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Touch to Code
Lab 1 - Code and Read

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

Lab 1 Image Slideshow Google / .pptx / .pdf

For visual aids while facilitating the Lab. 1 for the class to view

123 Tiles 

To use as the testing surface for projects. 1 per group

Dry erase marker

To write words on the 123 Tiles for the Lab activities. 1 per group

White board eraser

To erase the dry erase marker from the Tiles at the end of the Lab. 1 for the class to share

VEX 123 PDF Printables (optional)

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

Environment Setup

  • Get your 123 Robots and Coders ready for use with the VEX Classroom App. Be sure that your 123 Robots and Coders are updated, renamed, labeled, and pre-paired before you begin teaching, to ensure a smooth learning experience for your students. To learn about best practices for getting started with VEX 123, see this article, or log into VEX PD+ and view this video

  • Gather the materials each group needs before class. For this Lab, each group of two students will need a 123 Robot, a 123 Tile, a dry erase marker, and access to an eraser to erase the marker from the Tile at the end of the Lab.
  • Give students direction for how to share responsibilities to help students take turns and stay focused Lab activities. For groups larger than the recommended two students, provide students with more granular roles. Examples of responsibilities for students in this Lab:
    • Writing the word on the Tile. 
    • Pressing the touch buttons to create the project.
    • Placing the 123 Robot on the Tile in the correct location.
    • Pressing the “Start” button to run the project.
  • It is recommended that you erase the dry erase marker from the Tiles at the end of the Lab. Be mindful of this when preparing materials, and cleaning up at the close of the lesson.
  • For younger students, you may want to write the words on the Tiles for the groups before class begins. If you want to prepare your Tiles ahead of time, write a 3 letter word on the center 3 squares of a Tile for each group as shown below. 

image of 123 Robot on a tile with the word CAT spelled in the middle squares of the Tile
123 Tile Setup



Begin the lab by engaging with the students.

  1. Hook

    We know our 123 Robots can do lots of things. How do we tell our 123 Robots what to do? We use a programming language!

  2. Demonstrate

    Test each of the touch buttons individually, to help students learn what the touch buttons communicate in the 123 Robot’s programming language.

  3. Leading Question

    How do we know which buttons to press to make our 123 Robots do what we want them to do? Just like we learn words in our language, we have to learn the buttons in the 123 Robot’s programming language.


Allow students to explore the concepts introduced.

Part 1

Students will write a simple word on a Tile. Then, they will use the touch buttons to code the 123 Robot to drive to each of the letters of the word and sound out the word to read it with their 123 Robots.

Mid-Play Break

Students discuss the connection between the touch button and the 123 Robot behavior. What do you think each of the button presses was communicating to the 123 Robot? How do the symbols on the touch buttons relate to the behaviors performed by the 123 Robot?

Part 2

Students practice what they have learned and code the 123 Robot to drive to the letters of a new word and “read” it with their robot.

Alternate Coding Methods

While this Lab is written to use the buttons on the 123 Robot to touch to code, it can also be completed using the Coder or VEXcode 123. If adapting this Lab for the Coder, give each group a Coder and Drive 1, Turn left, and Turn right Coder cards to create projects that move the 123 Robot to “read” a word. For more information about how to use the Coder, see the Using the VEX 123 Coder VEX Library article. If modifying the Lab to use VEXcode 123, give students a tablet or computer and build projects using the [Drive for] and [Turn for] blocks in VEXcode 123. For more information on using VEXcode 123, see the VEXcode 123 section of the VEX Library.


Allow students to discuss and display their learning.

Active Share

Have each group share their last word and project. When it is their turn, students hold up their Tile, to show the class their word. Then they can share their project, and have the whole class sound out and read the word together.

A VEX 123 character

Discussion Prompts