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Coding Fundamentals
Lab 1 - Robot Brain

Teacher Portal

Materials Needed

The following is a list of all the materials and teaching resources that are needed to complete the VEX 123 Lab. First listed are the materials needed for the entire Lab, including the 123 Robot. In certain Labs, links to teaching resources in a slideshow format have been included. Not all Labs will include a slideshow. These slides can help provide context and inspiration for your students. All slides are editable, and can be projected for students or used as a teacher resource.

Materials Purpose Recommendation

123 Robot

For teacher and students to see the behaviors in their projects executed.

1 per group.


For teacher and students to use to build their projects.

1 per group.

Coder cards

For teachers and students to insert into the Coder to build a project.

1 per group.

Lab 1 Image Slideshow Google / .pptx / .pdf

For teacher and student context during the Lab.

1 for teacher facilitation.

123 Field

Area on which to test projects.

1 Field for every two groups.

VEX 123 PDF Printables (optional) 

To use as manipulatives to support student project planning and saving. 1 per group

Environment Setup

  • Coder cards needed for this Lab include:
    • One "When start 123"
    • Four "Drive 1"
    • Four "Turn left"
    • Four "Turn right"
    • One "Turn around"
    • And one card each from the Sound and Looks categories such as, "Play honk" and "Glow purple"

image of coder cards needed for this lab including the following: When started, Drive 1, Turn left, Turn right, Turn around, Play honk, Play doorbell, play crash, play random, glow purple, glow green, glow blue
Coder Cards Needed

  • For demonstration purposes ensure that all students can easily see the teacher's Coder, Coder cards, and 123 Robot during the Engage section.
  • To keep your class organized, and your students focused on only the necessary Coder cards, only give them access to the cards listed above.
  • To help students take turns and stay focused Lab activities, give students direction for how to share responsibilities. For groups larger than the recommended two students, provide students with more granular roles. Examples of responsibilities for students in this Lab:
    • Placing the 123 Robot on the Field in the correct location.
    • Inserting the Coder cards and pressing the Start button.
    • Keeping track of the Coder cards and lining them up to plan the group's projects.
  • Students can test the 123 Robot behaviors for the Coder cards on the 123 Field as shown here.

Image of 123 Field - 2 Tiles by 2 Tiles with walls set up around all four sides
123 Field Setup 



Begin the lab by engaging with the students.

  1. Hook

    How does the 123 Robot know what to do?  It’s brain works differently than we do, so how do we make our ideas into ideas that the 123 Robot can understand?

  2. Demonstrate

    Use a series of True or False statements to get students thinking about the 123 Robot and programming language. The True or False statements will be provided in the Acts and Asks section of Engage.

  3. Leading Question

    Where does the 123 Robot get its instructions? 


Allow students to explore the concepts introduced.

Part 1

The teacher will guide students to choose an action they would like the 123 Robot to do. The teacher will model how to break down that action (like "spin in a circle" or "drive to a corner of the 123 Field") into a series of steps to create a project plan. Students will plan their project using Coder cards.


Mid-Play Break

Students will share their project plans with the class by holding up their Coder with the Coder cards in the slots. The teacher will then facilitate a discussion about planning a project with Coder cards. Students will then get ready to test their projects.

Part 2

Students will ensure their Coder cards are placed in the Coder in the correct order, and test their projects to see if the 123 Robot performs the action that they chose. 

Alternate Coding Methods

While this Lab is written for use with the Coder, it can also be completed using the buttons on the 123 Robot to touch to code, or using VEXcode 123. If using the buttons to touch to code, focus the activities on identifying how the icon on the button illustrates the behavior that the 123 Robot performs when the button is pressed. In Play Part 2, have students sequence button presses to create a project that has the 123 Robot complete the desired action, such as spinning in a circle or driving to a corner of the 123 Field. For more information about coding using the Touch buttons on the 123 Robot, see the Coding with the Touch Buttons on the 123 Robot VEX Library article.

If using VEXcode 123, highlight how to decompose a complex activity into smaller discrete behaviors aligned with the blocks in VEXcode 123 to create a project plan. Then give students a tablet or computer and build the projects with VEXcode 123 to have the 123 Robot complete the intended action. For more information about VEXcode 123, reference articles in the VEXcode 123 section of the VEX Library.


Allow students to discuss and display their learning.

Active Share

Groups will share their projects and explain how they chose their Coder cards.

A VEX 123 character

Discussion Prompts