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Coding Fundamentals
Lab 1 - Robot Brain

Teacher Portal


Launch the Engage Section

ACTS is what the teacher will do and ASKS is how the teacher will facilitate.

  1. Show the 123 Robot. 
  2. Write the following True or False statements on the board:
    1. Robots can predict what we want them to do. (F)
    2. Robots think for themselves, and don’t need help from humans. (F)
    3. Robots follow instructions that are provided to them. (T)
    4. Robots speak in words, by themselves, like humans. (F)
    5. Robots need to be coded by human in order to do things. (T)
  3. As you read each one, give time for students to think for a moment before ‘voting’; as well as to explain why they think a certain idea is true or false. Circle the statements that are true, and talk through why the others are false.
  4. Point out the "Robots follow instructions that are provided to them" statement.
  5. Show the Coder and Coder cards, and guide students to connect the instructions with the Coder cards.
  1. How does the 123 Robot know what to do?  Does its brain work like our brains?
  2. When I read each of these ideas, you are going to think about whether the idea is True or False. Raise your hand if you think the statement is True.
  3. Why do you think that?  What makes you say that?
  4. We know that the 123 Robot's brain works differently than our brains, so how do we make our ideas into ideas that the 123 Robot can understand?
  5. Where does the 123 Robot get its instructions?


  1. InstructInstruct students that they are going to see how Coder cards are used with the Coder to communicate with the 123 Robot. First they will look at the symbols on the Coder cards to interpret the behaviors for the cards. Then they will see how the 123 Robot enacts the behaviors for several Coder cards.
    • Show students the symbols on several Coder cards such as "When start 123," "Drive 1," and "Turn right." Ask students to predict what the symbols mean. How do the symbols on the Coder card connect to a 123 Robot behavior? For more information about Coder cards, see the VEX Coder Card Reference Guide Knowledge Base article.

    image of the following coder cards with the icons highlighted to illustrate that even non readers can see the behavior enacted with each coder card: When started, Drive 1, Turn right
    Coder Card Symbols Show Robot Behavior

    • Show students the "Turn left" Coder card. Have them explain or act out what they think the 123 Robot will do with this card. Then, show students how insert this card into the Coder. Let students know that every project must start with a "When start 123" card. So they will add the "Turn left" card under the "When start 123" card. Then, press Start on the Coder and have students observe the behavior of the 123 Robot as shown in this animation. Were their predictions correct? Why or why not?
    Video file
    • Repeat this process for the following Coder cards, to ensure that students are making the connection between the symbol on the card and the behavior of the 123 Robot.
      • "Drive 1" makes the 123 Robot drive one length of the robot, or 1 square on the Field.
      • "Turn right" makes the 123 Robot turn in place to the right.
      • "Turn around" makes the 123 Robot turn in a half circle to the right.
    • Encourage students to be specific in their explanations. Rather than saying something like "It drives a little" or "It turns," ask them about how far or what direction the 123 Robot will move to guide students toward identifying observable 123 Robot behaviors that connect with each symbol.
  2. DistributeDistribute one or two Coder cards to each group, so they can engage in this process themselves. What do the symbols on their Coder cards mean the 123 Robot will do?
    • For younger children, you may want to continue a whole class demonstration of additional cards.
  3. FacilitateFacilitate students carrying out the prediction, observation, explanation process in their groups.

    Ask students to explain what 123 Robot behavior is connected with each card, and how the symbol helps communicate that. 

  4. OfferOffer positive reinforcement for groups that are following directions well, and using good listening skills.
A VEX 123 character

Teacher Troubleshooting

Facilitation Strategies

  • Students should take turns throughout the Lab. Facilitate this by identifying that students will either insert the Coder cards into the Coder, or press the Start button, and partners should switch these roles each time they test a project.
  • Hang the 123 Poster in the classroom for students to reference when selecting Coder cards throughout the Lab.
  • Use printables as manipulative to support project planning - See the printable resources available in the Knowledge Base, and use them with students as they are planning and building their Coder projects. You could use the motion planning sheets for students to draw the path they want their 123 Robot to travel, as well as the fill-in project and motion planning sheets for students to document their Coder cards and the path of the 123 Robot. You can also use the fill-in Coder sheet for students to write or draw their Coder cards to "save" their projects.