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I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to share the Workcell with you! As a previous high school and collegiate mathematics educator, I can tell you from experience how amazing the Workcell—and its surrounding curriculum and support—really is. It is written by teachers for teachers because we know the needs of the classroom.
I know firsthand what it looks and feels like to bring complex concepts to life for students, and the joy in their faces when it all finally makes sense and has real meaning. This page is designed to be your personal walkthrough of the Workcell curriculum and all of the accompanying resources that will make you and your students successful.
From building and coding the Workcell, to learning how industrial robots function, the Workcell provides students with a truly unmatched integrated STEM experience.
Director of Instructional Technology, VEX Robotics
The VEX V5 Workcell is an introduction into the world of industrial robotics. This model, small enough to be placed on a classroom desk, makes the VEX V5 Workcell accessible in a variety of educational settings. In addition, the advantages of using VEXcode V5 as its programming language lowers the barrier of entry for an industrial robotic arm for both students and teachers. The V5 Workcell together with VEXcode V5 provides students with the opportunity to develop technical and problem solving skills by building and programming a simulated manufacturing workcell with a five axis robot.
The V5 Workcell Curriculum is comprehensive, structured, and everything you and your students need to be successful. The curriculum consists of STEM Labs and Workcell Extensions. STEM Labs are scaffolded, student-facing material that include direct instruction and assessment. Workcell Extensions are editable Google Docs that allow students to explore building and coding concepts in an open-ended way with less scaffolding.
Students will begin with STEM Labs 1-12 to learn the foundational concepts of industrial robotics as they build and code the Workcell to complete tasks. Then, students will explore the Workcell Extensions to practice the concepts learned in STEM Labs 1-12, taking building and coding further by modifying the original Workcell build design. Students conclude with STEM Lab 13: Capstone Project Competition, where they apply everything they have learned in a free-building competition setting that mimics real-world factory operation.
V5 Workcell STEM Labs 1-12
Introduction to the V5 Workcell
The first three Workcell STEM Labs introduce students to industrial robotics, safety, and how the arm of the Workcell operates in 3D space.
Students begin by building the Workcell using step-by-step build instructions so all students can be successful even without any prior building or engineering experience. While building the Workcell, students will learn how to master it, and why this is vital for the Workcell’s functionality.
Students progress into learning about the importance of safety—both in the classroom and industry—and simulate an Emergency Stop using a Bumper Switch.
Once students have built the Workcell and have a basic understanding of safety, they then move into learning how the arm of the Workcell operates in 3D space. Students begin by manually moving the arm while displaying the current x, y, and z-coordinate values in real time on the V5 Brain’s screen. Once students understand how the Workcell arm operates in 3D space, they have the foundational knowledge to begin to autonomously code the arm to move to a discrete (x, y, z) location.
Coding the V5 Workcell for Automated Movements
STEM Labs 4-6 focus on coding for autonomous movements, specifically to explore autonomous movements along the x, y, and z-axes.
Students explore the difference between linear and joint movements along the x and y-axes, and how each has their own benefits.
Students combine their newly-formed coding skills with mathematics by introducing variables to store an initial (x, y, z) coordinate. They then add increments to the initial stored coordinate value to move a marker along the x and y-axes.
Students continue drawing using the marker along the x and y-axes, but must also pick the marker up between shapes or letters using the z-axis. This progression of skills prepares students to navigate the arm along all three axes (x, y, z) to pick up and place disks in later Labs.
Coding for All (VEXcode V5)
- No prior coding experience needed
- Step-by-step videos to walk a student through how to code
- Low barrier of entry with a block-based language
- Built-in help and premade example projects
VEX Professional Development Plus (PD+)
VEX Robotics offers comprehensive professional development resources available on pd.vex.com. VEX’s Professional Development Plus (PD+) platform is your destination for a wealth of resources designed to empower educators in the world of STEM. The VEX PD+ platform offers two tiers - a free tier and an All-Access paid tier.
VEX PD+ free tier
The VEX PD+ free tier includes access to:
- Intro Courses: These self-paced online courses provide training on each VEX platform. Each course contains formative assessment and tracks your progress, making it easy for you to check your understanding and complete the course at your own pace. Once you become certified, you gain access to the VEX Professional Learning Community (PLC).
- Professional Learning Community (PLC): Join a network of global educators and VEX Experts, where you can learn, share, and benefit from a wealth of shared experiences. This is your virtual Teacher’s Lounge, where you can have meaningful dialogue, share expertise, ask questions, and work collaboratively to improve your STEM teaching and learning.
VEX PD+ paid tier (All-Access)
The VEX PD+ paid tier (All-Access) includes access to:
- 1-1 Sessions: Schedule a 1-1 session with a VEX expert, get guidance and support tailored to your needs.
- VEX Masterclasses: Video-based, expert-led courses that range from introductory ‘Getting Started’ courses to more advanced and pedagogy focused courses.
- VEX Video Library: Access to hundreds of videos across a variety of topics and VEX platforms, available anytime and from anywhere.
- Live Sessions: Thematic, hour-long, expert-led sessions that provide insights and practical takeaways about teaching with VEX.
- VEX Robotics Educators Conference: An annual conference that brings the VEX PD+ Community together for in-person, hands-on learning, inspiring keynotes, and learning sessions with VEX education experts.
Every user will also have access to their own dashboard, which includes a tour of all the VEX PD+ features, allowing them to get started easily. We are continuously updating PD+ with new materials, ensuring our platform remains a rich, dynamic resource for our educators.
