide

Other good resources for rookies are the VEX forum, and these videos: [

I look forward to seeing your “Clueless Coach’s Guide.” If you want some editorial feedback, you might post a draft on the Wiki and ask for feedback here in the forum. I’m sure you will get a ton of good help.](

There may be books available about starting home teams for other robot competitions, like FLL or AcDec, that would be helpful in organization ways. NEMO (NonEngineering Mentor Org) similarly.

After you build squarebot and protobot, copying robots from past years “reveal” forum threads would be a good way to learn about the basic concepts.

Trevor Robinson, a graduate student here at Utah State University developed a VEX curriculum for his masters project. It is being used by the Design Academy, our after school team, and by several other local teams. It is designed for after school clubs or for classroom situations where students sign up for the same course year after year. Both situations have students with different levels or years of experience. As a result, the curriculum utilizes an open-entry/open-exit design. Students can come and go based on their schedule or interest level. Best or all, it is free. Please check it out at From the main menu select Robotics, and then select Competitive VEX Robot Designer Curriculum. It is broken into various skill sets (units) with formal lesson plans and power point presentations that provide the content.

Gary Stewardson

Gary – welcome to the forum! For those of you that haven’t met him, Gary is a professor at Utah State University and runs both an outstanding after-school robotics program called the Design Academy and the first VRC tournament in Utah. In his spare time, he also supports one of the first VRC college teams.

I just looked at the online resourse Gary…Tell Trevor its a great start…Really

May I link to it as a resource for other teachers here in B.C.?

Don’t worry too much about resources for the adults in a home team setting…
The number of online resources are increasing daily and if you ask a questions on the vex forums (search first please to see if the answer is already there) you will usually get an answer quickly…Besides a well built protobot with just a few mods, can be a formidable opponent!

And the Vex Robotics community is one that if you ask someone for help they usually offer everything they can. And besides really the adults do not need to become experts here…that is the job of the builders, the students. They tend to be fearless about using online forums to post up questions and will quickly be ahead of most adults in techincal aspects of all that is vex…

Your main job as an adult supporting a team is the coaching and managing of that team…

but that said a “Clueless Coach’s Companion for VRC” is a great idea Manic.

The best way to learn lots as a player or a coach is get to a tournament!..

Oh and about using CAD…Its great for kids that have an idea about building things already… So what I usually do is let new students start building right of that bat…yes no drawings at all…then as they build and gain some experience then they start trying to explain ideas and naturally start drawing… then as time goes on as their ability to design increases, that is when I suggest you introduce CAD drawings.

Yes, go ahead and share the curriculum with other teachers. We posted it with the hope others might find it useful.

Rick, do you know where the build instructions to the Protobot and Tumblerbot are?. The Squarebot instructions are embedded in the 2005 Inventor’s Guide - Structure subsection, but I couldn’t find the other 2 models in the 2008 guide.

Gary, the curriculum looks great, though better for my more advanced students who are looking to optimize their designs.

My problem is not too few resources, but too many. There are 100 necessary ideas buried under 1000 less important ones, and sifting the highest priority information to the top is essential. I can’t coach the other 2 teams (30 and 40 minutes away) because I have my own team here.

People in our area seem to need a lot of support, especially compared to other regions. In 8 years, I’ve seen 5 robotics programs start and die, due to the leaders feeling it was “too hard” with “too much information I can’t understand”. The 3 Vex kits that sit in closets (kept off eBay for sentimental reasons) could make me cry. Six robotics teams still remain (3 LEGO, 3 Vex, including my own). Most of our coaches are stay-at-home moms or teachers. None are engineers or have access to an advisor who is an engineer or computer scientist.

Thanks to all for the suggestions, which I took the liberty of including. The document is now uploaded to my website, but I’ll probably migrate it to the Vex Wiki when it’s polished. [ (scroll to the bottom under Resources for Vex).]( (scroll to the bottom under Resources for Vex).)

I’m not Rick, but does this help?


Yes, that’s what I’m looking for, thanks! I don’t suppose you know the link of the tumblerbot?

I was also wondering if we could upload these somewhere on the Vex Wiki, or at least get access to the main page where it’s posted (going to tells me that I’m forbidden access). It took me over 20 minutes to find the right combination of browser and Adobe version to get access to this file. In contrast, when I access a page with a link (rather than going directly to the link), I’m able to right click on the link, save the file to my computer, and open it up right away.

Tumbler is in the same pdf, so just scroll down and you will find it.

I actually found this by doing a google search. Our protobot was inherited, so we had no idea as to what it was or what it was called. We are rookies when it comes to VEX. The poor thing was a falling apart beast that never functioned correctly, but somehow with searches, I figured it out what it was and we were able to get it to work. Now, it is a Jewel, greatly improved by suggestions from the New Zealand World Championship visit to my classroom.

I agree that it should be easier to find! Perhaps a WIKI expert can help!


The “sort-of” finalized version is finally uploaded and available here:

I’m giving it to my rookie coaches/mentors and team parents, in case they have to step in.

This is an amazing resource – thanks for sharing it with everyone! I can’t imagine how long it took to write…

That PDF is amazing! From a student’s perspective it seems to address pretty much everything while still keeping a wide approach and targeting the “clueless” coaches.

Probably a lot less time than it took to build some of your amazing contraptions!

Today a student, tomorrow a coach. This was actually prepared for one of my graduated students who is being bumped up to mentor/coach of a splinter team. There’s a slightly different feel to being the “keeper of the list”.

Any suggestions/additions are welcome. I’ve already gotten one good suggestion for an addition today, so an new and improved version will probably appear at some point.

Perhaps I missed it, but a glossary or terms (definitions) would be extra helpful. There are a lot of terms that are used on this forum that I am not familiar with, so certainly my students are not.



Ann – sorry it took me a while to get back to this thread, but I noticed that a list of terms is being compiled in another thread. Were there any other specific terms you’re interested in?

When I first started in robotics, I read every entry in the FIRST Wiki (similar to the Vex Wiki, like the list of terms at the bottom of this page), which I found helpful for getting an overview of technical concepts. The only thing that I don’t especially care for is that Wiki-style organization is alphabetical, rather than categorical.

I’m still trying to decide whether to include a glossary in the guide. Trying to select which terms to include and which to exclude might be tricky.

A slightly improved version of “Clueless Coach” (hopefully the last) is now uploaded (same link). It includes an slightly expanded description of judging and a link to the glossary in the Vex Wiki, thanks to Jenny and Ann.

Looks like a great resource to let newbies know what to expect.

  • poor readers may benefit from more bulletted lists than long text blocks
  • suggest **either ** 4" or 2.75" double roller omniwheels (Hi Rick)

Ideas for even more expanded awards section:

  • Winning an award is fun, so it is worth some preparation
  • Find out what awards are available at your next contest
  • Pick some awards to try for, and do documentation in advance
    – Most teams won’t have any, so it may not take much
  • Make a poster: “Judges: Consider us for award X, ask us!”
    – Then make sure you have practiced a nice soundbite (5-20 sec) answer.
  • Judges for Design awards like to see notebooks of progress across several design iterations.
    – Take pictures of your first crummy robots to show how far you have come since then.