Why Hold Competitions in Your Classroom?

Planet HEXBUG Competitions Promote Connection - Teaching and learning with VEXcode VR and Planet HEXBUG can be a highly individualized learning environment. Adding the element of competition promotes conversation and shared learning, and keeps students engaged and connected to each other, as well as to the course materials. This is especially advantageous in unique learning environments, like the ones many of us are facing in COVID classrooms. Students in distance learning environments often miss the connections they had to other students, and competitions can offer a way to give that back, in a fun and exciting way.

Planet HEXBUG Competitions Promote Iteration - Through competition participation, students are encouraged to iterate and experiment with their code, to try new things, and to actively learn from others. The goal is not simply accomplishing the task, but creating a solution that works better, faster, or more efficiently than other possible solutions. This striving to create “better” code, is directly connected to what professional coders do every day.

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Planet HEXBUG Competitions Promote Engagement - The Planet HEXBUG VEXcode VR Activity offers instruction and scaffolding to support learning Computer Science concepts, yet students may see the activity as a sort of “checklist,” where the goal is simply to get the assignment finished. Planet HEXBUG competitions can break that thought process, and encourage students to engage for longer periods of time around the same concepts. Checking a class leaderboard, and seeing that one’s last entry score was beaten, can inspire a student to revisit and rework the code in order to move back up in the standings. Rather than finishing the activity and putting it away, students are now eager to review their thought processes, coding skills, and strategy; continuing to engage with the same coding concepts over time, and thus learning more deeply.

  • To learn more about how to implement classroom competitions with more VEXcode VR Activities, see this article.

How to Use Planet HEXBUG Competitions in Your Classroom

Survive the Longest in Planet HEXBUG - The goal of this activity is to survive as long as possible, collecting Experience Points (XP) in order to level up, and gain strength and efficiency along the way. Have your students compete to survive the longest in Planet HEXBUG.

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Students can utilize the Planet HEXBUG Playground Window to track their survival time and XP as they play.

Students submit screenshots of their certificates to show survival time and XP - Have students submit their results just to the teacher, who will then put them in order; or have students directly share them with the class through digital means, like a Google doc. 

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Example of a submission with completed Planet HEXBUG certificate.

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Students can also see how their scores to those on the international Planet HEXBUG Leaderboard.

Tips for Student Submissions:

  • Limit the number of student submissions in the competition to encourage students to be thoughtful about how they are creating their code. Enabling more than one entry gives incentive to iterate, but having unlimited options may get overwhelming. Limiting the students to no more than three in a class period, or five in a day, will help keep things engaging and manageable.
  • You may want to add that everyone must have one submission before a revision is eligible to be added. This will enable students who work at different levels to have an equal opportunity to enter.
  • Offer additional “prizes” for categories like most efficient code, or best use of an algorithm to promote students analyzing their code.

Display the Leaderboard throughout the Competition

  • Classroom Digital Leaderboard - Use a Google doc or shared sheet, or your digital classroom setting to create a place where everyone can see progress. Teachers can choose to have students place their submission screenshots directly into the leaderboard platform they have created, or have students submit to the teachers, who will update their leaderboards regularly, and share it with students.
    • Share the Code - This method also allows teachers to highlight particular sections of student code, and for students to see and learn from the coding skills of others.
  • Analog Leaderboard - If you are in a classroom, you can simply keep track of student progress on the board. Students should share their certificates or screenshots with you before changing the board, and either teachers or students can update the board with names and times.

How to Organize the Competition in the Classroom

Students can compete against each other in pairs, groups or the entire class.

For Competitions in the Classroom at the Same Time

  • Announce the competition either before class, or the day of, to give it a sense of excitement.
  • Post the “Rules” for your classroom for everyone - include the number of submissions each student or team is allowed, the goal of the competition, the activity or Playground in use, and the method of submission.
  • Update the class leaderboard throughout the competition time frame.
  • Offer incentives for the “winners” - this can be a tangible “prize,” or something such as getting to choose the the next VEXcode VR competition playground. Use what you know about your students to set incentives that match their personalities and interests.

For Competitions in an Asynchronous Learning Environment

  • Announce the competition either before class, or the day of, to give it a sense of excitement.
  • Set a longer time frame, to enable participation over time, like multiple school days if possible.
  • Post the “Rules” for your classroom for everyone - include the number of submissions each student or team is allowed, the goal of the competition, and the method of submission.
  • Update the class leaderboard throughout the competition time frame. Send out alerts to changes, or when updates have been added, to keep students engaged.
  • You may want to add that everyone must have one submission before a revision is eligible to be added. This will enable students who work at different levels to have an equal opportunity to enter.
  • Offer incentives for the “winners.” Since tangible “prizes” aren’t necessarily an option, competitive advantages like choosing the next VEXcode VR competition playground, or an “extra time” card to use in the next competition may work well. Use what you know about your students to set incentives that match their personalities and interests.

Wrap Up Competitions with Coding Conversations

  • In any learning environment, students can respond to a few discussion prompts to wrap up the competition. Questions like these can offer an opportunity for students to articulate their thinking and learn from others.
    • How did the winners do so well? What was different about their code?
    • What did you change in your iterations of the project? How did those changes help or hurt your time?
    • What new coding strategies did you learn in this competition?
    • What did you learn from seeing someone else’s code? How did that influence your thinking?

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