I’m trying to start a new robotics program at our high school. Where does everyone find ideas or "how-to"s for building their robots? I have the Autodesk Curriculum, but it doesn’t really have practical advice such as different kinds of lifts or how they work. I don’t have an engineering background, and we are a VERY small school in Texas. Any ideas on resources? Thanks!

There are a lot of good resources here and the link will take you to the page on lifts.

I teach high school and middle school robotics as part of our CTE programs. I have used part of the Autodesk Curriculum, some things from Carnegie-Mellon, and some from my experience coaching VEX. I start with a lot of history of robotics and vocabulary, usually by having students use powerpoint and each slide must have a picture and two bullet points of their own information. I cover the parts of a robot, the specific VEX parts ( collars, set screws, various sensors, delrin bearings, etc ) I have them work on long term projects identifying land, sea and air robots and they also have to identify and explain 25 careers involved with robotics. We look for stories in the news of drones, AUV’s , commercial robots and miitary robots. Think of the ones used to find that Air Asia plane, explore oil well fire wreckage ( cap New Horizons well ) and shut down Fukishima nuclear reactor in Japan. We then build simple autonomous robots that have to pick up a tennis ball and put it in a box 3 ft away, going through a maze. this is then followed by adding remote controls and more difficult task, talking about advantages and disadvantages of various drive mechanisms, chain, gear ratios, pulleys, etc.

Thank you both very much! Rusty, I am great with history, identifying parts, and doing research projects over current robot uses. Did you know you can Skype with NASA’s Goddard Space Center about how they are trying to design a robotic arm that will refill fuel on satellites while in orbit? I can give you the contact information if you are interested. What I am weak in is knowing how to design the robots. We just went to our first VEX competition and I didn’t even understand most of the other robots we saw. For example, pneumatics or how the gears are used in lifts. Is there somewhere I can look up how stuff like that works? I haven’t looked at Carnagie yet beyond just for programming, so I will try that next.

I have a lot of resources that I use that I have collected for a few years. I have been doing VEX competitions for many years and have some tips and tricks I cross over from the competition side of things to the classroom. I can trade info with you directly if you want to send me an email . I remember well my early days in VEX competition and the classroom and how I hunted for info in starting out. I would be glad to help you as payback for all those that helped me along the way.

Just to get started, are you using RobotC or EasyC ? I only know RobotC. I am a PLTW school and I like their curriculum for middle school but for my high school classes I have developed my own that has been working pretty well. In my classes I get a varied of student experieces to start. Some have done FLL and some have done VEX while the majority have no robotics experience. To start my class I assume NO prior knowledge and go from there. My students who have some experience work faster so they are my mentors for the new folks. I start my students building mechanisms before we start on the actual robots so that they have an idea of how the materials work, gear ratios and mechanical advantage, torque and speed relationships, and I have my own requirements for all projects ( ie anytime an axle passes through a piece of metal it must have a delrin bearing, no cantilevered axles, etc ).