Facilitating the Workcell Capstone Project Competition

In Workcell STEM Lab 13: Capstone Project, students will design a Workcell that will sort all 36 randomly dispensed disks into the matching colored End Zones as quickly as possible.


Sorting disks correctly will award points. Scoring disks incorrectly or inefficiently will result in a loss of points. Bonus points will be awarded depending on how disks are stacked in the End Zones, as well as how quickly. The winner of the Capstone Project is determined by who has the most points at the end of all runs.

Organizing your classroom for this competition will help ensure success for you and your students.

Students should be in groups and paired with their associated Workcell. Groups should remain with their assigned Workcell throughout the entirety of Lab 13, as groups will design and modify their Workcell in ways specific and unique to their group.

STEM Lab 13 is designed to be completed over a period of multiple weeks. The recommended time is 4 weeks, however, this could vary depending on your classroom and students. The Rethink section of STEM Lab 13 encompasses the Capstone Project competition.

Before Starting the Competition

Before class, have the following items prepared:

  • At least five copies per group of the printed score sheet on the last page of the rules document
  • The V5 Workcell Leaderboard
  • Match schedule
    • Matches can move more smoothly if you and your students know when each group is expected to be ready to compete. Each run should take no longer than 10 minutes, but you will need to allow time for setup and scoring at the end. Creating a schedule that allows for roughly 15 minutes per match should account for setup and scoring.
    • You will want to assign each group at least two runs during the competition so that students can iterate on their strategy and build between matches.
    • Establishing a time table will help you plan your class time to allow for a successful competition. Having a predetermined schedule will also enable you to announce the matches throughout class, so that your focus can remain on scoring and timing.
    • Post your schedule with assigned times for each group, or print it and give it out to students so that they can clearly see when they are expected to be ready. This timetable will then set the parameters for students’ practice time. An example match schedule is shown below.

During the Competition

Use the following guide to facilitate the competition in your classroom. It is recommended that the Play section of STEM Lab 13 takes approximately one week to complete, and the Rethink section takes approximately three weeks. Again, this can change depending on the needs of your classroom and students. The following recommendations are made based on a time frame of four weeks, and can be adjusted to suit your situation.

The optional Collaboration and Programming Rubrics allow you to provide students with feedback and assess their projects throughout STEM Lab 13 and the competition.

Four Weeks Before the Competition (Week One)

In the Play section, students will be introduced to different concepts that will prepare them to design their own Workcell for the Capstone Project Competition.

  • Bring students together for whole class instruction and introduce the Lab to the students.
    • Students will learn about Workcell design by analyzing why the build in Lab 11 is laid out in a specific way. By going through and understanding the design of the Lab, they will learn about concepts such as the Workcell arm’s mechanical limits, how and why conveyors are placed in certain locations, and the importance of pick up and drop off locations.
    • Throughout the Play section, students will also explore how moving the location of the arm affects its X, Y, and Z-coordinates, how to mechanically move the location of the arm on the Workcell, and the option to create custom V5 Smart Cables.
    • Tell students that these concepts can be applied when they design their own Workcell in the Rethink section.
    • Explain to students that there is no prescribed build for this Lab. There is an example Lab 13 build pictured in this Lab, but there are no associated build instructions. Students can design and build any type of Workcell that they want for this Lab, as long as it adheres to the rules for the competition.
  • Follow the facilitation prompts at the beginning of each of the Play pages to facilitate the Play section.

Three Weeks Before the Competition (Week Two)

  • As a whole class, introduce the competition to the students. Reiterate that there is not a prescribed build for this competition. Students can use examples found throughout Lab 13, the previous 12 Labs, and the Workcell Extensions. However, students are free to design any layout they see fit to be successful in the competition. Students can use the information from the Play section when designing their Workcell.
  • Break students into their groups if they haven’t already done so. Ensure they have their assigned Workcell, their device with VEXcode V5, and their engineering notebooks. Recommended group size is between 2-4 students per Workcell.
  • Instruct groups to first watch the two videos on this page and then read the rules document before brainstorming on a design.
    • Hand out multiple printed score sheets to the students. Two of these will be used for their actual scored runs; any additional sheets can be used to score while practicing.
    • As students are watching the videos and reading the rules, circle the room and answer any questions that arise.
  • When students have finished watching the video and reading the rules document, ensure they understand the rules by asking groups the following formative assessment questions before moving on:
  • Once it is clear that all groups are on the same page with the rules, tell them to begin working on their design. As groups are working, circle the room and ask students the following questions:
    • How are you approaching the challenge? What is your strategy? How are you thinking of designing their Workcell to compete?
    • For groups that are struggling, encourage them to look back at the Play section for specific steps on how to find the x, y, and z-coordinates once the arm has been moved, how to understand the arm's mechanical limits, or how to make custom V5 cables.
      • If groups are still unsure where to start, encourage them to look through the Workcell Extensions for ideas and inspiration, as well as step-by-step help on how to build certain mechanisms. More information on these mechanisms can be found in this article.

Two Weeks Before the Competition (Week Three)

After groups have designed their first iteration, encourage students to test their designs, record the outcome, make adjustments, and then try again. Please note that it may take students multiple weeks to get a Workcell in a condition to be able to compete. Students should be iterating on both the physical design of the Workcell as well as the code.

Once groups have designed and tested their Workcells enough times to get a working version, it will be time to compete.

The Day Before the Competition

Tell students that on competition day they will be allowed two full runs. The highest score of those two runs will be taken as their final score. You, the teacher, will go through the room and record each group’s first score, and then start back with the first group to obtain their second score. This will give each group time between their runs to fix any hardware or coding problems that arise during their first run.

Note that groups will not physically compete against each other. Each group will compete while you, the teacher, watch the run to record the time as well as the score.

Whenever a group is not actively being scored, they should plan to be practicing and iterating. It is recommended that you follow a posted match schedule so that students have an expectation of when they will be competing. Give students this schedule now so they can prepare properly for the competition the next day.

Competition Day

To keep track of the score and time for each group, use the V5 Workcell Leaderboard. This allows students to see their score in real time. Information on how to facilitate the Capstone Project Competition using this leaderboard can be found in this article.


After the Competition

After all groups have competed, bring students back together for a whole-class discussion. Ask students some of these questions to wrap up the challenge.

  • How did you interpret the rules in order to make design decisions?
  • What was your strategy to obtain the highest score?
  • What did your group find difficult about this challenge?
  • Did your project work the first time you tried it? If not, what changes did you make to improve it?
  • How did your group work together to solve the challenge?

You can also print each group’s scores, or even the whole class’s rankings, from the leaderboard.


For more information, help, and tips, check out the many resources at VEX Professional Development Plus

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