Teaching Vex IQ N00bs

Hey guys,

So I’m teaching a bunch of people doing VEX IQ (they’re middle schoolers, :P) how to do basic stuff so that their team doesn’t flounder around. To me, the basic problem is that they don’t know what a robot should be like (besides a clawbot). I’ve built a pretty good robot for Ringmaster, but I don’t want to show them since that’ll kinda ruin it and make the team essentially mentor built. How might I give them the experience of a fully built IQ bot without handing them the best design or giving them a horrible design?

You could show the team examples from previous games, as well as go over some “meta” concepts, like 4/6 bars, common gear ratios and amounts of motors, stuff like that.

just have them build what they want, then take them to a competition so after they have experience building whatever they come up with, then they can take inspiration from other teams at the competition. Of course, try to teach them about lift designs and gear ratios before they build.

You could also try watching past videos of high level iq competitions for inspiration. I’ve found thst doing that in vrc can actually be quite helpful.

Show them what other teams have built, see what they like, and emulate that. Then go to a competition, and improve from there. That’s usually what I recommend for new teams

With showing them others’ ideas there are two problems:

  1. They haven’t quite grasped VEX yet. They don’t have the faintest idea how X robot’s RD4B works.
  2. The likelihood is that they’ll just attempt to (badly) copy that robot and flounder around doing nothing.

Have they built clawbots? If not, that’s an excellent place to start (although there are others on this forum who would vehemently disagree). I’d suggest having them build clawbots, and practice the game for ~15 minutes or until something breaks. Then, have them analyze what went wrong, and what could be better. After a few iterations, or when you feel that they are ready, you can have them build a robot from scratch. Of course, throughout this, you can drop hints as to what to do, show them more advanced mechanisms, etc., so they’re not repeating the same mistakes, and they are adding more to the robot.

This is good for getting them to understand how the parts interact and work together. After some of this (I’d say 2 weeks to a month, but every group is different), you show them what other teams have built, have them build from scratch, have them continue their builds, or pretty much anything else.

Disclaimer: I have very little experience with VIQ. I can tell you from experience that a VRC clawbot built by newbie 8th graders will break down shortly after being turned on, but I can’t say the same about VIQ clawbots. From my marginal experience, those seem pretty sturdy and less subject to the effects of poor build quality.

There is an altered clawbot called Stretch that will work for Ringmaster. We are having our teams build that first, and then alter it. For our beginning teams, we have to allow a BUNCH of learning to drive time, so plan that into your schedule. Good luck, thanks for mentoring the littler ones!

We’ve done Elementary IQ for a couple years now and did pretty well.
This year is Middle School.

One thing I never understood is why it seemed to be OK to build a clawbot from instructions for competition but if kids built a competition bit from instructions it wasn’t OK? Caveat to that is, they shouldn’t build things they don’t ultimately understand and multiple teams with the same number should not be clones.

For Elementary I used mirroring, in that as a coach, for instance, I would help them build the left-half of the base then they would have to build the right half without any help. BTW, this is harder than you would think when these little kids are expected to put on gears, chains etc… some of the IQ stuff is challenging from a strength standpoint.
I would do the same for software, build a framework like move forward and turn right, then have them use that example and expand on it for their code that they do.

My take this year for middle school is they do it completely on their own. I may verbally help them imagine ideas, but never touch the robot or the code. Has it slowed things down, yes, but they are learning a ton because they had the foundation already, this is the next step.
I do, however, make them build a number of different lifts and bases first, so they know what they have to work with, then start the actual robot. For instance, last practice they built a straight lift, 4-bar, 6-bar, elevator, RD4b, chain bar, etc…

I find that with my middle school EDR kids its sometimes difficult to get them brainstorming different ideas. One thing I find that works well is to ask them what kinds of machines (not robots) they have seen in the real world that might work for the current game. For example, in ITZ, a forklift would be an idea for lifting and moving mobile goals. From there you can transition into explaining the key ideas. In this case, linear lifts for a forklift.

If you haven’t used VEX IQ parts, what TriDragon is talking about is that it is very difficult to push some of the parts together and to take them apart. Sometimes the force required exceeds what a child can generate without tools, and you’re not supposed to need much in the way of tools for VEXIQ. There were times when I had to put wheels/gears in a vice to get the axles out without breaking something. Another example: The retaining clip on one of the VEXIQ Brain batteries was bent slightly somewhere along the line. After that, the kids (5th graders) couldn’t press on it hard enough to get it to release. Ever. An adult always had to remove that battery, which will can cost the team consideration for judged awards if a judge sees you doing that.

One other issue: mirroring is a great technique, as mentioned above. Someone with experience builds one side, then newbies copy that to build the other side. However, some people can’t do the mirroring, or have tremendous problems with it. These people may have a form of dyslexia. Just be aware that they’re not failing to try. They may have an actual disorder that makes this activity more difficult. Coping techniques and compensations are required then.

To clarify this comment, I was meaning that you can have the kids generate instructions of the robot design you may have using snapCAD (whatever it’s called) with your help. Then build from them.

No one argued about the educationl value of building a clawbot. If you are referring to the recent thread, the debate was over the value of competing with a clawbot.