VEX Robotics Coach Training and Certification Course

The Coach Training and Certification Course prepares new coaches and mentors to form and guide student teams for the VEX IQ Robotics Competition (VIQRC) and VEX V5 Robotics Competition (V5RC) competitions. 

Need to reach us about a course or certification? Email us at volunteercerts@recf.org.

Unit 1: What is the REC Foundation?

Introduction

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This certification course is designed to teach robotics coaches how to create and manage student teams for robotics competitions through the Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation. Passionate and prepared coaches provide encouragement, resources, and guidance for student team members as they design, build, and code robots to meet the challenges of the VEX Robotics Competition games.

Throughout this course, you will find links to resources that include important information for REC Foundation coaches. Please take time to read the identified sections of each resource before moving on to the unit exam.

This unit introduces the REC Foundation and explores the range of programs and support available to coaches and teams.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this unit, a coach should be able to:

  • Recall the REC Foundation Mission Statement
  • Explain the distinction between the REC Foundation and VEX Robotics
  • Describe the REC Foundation competition programs
  • Determine who to contact for support in a range of situations

What is the REC Foundation?

The Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation is a US-registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that creates opportunities for students around the world to engage in hands-on learning through a range of robotics education programs. The REC Foundation partners with educational robotics company VEX Robotics to present a range of student-centered robotics competitions for students of all ages.

There’s a VEX Robotics competition for every age and experience level. This course focuses on developing and coaching student teams for the VEX IQ Robotics Competition (VIQRC), which is designed for elementary and middle school students, and the VEX V5 Robotics Competition (V5RC), which is designed for middle and high school students. VIQRC uses snap-together plastic structural components, while V5RC is a metal-based platform with pieces that are bolted together.

The REC Library is a resource that includes a wide range of information for educators, coaches, teams, students, and parents. Most of the content is organized by program, and links used in this course will be offered for both the VIQRC and V5RC programs to get you accustomed to navigating the content for your program.

Read the articles “New to the REC Foundation?” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), “Which VEX Competition Do I Choose?” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), and “Getting Help and Support” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) now.

  • Learn about the REC Foundation and its goals
  • Discover the competitions designed in partnership with VEX Robotics
  • Explore the support options available for teams, events, educators, and products

When you’re done, return here to check your understanding of what you’ve learned.

Unit 2: Coach Attributes and Responsibilities

Introduction

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Coaches for REC Foundation programs are parents, teachers, or volunteers who support students by scheduling practices, managing team and event registrations, ordering equipment, being a team supporter, and performing other team-related tasks. Because everything a team does is expected to be student-centered, coaches don’t need to have a background in engineering or coding.

This unit introduces the attributes and responsibilities of VIQRC and V5RC coaches.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this unit, a coach should be able to:

  • Recognize that anyone can be a VIQRC or V5RC coach
  • Recall the primary role of a VIQRC or V5RC coach
  • Describe the responsibilities of a VIQRC or V5RC coach
  • List some actions that VIQRC and V5RC coaches must avoid

Coach Attributes and Responsibilities

REC Foundation coaches come from all sorts of backgrounds, with a wide range of prior experience and knowledge. Anyone who is passionate about fostering student-centered learning can be a successful VIQRC or V5RC coach!

Read the first few sections of the article “VEX Coaches Start Here” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) now, and stop when you get to the interviews with coaches (although you might want to return to this article later, because there’s lots of great content that we’re not referencing in this course!). Then read the article “What Does a VEX Coach Do?” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library).

  • Learn who can become a coach
  • Read about the role of a VIQRC or V5RC coach
  • Review a list of the main responsibilities of a VIQRC or V5RC coach
  • Learn about things a VIQRC or V5RC coach can never do

When you’re done, return here to check your understanding of what you’ve learned.

Unit 3: Code of Conduct and Student Centered Policy

Introduction

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This unit describes the REC Foundation Code of Conduct and Student Centered Policy.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this unit, a coach should be able to:

  • Understand the REC Foundation Code of Conduct policy
  • Identify behaviors that violate the REC Foundation Code of Conduct policy
  • Explain the REC Foundation’s Code of Conduct violation resolution process
  • Describe the importance of the REC Foundation Student Centered Policy
  • Identify and categorize appropriately student-centered behaviors
  • Recall some ways that parents can and cannot help teams

Code of Conduct & Student Centered Policy

The REC Foundation considers the positive, respectful, and ethical conduct of all students, teachers, mentors, parents, and other event attendees an important and essential component of all REC Foundation-sanctioned events. We believe that student team members should be actively involved in learning opportunities—under the guidance of adult mentorship—that increase their knowledge and skills in the engineering design process, mechanical design, programming, and teamwork.

