Implementing a STEM Lab
VEX EXP STEM Lab Units are meant to offer you the support and structure that you need to be able to integrate STEM learning into your classroom with VEX EXP.
Each Unit is structured around a culminating STEM game competition, so that you can bring the excitement of a VEX Robotics competition to your classroom to drive student engagement and motivation.
Every VEX EXP STEM Lab Unit has a common structure to make it easy to implement VEX EXP in your learning environment.
Each Unit contains a series of Lessons, leading to a Unit competition, and culminating in a Conclusion Lesson that connects students’ learning to real life STEM careers.
The Lesson content is designed to be student-facing, to enable the teacher to be in the role of facilitator throughout the Unit.
Before Beginning a STEM Lab Unit
The Teacher Portal contains resources and support materials to help you implement VEX EXP STEM Labs with confidence.
The videos in the Teacher Portal offer:
- An overview of the STEM Lab Units at a high level
- Foundational guidance about the structure of the Units
- How to get started and co-create learning targets with your students
- Support for teaching with VEXcode EXP Python
- And more.
In the Planning and Implementation section, you will find resources like the Facilitation Guide, a Unit-specific resource to help you plan, teach, and assess the STEM Lab Unit.
The Facilitation Guide offers setup images and checklists, facilitation prompts, Teacher Tips, Reminders, and more, to help you facilitate each Lesson in your classroom. Tips for establishing a classroom culture to support iterative practices and student-centered instruction are also included.
It is recommended that you read the Facilitation Guide first, before you begin teaching the STEM Lab.
Implementing a STEM Lab Unit - Learn
Each Lesson follows a predictable Learn - Practice - Compete format. The Learn section is the direct instruction component in which the skills and concepts of the Lesson are presented in video format.
The video presentation enables teachers to be facilitators of students’ learning. Students can easily revisit the video content at any time throughout the Unit, making differentiating instruction easy. Lesson Summaries are also provided that summarize the content in the video in an editable Google doc format.
Additionally, Check Your Understanding questions are offered as editable Google docs, so that you can easily engage in formative assessment with students.
Implementing a STEM Lab Unit - Practice
During the Practice section, the skills and concepts taught in Learn are put into the context of the competition game. Students have an opportunity to apply their learning to accomplish a Practice activity.
Again, videos and animations are used to help ensure that students and teachers are on the same page in terms of the goal of the activity, and the practical application of the Learn content.
The Practice activity content is also an editable Google doc, so it can easily be tailored to meet the needs of your students.
Implementing a STEM Lab Unit - Compete
The Compete section is a mini-competition that lets students practice the skills they will need to apply to the Unit competition game. In each Compete challenge, an element of the competition game is highlighted, and students engage in the engineering design process to optimize their robot and code for the task at hand. The Challenge activity content is an editable Google doc, along with Check Your Understanding questions, so that you and your students can have a shared understanding of the goal of the game.
Additionally, each Lesson concludes with a Wrap Up Reflection where students engage in self-assessment to reflect on their progress and learning during the Lesson.
Implementing a STEM Lab Unit - Competition
The Unit culminates in a capstone Competition, where students apply their learning from the preceding Lessons to iterate on their robots, code, and game strategy in a classroom competition.
The Competition Lesson contains videos about strategies to apply your learning to the competition setting, using the engineering design process as you prepare, and collaborative decision-making strategies to support students’ teamwork.
The Competition rules are offered in an editable Google doc, along with an animation of game play, to support a shared understanding of the game for everyone in the class.
To learn more about running a classroom competition, including setup and logistics, see this STEM Library article.
To learn more about facilitating a classroom competition, like tips, tricks, and the flow of competition, see this STEM Library article.
Implementing a STEM Lab Unit - Conclusion
Each STEM Lab Unit concludes with a Lesson that ties everything students have learned and done to actual real-world STEM careers, so that students can see the real world connections to what they are doing in class. Students have the opportunity to further explore these careers through Choice Board activities.
In addition, the Debrief Conversation offers students a summative self-assessment opportunity to reflect on their learning, and share their engineering notebook with their teacher.
STEM Lab Units Offer Flexibility
VEX EXP STEM Lab Units offer a great organizer for project-based learning in your classroom with robotics. While there is a structure to the STEM Labs, they are designed to be flexible, so that they can easily be implemented in the time, space, and teaching style that best meets any class’s needs and environment. A STEM Lab Unit can be completed in a short time frame, or easily extended to enable students to be immersed in the engineering design process, and grow comfortable with iteration, working collaboratively, and learning from mistakes. In addition, the student-facing material lends itself well to implementation in a flipped classroom, or a hybrid setting, where students can interact with the Learn content at home, then engage with the hands-on Practice and Compete sections in class.
Student-Centered Assessment is Embedded Throughout the Units
STEM Lab Units are designed to bring student-centered learning to life in your classroom. Beginning with the co-creation of learning targets, students have agency over their learning, and are given multiple opportunities to reflect on and self-assess their progress. Formative assessment is embedded throughout the Lessons in the form of Check Your Understanding questions and Wrap Up Reflections. In order to make the most of this, be mindful of your classroom environment and culture, so that students are able to embrace the idea of learning from their mistakes without fear of retribution or a failing grade. The Debrief Conversation at the end of the Unit offers students a way to be an active participant in summative assessment, so that it is something done with students, not simply to them. With a classroom culture that supports iteration and risk taking, students can engage in authentic, real-world problem solving, and learn to see a failure as another opportunity to learn.