VEX ROBOTICS DESIGN SYSTEM
Did you know, one of the best and most effective ways to teach children nowadays isn’t through textbooks, but through ROBOTS? Yes, those intelligent, autonomous, moving machines. Apparently, they’re not only good for sci-fi entertainment, they’re particularly useful in classrooms, too. One of the more popular learning platforms is the VEX System, a kit meant to challenge children as well as adults in the seemingly complex but exciting world of building robots. Intended mainly for students, the system offers a stimulating and hands-on platform for learning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), all with the help of robots.
Initially developed as part of a partnership between Innovation First, Inc. and IFIrobotics, the VEX Robotics Design System is centered around the VEX Starter Kit, which can be bought for about $300. (Yes, kind of expensive.) The kit comes with the VEX “brain,” or microcontroller, a remote control, various sensors, three electric motors and a servo, 8 wheels of varying sizes and purpose, gears, and structural parts. All additional parts (sensors, tank treads, motors, servos, gears, chain and sprocket set, extra transmitters and receivers, etc) can all be purchased separately. Not bad for a school project, eh. It’s been said that even die-hard robotics hobbyists appreciate the advanced capabilities of the VEX System.
The VEX Robotics System is obviously appealing to all curious children, but all the more to parents and educators, simply because creating these moving and “thinking” objects with VEX Robotics technology goes way beyond teaching science and engineering principles. It encourages important life skills like teamwork, leadership and problem-solving, independent and critical thinking and responsibility, among many others. It teaches the student mechanics, physics, mathematics, electronics, computer programming and of course robotics. Educators can also easily customize projects to meet the level of students’ abilities, so there’s always the thrill of a challenge, no matter what grade. In fact, the VEX platform has been rapidly expanding into the curriculums of middle schools, high schools and even university labs around the globe.
But the best thing about the VEX system is that it was developed and engineered with robotics competitions specifically in mind. The projects and programs are tailored to bring the fun and excitement of competitions into the classroom arena, so that substantial STEM concepts and life skills are integrated into the students without them even realizing it. Robotics has always been an effective and engaging way to incorporate learning into enjoyable activities, and what could be more enjoyable than the opportunity to build and compete with robots built by one’s own hands?
Competition is natural for VEX equipment owners as they have a wide selection of opportunities to experience the fun, motivation and excitement of competition. Some robotics competitions feature the VEX System exclusively while others have made select VEX components legal for participation. Aside from classroom competitions, one of the bigger competitions is a partnership with the Technology Student Association or TSA,(not to be confused with the Transportation Security Administration, a national non-profit organization for middle and high school students with a strong interest in technology. Members apply and integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts through co-curricular activities, competitive events and related programs, one of which is the TSA VEX Robotics tournaments, which are conducted at participating State Conventions and at the annual National Convention.
We at Robots and Androids recommend VEX to school-age children and college students who who might enjoy the challenge of building their own robots with COMPETITION in mind. It will also interest adults that like to tinker. There is a lot to keep children as well as adults busy with. And Vex kits grow and grow with one. We at Robots and Androids, purchased 4 of these kits when they went on half price sale at Radio Shack a couple of years back. Even without a teacher, Vex teaches robotics starting at the beginning and following through to a very advanced level.