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Role Play Robot
Lab 1 - Act Happy

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Launch the Engage Section

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

  1. Have students share their experiences with dramatic play. If they are unsure, prompt them with suggestions like “playing family” or “playing school.”
  2. Ask students to demonstrate what they’re saying - show their facial expressions, or movements to the group. 
  3. Have students explain their thinking about the connection between their own actions and that of the robot.
  4. You may want to make a list of the behaviors that students name, to reference when making predictions during the demonstration. 
  5. Help students identify some Coder cards that might be useful for this - use the Coder cards themselves, or the 123 Poster for reference.
  1. Have you ever played a pretend game, and pretended you were happy or sad? 
  2. How did you show that you were feeling a certain way?  Did you change your face, or your voice, or move a certain way? 
  3. It sounds like you do different behaviors to show your feelings. We can code our 123 Robots to perform different behaviors too. Do you think we could use those behaviors to make the 123 Robot act out a feeling too?  Why or why not?
  4. What are some behaviors that our 123 Robots do that we also do when we are showing our feelings?
  5. How do you think we can code our 123 Robots to act out a feeling? Guess what, there are Coder cards that say “Act happy” and “Act sad” and “Act crazy.” I wonder if they can help us - let’s find out!


  1. InstructInstruct students that they are going to observe what behaviors the “Act happy” Coder card makes the 123 Robot do. First, they are going to make predictions about what they think the 123 Robot is going to do with the “Act happy” Coder card. Then, they will observe to see if the behaviors of the 123 Robot are similar or different from their ideas. The animation below shows what the students will see the 123 Robot do with the "Act happy" Coder card.
    Video file
  2. DistributeDistribute one Coder, 123 Robot, and a “When start 123” and “Act happy” Coder card for demonstration purposes. Make sure that all students can see the 123 Field, the 123 Robot, and the Coder. You will distribute 123 Robots, Coders, and Coder cards to student groups after the demonstration is complete.
  3. FacilitateFacilitate students participating in the process of prediction and observation as a class.
    • Make predictions — Ask students what they think the 123 Robot will do to “Act happy.” As students make predictions, write or draw their ideas on the board, to reference after observing.
      • Example prediction: Drive, light up, turn
    • Test the project — Push the 123 Robot to wake it up, turn on the Coder, and connect it to the 123 Robot. Place the 123 Robot on the 123 Field in a central location where everyone can see it clearly. Insert the “When start 123” Coder card, followed by the “Act happy” Coder card. Press Start and watch what the 123 Robot does. Remind students to look and listen carefully while the 123 Robot is moving.
    • Revisit predictions —  Ask students if the 123 Robot did what it expected it to do. List the behaviors they saw the 123 Robot perform. Restart the project if needed, to complete the list of behaviors
    • Act it out — Have students “Act happy” by enacting the behaviors they saw the 123 Robot do. Did that make you feel happy?
  4. OfferOffer positive reinforcement for good observation and listening skills during the demonstration.
A VEX 123 character

Teacher Troubleshooting

Facilitation Strategies

  • Social-Emotional Learning Beyond the Lab —  Incorporate additional Social Emotional Learning resources that you may have, such as emotion flash cards, photos of people expressing various emotions, or books into the activities and reflections in this Unit.
  • Act it out — Encourage students to act out the behaviors of the 123 Robot in association with the Coder cards when planning and testing their projects.
  • What feelings are your students working on? — Give students prompts to create emotion codes for feelings that they may be working on communicating or controlling in the classroom. Creating an emotion code for disappointed, frustrated, jealous, surprised, or peaceful can help students to further develop their emotional vocabulary.
  • Take Turns — Help students to take turns in their groups throughout the Lab. Suggestions to facilitate this include:
    • To get started with the 123 Robot and Coder, one student can wake up the 123 Robot, while the other pairs the Coder.
    • During Play Part 1, have students alternate between starting the project and placing the 123 Robot.
    • During Play Part 2, have one student insert the Coder cards, and the other start the project.
  • Use printables as manipulative to support project planning - See the printable resources available in the VEX Library, 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 actions they want their 123 Robot to do in their emotion code, as well as the fill-in project and motion planning sheets for students to document their Coder cards and the emotion code movements 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.
  • Use Coder card posters to reinforce learning with the Coder - Highlight specific Coder cards, or refer to cards as you are teaching with the Coder card posters. Students can use these posters to review terminology as they are working with VEX 123. See the Using Coder Cards Posters in the Classroom VEX Library article to access these printable posters and to see more strategies for using them in your learning environment.