Read the Code of Conduct (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) and Student-Centered Policy (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) in the REC Library.

Also review the article “How Can Parents Help?” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library).

  • Learn the behaviors expected by the Code of Conduct
  • Review the Violation Resolution Process
  • Read the descriptions of student-centered vs. non student-centered behaviors
  • Discover ways parents and other adults can and cannot help teams

When you’re done, return here to check your understanding of what you’ve learned.

Unit 4: Creating a Team

Introduction

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Coaching a robotics team is rewarding, and the REC Foundation provides tools and guidance to make it easy to start new teams and register them for the competition season.

This unit introduces the things coaches need to consider as they develop and register new VIQRC and V5RC teams.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this unit, a coach should be able to:

  • Recall the recommended number of students for a team
  • Determine which grade level category or categories their students are eligible to compete in
  • Describe some common student roles
  • List some of the early steps in developing teams
  • Recall the best source for help with registering a team
  • Recognize the types of contacts associated with a registered team 

Creating a Team

As you learned in previous units, the work in REC Foundation programs is expected to be done by the students. Before they can get started on building robots, writing code, and planning match strategies, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes groundwork that coaches and other adults coordinate or complete.

Read the articles “Starting a Team” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), “Registering a Team” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), and “Team Contact Definitions” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) now. 

  • Learn how many students can & should make up a team
  • Discover how to determine which program students are eligible to participate in
  • Read about common student roles on robotics teams
  • Review common tasks in creating teams
  • Learn how and where to register a team for VEX Robotics Competitions, and how to get help
  • Review the types of adult contacts that must be attached to team registrations

When you’re done, return here to check your understanding of what you’ve learned.

Unit 5: Using and Documenting the Engineering Design Process

Introduction

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Engineering is an iterative process in which students identify and define a problem (for example, how to score points in a VIQRC or V5RC game), then brainstorm, prototype, test, and redesign possible solutions to that problem. They continue the steps of this process until they reach a solution, and start it again when they identify a new problem. Along the way, they'll come across obstacles, experience success and failure, and learn many lessons. This iterative process is documented by students in their team’s engineering notebook.

The engineering notebook allows students to document everything their team does and learns during the design process, provides teams with a way to share their work with volunteer judges, and lets them practice important life skills like project management, teamwork, and communication in a meaningful way.

This unit presents a basic engineering design process that can be quickly implemented by VIQRC and V5RC teams. It also introduces some suggestions and best practices for VIQRC and V5RC engineering notebooks, along with the rubrics that volunteer judges use at events to recognize teams’ use of the design process and engineering notebooks.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this unit, a coach should be able to:

  • Describe the steps of a simple engineering design process
  • Help students understand and use the engineering design process
  • Explain the benefits of keeping an engineering notebook
  • Recall what should be included in an engineering notebook, and what is better suited to an informal team journal
  • List some possible formats for engineering notebooks
  • Help students understand the Engineering Notebook Rubric and use it to guide creation of their engineering notebook

Using and Documenting the Engineering Design Process

The engineering design process is a series of steps that engineers use when they are trying to solve a problem and design a solution for something; it is a methodical approach to problem solving. There is no single universally accepted design process, and most engineers have their own twist for how the process works. It generally starts with a problem and ends with a solution, but the middle steps can vary.

Maintaining an Engineering Notebook can help teams track their ideas, record alternative solutions that may be returned to later, and serves as a place for students to reflect on how their ideas are working to solve their problem. A team’s introspection on their own processes can lead to design improvements for their robot as well as changes in how the team operates.

Read the articles “VEX Engineering Design Process” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), “Getting Started with Notebooking” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), and “Engineering Notebooks vs Team Journals'' (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) now.

Then take a look at the Engineering Notebook Rubric (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) and Team Interview Rubric (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) that are used by judges to evaluate teams and their engineering notebooks at competitions.

