Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Vex Robotics: A Great Makerspace Addition

This is the second school year that our school library has offered a makerspace. There has been a lot of trial and error to grow the space. Our Vex Robotics team now meets in the space and I co-sponsor the team. Talk about deer in the headlights, that's how I felt to sponsor the team for the first time. But, I quickly discovered Vex and makersapce are a perfect fit.

The Vex kits arrived in a plastic tubs. The kits we ordered included lots of plastic pieces, sensors, and a brian (all of the pieces and sensors operate through this component). If you have never seen a kit before it very much like a Lego kit.

It is the kids job to build a robot to complete specific tasks. To get the job done, teamwork is essential. Which means the students need to learn how to resolve conflict and stay on task to complete the robot in time for competition. This year the Vex IQ Bankshot challenged students to build a robot that could pick up as many balls possible with limited time placing them over a fence, the robot needed to shoot balls into a hoop, and then drive up a ramp knocking as many balls off the ramp as possible. Students are also given the opportunity to code their robot to complete specific tasks.

To prepare for competition students meet before and after school to work on their robot, coding, and practice driving the robot. Competition day feels like game day. It's a loud gathering place filled with nervous energy and lots of adrenaline. It's also like a maker faire seeing how all the different teams built their robot and met the challenge.

Vex Robotics and makerspaces have a lot in common. Both encourage problem solving, collaboration, and innovation. These are life skills that students need time to practice.

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