What Do Robotics Students Do?

The overall goal is for students to build and program robots of their own design.

Newbies will learn what the Lego EV3 robots can do, how they work, and how to program them.  To accomplish this goal we will work through the lessons and projects in the the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Curriculum.  The projects in this curriculum build in complexity and culminate with a dynamic search and rescue operation in a (very crudely) simulated burning building.

Returning students and those who already are experts programming EV3 robots will choose from a list of projects or design their own project.  Demonstrated skill, knowledge, and a realistic plan are required before pursuing independent projects.  Build a vending machine, rubber band sentry turret, sumo warrior, M&M color sorter, useless machine, or a crazy Rube-Goldberg contraption of your own design.  They also have the option to work with the Polulu 3pi robots and VEX robotics or other approved kits (the key requirement being that it must involve programming and not remote controls).  This year we also hope to build a few Otto DIY or SMARS 3d-printed robots programmed using an Arduino.

Students not working through the Carnegie Mellon curriculum must submit a plan for approval describing what they will work on.  Having trouble getting started?  Pick an idea from the suggested projects list.

This year, robotics journals are being replaced by a student digital robotics portfolio.   This will be a PowerPoint file featuring descriptions, photos, and videos of each project a student completes.

We will have more optional competitions this year, including the robot drag races and robot sumo battles.

We will discuss how to use the scientific method and engineering design process to help us work through the steps of designing and building robotics projects.

Want more details?  Here you go.


Show up ready to work on learning and solving problems by building and programming robots.

Be prepared to get stuck and work at researching and trying different solutions.  Sometimes you will need to wait while Mr. James helps another student.  Keep working at your problem by using the Lego EV3 documentation, Carnegie Mellon curriculum, other students’ knowledge, books from the Seattle Public Library, and internet resources.

Bring a snack (optional), headphones, flash drive, and a pen or pencil to each meeting.


Builderdude35’s website and YouTube Channel have a wealth of examples and tutorials for the EV3 robots.  He has a few programs for download on his website that offer some great solutions for common tasks.

Some VEX resources and links:

Official VEX IQ documentation and resources and VEX IQ Forums have discussion of common challenges and solutions

Robot Mesh Studio is the online development environment that uses Blockly and Python to program the VEX.  Here is an activity guide with some instruction.  There are also many example programs available on the Robot Mesh Studio website.  Here is an example for a line following robot.

A YouTube video for “your first VEX IQ program” and here is another one

The VEX IQ hour of code activity is a simple introduction to using Blockly to program the VEX to move and respond to sensors.  It has the advantage of using a virtual robot within the browser so can be explored outside of the classroom.

Some Vex robots with building instructions

Reference items:


Mr. James meets a Parisian robot