Running an IQ STEM Lab Classroom Competition

Classroom competitions bring the excitement of VEX IQ Robotics Challenge to your learning environment, enabling teachers to leverage the creativity and motivation of the competition setting in their classrooms. Organizing your classroom competition will help ensure its success, and make sure that you and your students are on the same page during class.

This article will cover:


Organizing your students for competition

If the competition uses alliances, assign alliances to your students

The teacher should assign alliances to the students, to identify which teams will work together in the competition. Post the alliances in your classroom in a clearly visible space, so that students can quickly and easily see who they are working with.

Create a match schedule

Matches can move more smoothly if you and your students know when they are expected to be ready to compete. Most matches are 1 minute long, but you will need to allow time for setup and clean up, so that students can navigate the classroom space easily. So setting up a schedule that allows for roughly 5 minutes per match, should account for student movement, setup and cleanup.

Post the schedule with the alliances, 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.

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This example match schedule uses teams, but if your competition is set up for alliances, substitute alliance for team when you make your schedule.

You will want to have multiple rounds of the competition so that students can iterate on their strategy and build between matches, so establishing a time table will help you plan your class time to allow for a successful competition lesson. Having a predetermined schedule will also enable you to announce the matches throughout class, so that your focus can remain on scoring and timing at the competition Field.

Create a leaderboard on the board

Post or project the match schedule on the whiteboard in your classroom, and give space for students to write in point totals and to identify the winner of each match. This visible record of matches can provide motivation for students as they continue to iterate, as well as give them an idea of other alliances to scout as they develop game strategies.


Setting up your space for competition

There are three main areas that you should designate within your space for your classroom competition:

  • A Competition Field - Have one central competition Field where all matches will take place. This should be easily accessible to all students, and have enough space for students who are not in the match to observe, so that they can scout other alliances. This will be the teacher’s main responsibility as your matches are taking place, as you will be responsible for scoring and keeping time, so putting in a centrally located space where you can still supervise your students is optimal.
  • A Practice Area - Have an additional Field, or taped off space, that students can use to practice for their competition matches. If space allows, you may want to have more than one practice area, so that multiple alliances can practice simultaneously.
  • Alliance Meeting and Preparation Spaces - Have several tables or meeting spaces available for alliances to use as their ‘home base’, or ‘pit’, throughout the competition. This will give space for documenting in their Engineering Notebook, meeting to develop game strategy, or building and iterating on their robots.

An example layout of a classroom space could include a centrally located competition Field, with desks pushed along one side of the classroom as Alliance Meeting spaces, and a practice space designated on the other side of the room. You will need to determine what works best for your setting, based on your space constraints and the needs of your students.

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In this example, the flow within the space would be something like this:

  • The teacher would be based between the Competition Field and the Leaderboard.
  • At the end of a match, the teacher announces the winner, and writes the scores on the Leaderboard, while the two groups that competed clear and reset the Competition Field for the next match.
  • The teacher announces the next groups to compete, giving them a “2 minute warning” to the start of their match.
  • Once the Field is cleared, the students who finished competing return their robot to the Meeting Space to strategize for the next round, and the students coming up to play can gather at the Competition Field from the Practice Space and/or Meeting Space.

To learn more about facilitation strategies during classroom competitions, see this Knowledge Base article.