How to start a VEX or VEX IQ team

First a few things... To coach a VEX VRC or VEX IQ team you don't need to be technical... The kids will figure out how to build and how to program.  Remember the robot is the kids work so let them own it and drive all the improvements.

You need to decide what type of team you will be forming: VEX IQ is elementary / middle school (8-14) and VRC is a middle school / high school program (11-18).

If you are a middle school team and can't decide here are some of the differences:

  1. IQ has 2 robots on a 4 x 8 field; VRC has 4 teams on 2 alliances on a 12 x 12 field 
  2. IQ has the 2 teams cooperate to get high score; VRC 2 team alliances are competing against the other 2 alliances
  3. An IQ team can build more iterations than VEX in a given amount of time, great for novice teams.
  4. IQ structural parts are mostly plastic; VRC are "mostly" metal. A VEX IQ Super kit is $330, a competition VEX robot is $1000 and up. Both need software as well.

We recommend that the team looks at some YouTube videos, go see/volunteer at an event and see what fits their image of what they would like to do.  You can find upcoming events at robotevents.com and search for your state in the search field.

Once this is decided you need to get your hands on some parts.  Go to either robotmesh or vexrobotics and purchase a base kit (with sensors, programming (VEX) and software (VEXIQ/VEX)) so the students can explore all aspects of the robot.  

If the team has questions... go to google and ask... there is a lot of information on the web about different issues/challenges etc for the platforms.  Another suggestion is to volunteer or go to a local event (October-February) or reach out to a local team to come to one of your team meetings (or visa versa).  This kind of interaction tends to get the learning curve behind you fast... and teams are typically happy to help other teams throughout the program. Remember that if the kids learn this themselves... you have provided an environment where they can develop the ability to become a lifelong learner.

Get the team registered on robotevents.com.  You will need a name for the team and a coach/email address.  If this team is going to have several coaches over different years... it is best to make a gmail account (or something like that) that can be passed on from coach to coach.  If you are in March/April timeframe... it might be best to wait until the new season is released (in April) so you get registered for the proper season. If you are not affiliated with an organization and live in Northern Colorado consider joining our 974 community teams.

Finally, have the team members volunteer at an event to see the teams, robots and how the game is played.  Have them get their robot working in any manner... and register for an event.  This is a great way to learn and understanding comes very quickly.  Most years have "Floor Goals" that a beginner robot can push objects into to feel successful at an event.

One point on signing up... in Colorado at least... teams want to go to as many events as possible... so sign-up early. Competitions have to be put in robotevents by November 1.

Good luck and have fun!