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Intro to Coding
Lab 1 - Robot Dance

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 teachers and students to create and start projects and observe 123 Robot behaviors.

1 per group

123 Field

For students to start projects and observe behaviors of the 123 Robot.

4 Tiles and 8 walls per test area

123 Coder

For teachers and students to create and start a project.

1 per group

123 Coder Cards

For teachers and students to insert into the Coder and see the 123 Robot behaviors.

Enough to run the two projects and one extra card for the dance party per group

Lab 1 Image Slideshow

For teacher and student context during the Lab.

1 for teacher facilitation

VEX 123 PDF Printables (optional) 

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

Environment Setup

  • Set up testing areas for 123 Robots before the beginning of the Lab. Create a 123 Field by connecting 4 tiles in a square, with 8 walls around the outer edge, as a test space for students to test their 123 Robot projects. Students can share the space during the Lab - two groups per 123 Field is recommended.
  • Separate Coder cards for each group. The cards will be passed out to each group during Play Part 1 and 2. The teacher should elect one person in the group to insert Coder cards into the Coder.
  • Gather the materials each group needs before class. For this Lab, each group of two students will need a 123 Robot, Coder, access to a 123 Field, and the following Coder cards:
    • One "When start 123" Coder card
    • Four "Drive 1" Coder cards
    • One "Drive 2" Coder card
    • One "Drive 4" Coder card
    • One "Turn left" Coder card
    • One "Turn right" Coder card
    • One "Turn around" Coder card

Image of Coder Cards Needed: When started, Drive 1, Drive 1, Drive 1, Drive 1, Drive 2, Drive 4, Turn left, Turn right, Turn around
Coder Cards Needed

  • To keep your class organized, and your students focused on only the necessary Coder cards, only give them access to the cards listed above. However, additional Motion, Sound or Looks cards can be added to offer more choices for students in creating a dance project for the 123 Robot.
  • 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.


Begin the lab by engaging with the students.

  1. Hook

    Ask the students, “What does a red light mean? (Stop.) What is it telling us to do? (Stop moving.)” The red light is a symbol that tells us what to do. Here, a symbol (red light) represents an action. What action does a green light represent? (It means to go or move.) That action of starting or stopping is a behavior. What symbols are on the 123 Robot, on our Coder? What actions do they represent? Let’s find out!

  2. Demonstrate

    The teacher will engage students in a discussion based on the symbols and behaviors represented in the Coder cards.

  3. Leading Question

    What symbols do we see on the cards for the Coder? What actions do you think will happen with each card based on their symbol?


Allow students to explore the concepts introduced.

Part 1

The teacher will guide an exploration of the different cards with the 123 Robot while the students follow along and practice in their small groups. The teacher will select the cards to begin with, to demonstrate building the projects, and to start the two provided projects. The teacher will use the Start button on the Coder to show the students that when the project is started, it elicits behaviors from the 123 Robot.

Mid-Play Break

What behaviors did your 123 Robot do? If students talk about the entire process, remind them that behaviors are the smallest unit of actions equivalent to one card.

Part 2

Students will now work in small groups to code their own dance move using the cards that the teacher demonstrated in Play Part 1, plus one additional card for them to explore with their group.

Alternate Coding Methods 

While this Lab is written for use with the Coder, it can also be completed using the touch buttons on the 123 Robot to code, or you can use VEXcode 123 for the Lab activities. If using the touch buttons to code, have students sequence button presses to create a project that has the 123 Robot move on their 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 Knowledge Base article.

If students are already familiar with VEXcode 123, you can give each group a tablet or computer and have them build the projects in this Lab with VEXcode 123. In this situation you can skip the Engage section, because these students should already be familiar with the skills demonstrated in this section. For more information about VEXcode 123, reference articles in the VEXcode 123 section of the Knowledge Base.


Allow students to discuss and display their learning.

Active Share

Students will share their 123 Robot’s dance move with the class and explain each behavior that the robot performed.

A VEX 123 character

Discussion Prompts