We are here to support you on your professional journey. If you have any questions, or feedback, you can use the feedback tool in VEX PD+. We're excited for you to explore, learn, and connect.
Exploring Pick and Place
STEM Labs 7-9 focus on the introduction to the Electromagnet and the picking, placing, and transportation of colored disks.
Students are introduced to the Electromagnet by interacting with a User Interface (UI) on the V5 Brain’s screen that acts as colored buttons. The student identifies the color of the disk at the top of the pick up location and selects the corresponding button on the screen. This triggers the arm to pick up the disk and drop it off in a drop off location specific to that color. This allows students to recognize how sensors can further automate this process in later Labs. Earlier learning about the z-axis and the differences between linear and joint movements is applied at a basic level.
Students add an Optical Sensor to automate the process of identifying disk colors. Students must consider how the z-axis will change for the pick up location each time a new disk is picked up, since there will be more than one disk loaded to begin with. Lab 8 makes deep connections to many earlier concepts, including linear and joint movement; exploration of the x, y, and z-axes; and the advantage of sensors for automation.
Students are introduced to conveyors by adding time-based conveyors to their Workcell build. Using time-based conveyors helps students understand how fast they spin and in which direction, and can prompt them to consider the advantage of using sensors to automatically start and stop conveyors.
A VEX Library of Resources
Support at your fingertips on storage, building, mastering, coding, and much more
It’s Not Failure, It’s Learning
- Students engage in the process of iteration
- The Engineering Design Process is used to strategically update code or an engineering build design
Transport and Sort Disks
STEM Labs 10-12 focus on the optimization of transporting and sorting disks.
Students further automate how disks travel along the conveyors by adding an Optical Sensor and Line Trackers. Prior to this Lab, the student would place whatever color disk they decided on the conveyor to be transported based on time increments. The Optical Sensor triggers certain behaviors based on the color detected, automating color detection. Line Trackers are added to start and stop certain conveyors when triggered, and to engage the diverter. Students see that using sensors instead of time-based conveyors ensures that the disks will stop in the same location each time, regardless of slippage or any environmental factors that could have affected it.
Instead of one disk being fed into the system at a time by the student, a disk feeder is added to automate the process, allowing for multiple disks to be dispensed at once. If there is more than one Workcell in the classroom, students have the option to experience cooperative systems. For example, students could create a program where the first of each colored disk is sorted on Workcell one, and the second is diverted into Workcell 2 and sorted there.
Up until this point in the series of Labs, the students have experienced heavily scaffolded curriculum with discrete build instructions and code examples. Lab 12 allows students to explore how to slightly alter the Workcell using all of the knowledge they have learned in Labs 1-11 to engage in a classroom competition. Some examples of alterations could include adding additional sensors or extending the height of the disk feeder.
Context is Key
- Students have the opportunity to apply their newly learned skills in context
- Challenges in each STEM Lab are designed to test skills used in real-world applications
- The Workcell curriculum gives students a chance to learn concepts in a hands-on way
Pedagogy Built on a Solid Foundation
Developed by teachers for teachers, the Workcell offers research-based and standards-aligned curricular resources backed by proven results, so that you can teach with confidence.
Your Teacher Manual
Each STEM Lab has built-in teacher notes and facilitation prompts as well as ready-made sample coding solutions and answer keys for assessment questions.
These help answer
- What should I, the educator, be doing to facilitate these activities?
- What will the students be doing?
- How do I check their understanding?
Planning Done for You
The Workcell cumulative pacing guide walks you through the implementation of the Workcell STEM Labs and Extensions.
Preview pages provide a summary of each Lab at a glance:
Alignment to Standards
VEX V5 STEM Labs are targeted at a number of standards, helping to ensure all students have access to robust content. You can see the specific ways our lessons help meet the learning objectives for your students in the Where and How Standards are Reached document. Each tab correlates with a different STEM Lab Unit.
V5 Workcell Extensions
VEX V5 Workcell Extensions are designed to further explore concepts covered in STEM Labs 1-12 and introduce students to additional sorting and automation concepts. These extensions should be completed after going through all twelve of the VEX V5 Workcell STEM Labs in preparation for STEM Lab 13: Capstone Project.
STEM Labs + Extensions = a full year's worth of curriculum at your fingertips
These extensions require students to plan and build new sections of the Workcell to gain hands-on experience with specific engineering concepts.
There are no build instructions for the extensions, but construction of specific mechanisms is covered. This allows for more modification of the original Workcell builds, bridging the gap between using build instructions in Labs 1-12 and free-building in Lab 13.
While the STEM Labs are designed to be completed in a specific order, the Workcell Extensions can be completed in any order. However, the concepts in some extensions are more complex than others.Learn more about the concepts covered by the V5 Workcell Extensions >
STEM Lab 13: Capstone Project
Simulate real factory execution with the Capstone Project Competition by experimenting with accuracy, efficiency, and material constraint. There is no prescribed build for this Lab, and students will have the opportunity to design their own Workcell.
In STEM Lab 13, students will apply everything they learned in Labs 1-12 and the extensions to a competition setting. This is different from anything the students experienced in Labs 1-12 or the extensions, because it requires students to design a Workcell layout from scratch based on their strategy for the Capstone Project Competition. Students will apply their engineering and coding skills in order to be successful in this Lab.
The Entire Workcell Experience
The V5 Workcell curriculum is a genuine experience of integrated STEM that exposes students to industrial robotics and factory automation in an accessible and hands-on way. Students get building and coding experience, but they also get a real-world application of mathematics and science concepts such as the Cartesian Coordinate system, variables, and movement in 3D space. These links will help you access the Workcell curriculum.