Report on Starting STEM Early
VEX Robotics has a strong commitment to ensuring that young students have access and opportunities to experience high-quality STEM education. A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine echoes that sentiment.
“Preschool through fifth grade is a unique and critical window for kids to engage with science and engineering, and it’s clear we need policies that can give all students access to this opportunity,” said Elizabeth Davis, professor at the University of Michigan School of Education and chair of the committee that wrote the report. “To make sure every student in the U.S. receives their best shot at excelling in these areas and experiences the joy and wonder of science and engineering, we need to improve curriculum materials, design effective learning environments, and support our educators with resources and meaningful learning opportunities.”
The report identifies three key areas for starting STEM early:
- Teaching Science and Engineering
- Improved curricula
- Teacher Professional Development
The first area may seem obvious. Unfortunately, however, the recent NAEP results for Science paints a bleak picture for science instruction:
“Moreover, half of 12th graders, 42 percent of those in grade 8, and 30 percent of 4th graders only engage in ‘scientific inquiry-related classroom activities’ once or twice a year—or never.”
Fortunately, products like VEX GO have been shown to engage young students in meaningful STEM learning.
VEX PD+ adds more content for Mentor PD+
Many great additions were made to VEX Professional Development Plus (PD+) during the month of November. Videos have been added for Mentor PD+ by RECF experts, including ‘Roles on a Competition Team,’ ‘Creating an Inclusive Environment,’ ‘Online Challenges,’ ‘The Engineering Design Notebook,’ ‘Competition Day Best Practices,’ and more! Mentor PD+ is free with a RECF team registration.
The STEM Library also contains a great series of videos focused on bringing educational research to life. These videos aim to keep teachers up to date on the latest educational research while also providing them with practical tips and techniques that can immediately be applied to a classroom. These videos include:
- Connecting Research to Practice: Teaching Creativity
- Connecting Research to Practice: Eliciting Student Understanding
- Connecting Research to Practice: Thinking Conceptually about Coding
- And more
The VEX Continuum
The Mountain Brook School System, located right outside of Birmingham, Alabama, has a rich STEM program supported by the VEX Robotics Continuum. VEX Robotics and STEM have grown from one teacher with two class offerings, to three full-time STEM teachers with eight different class offerings. Mountain Brook has also done impressive things on the competition field: teams from Mountain Brook have won numerous state championships and have competed at VEX Worlds. One recent graduate used her experience with VEX Robotics as the main theme of her college essay. She is currently in her second year at Harvard.
Elementary students in grades 2 and 3 are using VEX GO as part of their weekly specials rotation. VEX 123 will be offered to Kindergarten and 1st grade students this spring.
Upon completion of the sixth grade, students migrate into Mountain Brook Junior High School where they attend seventh through ninth grades. Middle School students experience VEX via elective courses both through Project Lead the Way classes and also a VEX IQ competition class.
Students then go to Mountain Brook High School, which serves grades ten through twelve. Here, students are introduced to V5 through an Introduction to Engineering course and another class with the VEX Workcell. Both classes use the VEX STEM Labs for their curriculum.
Mountain Brook has also utilized VEXcode VR. Last year, as a result of COVID protocols, all 3rd – 6th graders completed 13 hours of instruction with VEXcode VR. It has now become a part of their curriculum. High school teacher James Savant noted that students use VEXcode VR to practice their ideas before applying them to physical robots.
Teachers at Mountain Brook have been able to utilize VEX STEM Labs and the VEX Educator certifications. Amy Anderson, STEM Facilitator and VEX IQ Coach / Event Partner says, “I don’t think I could have started teaching effectively without going through the educator certification first. That gave me the foundational knowledge I needed to feel comfortable using the STEM Labs. I use STEM Library articles to dive deeper into the mechanics of things and that really helped me deepen my understanding of how things worked.” James Savant has helped spearhead the competition programs at Mountain Brook to where they now have over 20 teams competing. A key to their success, James noted, is starting STEM early. “There is a lot of buy-in at the elementary level. We host four community events each year where Junior High students come and perform service hours hosting competitions and helping elementary students with their robots.”
Mountain Brook is using the VEX continuum to achieve great things with their students, both in the classroom and on the competition field. The Mountain Brook STEM teachers are members of the VEX PD+ community, where you can join them and learn from their STEM expertise.
Learn more about VEX Professional Development Plus
More about the VEX Continuum
The VEX K-16 Continuum brings STEM principles to life with engaging hands-on and minds-on experiences that engage all students. VEX Robots are used as an instructional organizer that allows both novice and advanced learners to apply their knowledge and skills, collaborate with their peers, and understand the world around them. Each point in the VEX Continuum is scaffolded to ensure both differentiation and seamless student progression. The VEX Continuum provides appropriate support based on individual students’ needs so that all students have the opportunity to achieve similar levels of success. STEM classes that span multiple grade levels fosters a STEM culture that supports diverse learners and promotes retention. Administrators, educators and students all benefit from consistent hardware, content, tools, and support across the entire continuum. The VEX Continuum provides students with an interdisciplinary approach to learning while creating a means for students to understand the connection between STEM content and its application in authentic and relevant ways.
Come and Explore the New World of Planet HEXBUG!
Planet HEXBUG is an open-ended coding exploration, where your code brings your VR HEXBUG nano® to life in a rich, virtual world! Beginning coders will have fun exploring the wide world of Planet HEXBUG. Experienced coders can level up their VR nano and take Planet HEXBUG by storm!
In the Planet HEXBUG activity, you will code a VR nano trying to survive in a virtual world. As the VR nano explores, it will need to find food and defeat enemies in order to survive. Use the VR nano’s built in AI technology to help it smell food, see enemies, and remember its home.
Learn more about getting started with Planet HEXBUG
Learn more about teaching with Planet HEXBUG
Check out the Planet HEXBUG leaderboard
CS Level 1 with Python Course Now Available
Did you know that Python is one of the most popular programming languages in the world? We’re happy to release our newest Computer Science course utilizing VEXcode VR: CS Level 1 with Python.
Continue on your Computer Science journey with text-based coding in VEXcode VR Python! Using a VR Robot to solve various coding challenges, students will learn about project flow, loops, conditions, and algorithms in Python.
Stay tuned for the release of our CS Level 1 with Python Educator Certification Course
Thousands of teachers have become VEX certified educators at certifications.vex.com. The educator certification course will be ready for educators at the beginning of February.
Check out the VEX Portable Competition Field Perimeter!
Assembles in minutes with simple snap-together construction.
Notable improvements from the original VRC Field Perimeter include:
- Weight has been cut nearly in half
- GPS Field Code is printed directly onto the walls
- Can be assembled by a single person in approximately 15 minutes
- Includes carrying cases for easy transportation of Field Perimeter and Tiles
The past month saw the return of many VEX Competition fields. Here are just a few of the examples.
The 2nd generation of VEX IQ is here!
STEM education has evolved since the introduction of VEX IQ in 2013, and the robot construction system needed to evolve as well. We are very happy to now offer VEX IQ (2nd generation).
New VEX IQ 2nd generation STEM Labs and Activities were added during the month of October. Did you also know that you can complete the VEX IQ 1st generation STEM Labs with a VEX IQ 2nd gen kit? Check out this article in the STEM Library to see how.
Did you see VEX EXP for Classrooms?
Check out VEX EXP, the all-in-one STEM solution for grades 9+. You can pre-order today.
Shipping in December 2021
Want to Learn More?
Contact VEX today about how to bring STEM and Computer Science to your entire district. [email protected]