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Board 112: A STEM Training Program to Improve Middle and High School VEX Competition Outcomes

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Ryan Bobby Tang Dan Vaughn College of Aeronautics & Technology

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Ryan B. Tang Dan is a senior in the Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering Master's of Science Program at New York University Tandon School of Engineering. He currently works as an adjunct laboratory instructor for courses such as Introduction to Robotics. Ryan is still an active member of the Vaughn College Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Competition team and works as a faculty advisor to the team. Furthermore, Ryan Tang is the head coach of the VEX 16099 Overclock middle and high school robotics team.

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Shouling He Vaughn College of Aeronautics & Technology

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Dr. Shouling He is an associate professor of Engineering and Technology at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, where she is teaching the courses in Mechatronics Engineering and Electrical Engineering. Her research interests include modeling and simulation, microprocessors and PLCs, control system designs and Robotics. She has published more than 45 journal and conference papers in these research areas.

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The VEX Robotics International Competition, presented by the Robotics Engineering and Competition (REC) Foundation, provides an annual engineering challenge in STEM education for middle and high school students. The VEX competition promotes STEM to students and learning communities internationally while aiding the development of such skills as teamwork, leadership, presentation, and communication. This paper presents the development of a one-year afterschool course which provides middle school and high school students who had little to no experience in VEX robotics, with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the VEX Robotics International Competition.

This course was designed for students to work with experienced VEX competition team members after-school and weekends during the school year. The veteran team members were individuals who have experience competing on VEX high school and college teams and were able to act as coaches and mentors. The participating students were divided into teams of 10 members for the high school division and 12 members for the middle school division. During summer and winter break, students were given intensive training three days per week, which provided the necessary knowledge and skills to increase their capability in both VEX Robotics and robotics engineering. The training course incorporated the working principles of mobile robots, engineering design, computer aided design (CAD) software, mathematics, physics, computer programming, and technical writing. Throughout the course, students were given the tools and experience necessary to develop their presentation, public speaking, interview, teamwork, leadership, and communication skills.

As the students continued their participation in the course, they attended local competitions and tournaments hosted by the VEX REC Foundation. Attending each of the competitions depended upon the completion of the design and implementation of three robots which could achieve the competition tasks efficiently and effectively. Once this requirement was met, students were able to test their newfound skills and knowledge while coaches and mentors evaluated the students’ progress. In this paper, the VEX high school and middle school teams, named Overclock, 16099 (A, B, and M) were used to effectively test this new STEM course. The three Overclock teams consisted of a wide range of students from minimal knowledge in VEX robotics to students who had two years of VEX experience. In an overall assessment, it was found that students who participated in the course with minimal knowledge of robots were able to perform significantly better than those who had more than three years of robotics and VEX competition experience but did not participate in the course. Students involved in the program had also shown significant improvement in confidence while they are engaged in public speaking, presentation, hands-on work, or robot competition. Future improvements to the course may include student exposure to additive and subtractive manufacturing, aerial robotics, and an increased variety of electronic devices, such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Students who enrolled this course not only learned the knowledge and critical thinking strategies necessary to excel in the STEM field but are also facilitated with the skills necessary to pursue a career in engineering.

Tang Dan, R. B., & He, S. (2019, June), Board 112: A STEM Training Program to Improve Middle and High School VEX Competition Outcomes Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32191

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