  • Learn the steps and goals of a simple engineering design process
  • Discover ways students can apply the engineering design process to VIQRC and V5RC
  • Read about the benefits of keeping an engineering notebook
  • Learn about some common formats for engineering notebooks
  • Review best practices for strong student engineering notebooks
  • Explore the official Engineering Notebook Rubric and Team Interview Rubric

When you’re done, return here to check your understanding of what you’ve learned.

Unit 6: Learning the Game

Introduction

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To succeed in VIQRC and V5RC, student team members must understand the game rules and how tournaments are run. Because all REC Foundation competitions are student-centered, students are expected to advocate for themselves if they feel the rules are being misapplied or misunderstood by the Head Referee or other event personnel. 

This unit introduces the tools available to help you, the Coach, assist students in becoming familiar with the Game Manual for the VIQRC and/or V5RC game, including the rules that guide how a robot can be built for competition.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this unit, a coach should be able to:

  • Identify and locate the most current version of the game manual
  • Describe the main sections of the game manual, and the type of rule included in each section
  • Identify the type of rule based on the rule number
  • Recognize the structure of a rule and where to find specific information within a rule 
  • Recall where to find information about the parts that are legal for use on competition robots
  • Describe where to go for official answers to questions about game rules
  • Identify resources designed to help students learn the game

Learning the Game

Students must understand the rules of the game in order to play it. Coaches, particularly those with students new to VEX competitions, need to understand the game manual in order to help students navigate and understand it.

Read the article “How to Navigate a Game Manual'' (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) now, and the introduction to your program’s game manual (VIQRC / V5RC). 

Search for and read the following rules in the game manual, and make sure you understand each of them: <S1>, <G1>, <G2>, <G3>, <G4>, and <T1>. 

Then review the Q&A Usage Guidelines (VIQRC / V5RC) and robot inspection checklist (VIQRC / V5RC) for your program. 

You should also find (and maybe bookmark!) the Drive Team Training for your program (VIQRC / V5RC), which is the best resource to share with your students to help them understand the game. You don’t need to take the course right now (although you should use it to check your own understanding of the rules at some point), just be sure you know where to find it.

  • Learn where to find the game manual
  • Discover how to confirm that you’re using the most current version of the game manual
  • Read about the main sections of the game manual, and the types of rules that are included in each section
  • Learn how to recognize the type of rule based on the rule number
  • Discover the structure of a rule and the information it includes for teams and volunteers
  • Read some of the key rules for team conduct at events
  • Review the guidelines for parts students can use to build their competition robots
  • Learn where to go for official answers to questions about game rules
  • Discover resources designed to help students learn the game

When you’re done, return here to check your understanding of what you’ve learned.

Unit 7: Preparing to Compete

Introduction

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VIQRC and V5RC tournaments give students the opportunity to test their robot, code, and strategies alongside and against other teams and share their experience with judges. Before your team can compete at a tournament, though, there are some more steps for coaches to handle behind the scenes.

This unit presents the tasks that occur after you’ve created a team but before that team competes at a VIQRC or V5RC tournament, including registering for an event and completing the required release forms for all participants.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this unit, a coach should be able to:

  • Recall the types of tournaments available for VIQRC and V5RC teams
  • Generate a list of nearby tournaments 
  • Register a team for a tournament
  • Describe the limitations on registration for Signature Events
  • Recognize the limitations on swapping the registered team for an event
  • Recall the process to pay for a tournament by purchase order
  • Describe which participants need to complete participant release forms, and recall how to find and distribute them

Preparing to Compete

Tournaments are the culmination of the hard work that students put into designing, building, and coding their robots. Providing teams with multiple opportunities to compete during a season gives them an incentive to iterate and improve their design. The tasks of finding events, registering teams for competitions, and ensuring that all of the necessary paperwork is complete typically fall to you, the coach.

Read the following articles about event registration now: “Event Formats and Classifications'' (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), “Register for an Event” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), “Early-Bird Registration Policy” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), “Registering for a Signature Event” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), and “Team Swapping Policy” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library).

Then review the articles “How to Submit a Purchase Order” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) and “Participant Release Form” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library).

  • Discover the types of tournaments available for competition teams
  • Learn how to find and register for events in your area
  • Review the guidelines that help ensure all teams have opportunities to compete
  • Read about the guidelines for Signature Event registration
  • Discover the limitations on swapping one team's event registration for another
  • Learn how to pay for event registration with a purchase order
  • Learn multiple ways to complete and submit participant release forms

When you’re done, return here to check your understanding of what you’ve learned.

