For clubs outside the United States, you will need to understand the grade level definitions used by the RECF for competition teams. Below are the definitions for VEXIQ Challenge and VEX Robotics Competition. If you have questions, you can contact your RECF Regional Manager for assistance.
VEXIQ Challenge has specific definitions for student and grade level in the game manual each year, for Ring Master season 1):
VEX Robotics Competition has specific definition for student and grade level in the game manual each year, for the In The Zone season 2):
Here's what you need to get started:
Next, you need to determine at what grade level (Elementary, Middle, or High School) and on what platform (IQ or EDR) you would like to focus on.
Elementary is grades K-5, Middle School is grades 6-8 (unless 9th grade is in the same building), and High School is grades 9-12. All kids on a team need to be at the same school level. For a small private club that is only going to run a few years, they can all be the same grade if that's the way it works out, but for a school or club program that is intended to run indefinitely, mixing up the grade level of students on a given team has benefits.
VEX IQ is like K'Nex, Lego, or Lego Mindstorms (which it competes with directly) - plastic pieces that get clicked together. No tools and very little mechanical background is needed for success. VEX IQ can be used at the Elementary and Middle School levels, and is significantly cheaper than the metal VEX EDR kits. VEX EDR is similar to Erector sets for those of us old enough to remember what they are. Metal pieces, connected by screws, with some mechanical aptitude required for success. MUCH more flexible for construction and design, though. In my experience, MOST middle school students can handle VEX EDR - however, again, if budget is a driving force, VEX IQ is considerably cheaper across the board.
Your next step is to register your teams…
Go to https://www.robotevents.com/ and create an account (“Register”). Select “Register a new team” for whatever level you are creating a team for. You can either select a team number (it must be a team number that isn't already being used). Your team will also need to have an Alpha suffix, i.e. 5555A. If you are registering multiple teams for the first time, for ease of management, register your teams sequentially; i.e. if you are registering 4 new teams, make them 5555A, 5555B, 5555C, and 5555D. The cost for registering your first team is higher than the cost for registering subsequent teams.
2017-18 In The Zone Season Registration Fees:
The REC Foundation offers grants of a Free VEX EDR Competition SuperKit plus accessories or a VEX IQ Superkit plus accessories to qualifying new teams. Instructions on how to apply for the grant can be found here.
Pete Ruckelshaus, Team 7517[A-K] I was contacted by the father of one of my students; the father was involved in VEX and now works for the foundation. I took the idea to my building principal (I'm a middle school teacher) and…well, he sort of got carried away. Next thing I know, he sees me in the hallway and tells me that he's ordered 10 EDR competition kits. Due to my complete lack of experience with VEX, I had little if any idea of what that meant and what I was getting myself into. I scheduled an intro meeting for students, and had 96 students in a classroom that normally held 30. I guess we were going to have a big team. After the initial outlay, the school was going to provide us with a small budget and we would be responsible for the rest.
The first year was a wash. We didn't go to any competitions, but we spent the season getting to learn all about VEX, organizing our kits, etc. We met two days a week after school for 1.5 hours per day. In the end, we had about 60 6th - 8th graders who showed up on a regular basis. As a teacher and facilitator, it was overwhelming - there were far too many kids for any number of reasons. First, there were 3 adults (most of the time) leading a very hands-on activity. Second, with an average of 6 or 7 kids per team, half of the kids were actually working on their robots, with the other half just sitting around. Middle schoolers don't just sit around well.
We went into the second season with a better idea of what we needed to do, but still without any competition experience. First, we limited team size to 4 kids per team, so 40 kids total. That made people management much easier, and each student had something to do. We charged a club fee of $50 per student to help defray expenses and also ensure that kids would actually show up - with the fee, there was more ownership of the club by students and their parents. We learned how to cut metal and we went beyond the Clawbot to where the kids were creating their own designs to solve the challenge problem. The kids were learning, they were having fun, and somehow, we had a few teams qualify to go to states. Also, with the help of our regional rep and a couple of other clubs, we ran our first event with 24 robots competing total. It was a good experience, and it added a bit to our revenue so that we could buy things that the team needed. Additionally, we applied for and received a sizable grant from the district community education foundation, which I used to buy tools and materials for the team. However, I was still behind the power curve with VEX - there's a ton to learn and with everything else going on with running a large team, I still wasn't completely comfortable with the platform.
The third season was incrementally better than the second. We tried to run a full event, but unfortunately it was snowed out. The only real SNAFU was limiting the number of kids to 40 - I ended up running registration as first-come, first-served, but parent complaints led to that being changed to a lottery drawing. From this point on, the kids who participated in robotics in the prior year are automatically on the team, and everyone else gets in via lottery.
By the fourth season, I realized that I was finally very comfortable with how everything worked. That was a huge help, and my enthusiasm for the program improved (I would say that I was a reluctant VEX coach until then). By this point I had 8th graders who had participated in VEX for 3 years. They were pros, and they were great at sharing their experience with the younger kids (sometimes I needed to prod them in that direction, though). We ran two full events, and through event registration fees and a snack bar, we raised a considerable amount of money - enough to buy a second field. I also started building up a supply of spares - extras of things that break, get lost, or just wear out. It was a good season, and 9 out of 10 teams qualified for states. I also helped our high school get a team started, as well as a middle school in another district.
Main things I've learned
If I had it all to do over again…