Robotics Expansion Project

This is an exciting time for STEM in West Virginia! Our schools are experiencing significant growth in robotics teams, and competitive robotics is now recognized as a varsity activity by the WVSSAC! Through the NASA Robotics Expansion Project (REP), the NASA Katherine Johnson IV&V Facility, Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, and Fairmont State University provide equipment and training to establish robotics teams in schools throughout West Virginia. This program represents a unique opportunity for your school or district to enhance student learning in STEM across all grade levels by starting robotics programs at significantly reduced startup costs.


Project Description & Goals

The high-level goal of the project is to bring robotics programs to every county in West Virginia. While robotics programs have experienced significant growth in the state over the last several years, teams are still concentrated to some extent in urban areas and more populous counties. Our ultimate goal is to make robotics programs available to all students throughout the state.


Within each county, we typically seek to establish not just a single team, but a progression of teams in different programs across an array of grade levels. This approach enables more students to be impacted, as well as contributing to the sustainability of the program by creating a pipeline of engaged students who can move into higher grade-level programs in later years.


Through the project, we provide resources and support for two REC Foundation robotics programs:

  • In the VEX IQ Challenge (VIQC), elementary and middle school students build robots from the plastic VEX IQ construction system to compete on a 6x8 foot field. Two teams collaborate to score as many points as possible during a match.

  • In the VEX Robotics Competition (VRC), high school students build robots from the metal VEX EDR construction system to compete on a 12x12 foot field. VRC matches are played “2 vs. 2”, so teams must both collaborate with and compete against other teams during a match.


In both VRC and VIQC, teams of students will design, build, program, and document robots to play the current season’s robot game. At tournaments, teams will collaborate with and compete against other teams to score as many points as possible, compete in the skills challenge to score as many points as possible on their own, and participate in interviews with STEM professionals to judge the quality of their documentation and engineering process.


Participating teams will compete in local qualifiers throughout the state, which advance teams to the West Virginia VEX State Championships, hosted at Fairmont State University. A select number of teams from our state championship are then invited to represent West Virginia at the VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, TX!


Resources

We will provide all participating schools with a robot kit corresponding to their program, free of charge. The robot kit will contain all the mechanical and electronic parts a new team needs to build a competition robot, and represents a significant portion of the startup costs for new teams. We also have a number of competition fields available for new teams on a case-by-case basis.


In addition to physical equipment, we will provide training to team coaches and students. Training will be provided by educational robotics experts from the NASA Katherine Johnson IV&V Facility’s Education Resource Center, and will cover robot design & programming, documentation, and competition structure. In addition, we will be available throughout the season to provide additional resources and support as needed.


Commitments

To ensure the success and sustainability of the program, we ask participating schools to make a few commitments:

  • Recruit a committed team coach, who could be a teacher, parent, or other volunteer.

  • Register the team with the REC Foundation ($200/season) and for one or more local qualifying events (typically $50/event).

  • High school teams must participate in the WVSSAC robotics state championship, tentatively scheduled for April 15, 2023.

  • If your school receives a field, we may ask that you provide the field for use at a local qualifying event or the state championship.


Contacts

To learn more about starting a team, please contact one of the following project coordinators:


Todd Ensign: tensign@fairmontstate.edu

Ryan Utzman: rutzman@fairmontstate.edu

John Holbrook: john.holbrook@fairmontstate.edu


For more information about VRC and VIQC, visit the REC Foundation website at https://www.roboticseducation.org.