VEX League pilot

We have launched!

IMG_1252Last week the excellent Mike Nelson from GoAhead Training led the initial training session for the schools who will be part of our pilot league. Most of the kits have kindly been funded by the Cleveland Scientific Institute and it was great to see Leila Elliott drop in to experience the excitement that was generated in the auditorium.

By the end of the day all the teams had built the basic chassis for their robots and driven them around the room. Most teams were then immersed in building the controllable claw when we had to call it a day. We will now run a short league with each school fielding a robot team to visit another school every other Thursday foIMG_1262r a couple of months. At this stage we want to keep it really simple so that we get the logistics right and the schools involved will soon be getting emails to tell them which school they will be playing first. The first ‘challenge’ can be found below and will form the basis of the fixture for week 1: 28th April.

This page will regularly be updated with images from the fixtures and  links to videos and help guides to support schools in developing their robots. By June we will look to build some coding into the fixtures.


Fixture 1 – 28th April

This challenge is intended to develop both driving and engineering skills. Each team must be given an identical slalom course with 6 cones or markers placed in a straight line. The basic level challenge will place the markers 50cm apart. The challenge is simple. Drive your robot round the slalom course and back as fast as possible. The slalom is also a relay with two drivers having to complete the course before the team has finished. The drivers cannot swap the controller until the robot is completely across the start line. The challenge can be attempted either indoors or outside, it is up to the host school. Teams can make as many modifications as they like to ensure that their robot is both faster and more driveable in between races, but each race will take place no more than ten minutes after the end of the previous. Teams can agree to rerun heats after modifications under the same rules or can take on the additional challenge:

Extension: Move the markers on the course to just 25cm apart

Extreme challenge: Place a plastic cup behind the last marker. The first driver must collect the cup on their slalom run and return it OVER the start line. The second driver must then take the cup on their slalom run and place it beyond the last marker before completing the slalom without it.

Teams can agree which challenge they would like to attempt either by email before the event or when they meet on the evening.


Fixture 2 – 12th May

This challenge is to build on the driving skills that were developed last week. Teams will also use their engineering skills to apply what they have learned about how to make their robots more agile and suited to the task. Engineering is primarily about making sure the job is completed as effectively as possible. Challenge two mirrors the first challenge but adds the next dimension, the claw. The task is similar to week one but includes picking up a tennis ball on the first run round the slalom and then replacing it on the second run. Humans are not allowed to touch the ball at any point during a race so if the ball decides to go for a roll, the robot must retrieve it.  The ball must be replaced within 10cm of its original starting position when it is being put back (on the second run). How the ball is moved or carried is entirely up to each team, you have many parts available in your pack to develop the robot however you want. The basic run is this:

Extension: Move the markers on the course to just 25cm apart

Extreme challenge: Two balls must be moved at the same time on each run


Fixture 3 – 26th May

This challenge is to change each team’s focus from the driveabilty of the robot to the form that best suits a task. You must engineer it to work differently. So the challenge is simple, a straight race of 10metres. Oh, except you are not allowed to have any wheels. You must think of different ways that machines or creatures can move and then you must re-engineer your robot in the best way that you think is possible. Please remember, the task is about motion and speed, engineer your robot to achieve that better than anyone else. You can adapt what you have now or you can start from scratch. During the fixture itself it may be a nice idea to run the race then give each team ten minutes to try to adapt their design to go even faster (even if it doesn’t make you win).

Extension: Can you complete a slalom course similar to Fixture 1 with your new way of moving?

Extreme challenge: Can you use your robot to retrieve a tennis ball around your slalom course?


Fixture 4 – 9th May

Oh dear, such a quick turn around following half term until the next fixture! Many of you run your VEX club on a Thursday night so this week you will have so little time to build your robot. So I will be kind. The aim is simple, let’s focus on the engineering. You must drive your robot (you are allowed as many wheels as you want this week!) along a five metre track. Simple? Oh did I mention that you have to build a structure on top of your robot that is as tall as you can make it. First over the line is not the winner; tallest over the line is – but they must complete the course without being held or picked up. Once you fall, you are disqualified. I would suggest that teams take parts pre-assembled for the fixture (if you get chance to try some trial builds before Thursday night) and that there is a half hour ‘building time’ allocated before the course is attempted. Some schools have been building in a five minute rebuild time to each fixture with children adapting what they have created for a ‘best of three format’.

Extension: Can your robots complete a five metre slalom course with the structures attached to them. Moving the robot from side to side creates more instability so will present more challenge.

Extreme challenge: Can your structure carry a tennis ball along the track track without it falling off?

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