Unit 8: Attending a Tournament

Introduction

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At typical tournaments, VIQRC teams compete in teamwork matches and V5RC teams play head-to-head matches alongside randomly-assigned alliance partners. Both programs also participate in Robot Skills Challenge matches, which demonstrate what the team’s drivers and autonomous code can accomplish in a 60-second single-robot match. Teams are also invited to submit their engineering notebook for evaluation by teams of judges, who also interview teams about the work they’ve done during the season. The event culminates in an awards ceremony where the top performance and judged teams are recognized for their efforts.

This unit introduces the components of a tournament, provides tips on how to make tournaments a positive team experience, and explains how teams are ranked at tournaments.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this unit, a coach should be able to:

  • Describe the typical activities that are part of a VIQRC or V5RC tournament
  • List some ways to help create a positive tournament experience for teams
  • Recall that an adult is needed to supervise students at an event
  • List some tasks that coaches and teams must complete after arriving at a tournament
  • Understand the role of a team’s Robot Skills score in award eligibility and qualification for Championship events
  • Recognize how teams are ranked based on their performance in skills and qualification matches
  • List some things that teams can do to prepare for judging at a tournament
  • Recall how to find audience-focused information about teams and tournaments

Attending a Tournament

Although no two tournaments are exactly the same, most share a set of activities and features. Understanding these before your first event will help everyone involved with your team have a positive experience. There are some simple things you can do as a coach both before and during events to improve the day for your students, their families, and yourself.

Read the articles “Spectator Primer Part 2: Tournaments'' (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) and “Attending a Tournament” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) now.

Then review the articles “Tournament Ranking Calculations” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) and “The Judging Process Demystified” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), and visit the page audience.recf.org.

  • Discover the activities that are part of a typical VIQRC or V5RC tournament
  • Learn ways to create a positive tournament experience for teams
  • Review the requirements for adult supervision of students
  • Read about the things teams do before competing in matches at a tournament
  • Discover the importance of Robot Skills matches in a team’s season
  • Learn how teams are ranked for finals matches based on their performance
  • Review actions students can take to prepare themselves for judging
  • Browse the collection of resources created to help spectators understand the games

When you’re done, return here to check your understanding of what you’ve learned.

Unit 9: Qualifying for Championship Events

Introduction

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A typical team’s season includes attendance at multiple local events, during which the team strives to qualify for their Event Region Championship through awards, on-field performance, or their Robot Skills scores. Qualified teams then compete at their Event Region Championship in hopes of qualifying to the VEX Robotics World Championship. The exact number of teams that will qualify from a specific event to the next level of competition varies based on the size of the event and the region and determined by criteria published annually by the REC Foundation.

This unit introduces the Qualifying Criteria for the VIQRC and V5RC competitions, including the rules that govern how teams qualify from local events to Event Region Championships, and from Event Region Championships to the VEX Robotics World Championship.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this unit, a coach should be able to:

  • Describe how a team can qualify from a local event to an Event Region Championship, and from an Event Region Championship to the VEX Robotics World Championship
  • Recognize how championship spots are awarded for double qualifications at local and championship events
  • Recall how long a team has to register for the VEX Robotics World Championship after qualifying
  • Recall what happens when an invitation to the VEX Robotics World Championship is declined or expires
  • Recognize which awards at an event will qualify teams to championships based on that event’s allocated number of spots
  • Determine the number of VEX Robotics World Championship spots allocated to a specific program, grade level, and region

Qualifying for Championship Events

For many teams, passing robot inspection and competing at a local event is the goal for the season. For others, the goal is to qualify for their Event Region Championship or the VEX Robotics World Championship. Understanding the REC Foundation Qualifying Criteria and the award & spot allocation charts can aid you in helping your team reach their specific season goals.

Open the “Qualifying Criteria” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) now, and review the information in the first section (Introduction). We’ve already covered most of it in other units of the course, but it’s a good refresher as we learn about qualifying for championship events. 

Spend some time reading sections 2 (Local Qualifying Events), 3 (Event Region Championships), and 7 (VEX Robotics World Championship Qualifying Criteria). We encourage you to review the entire document, but this course isn’t going to cover the material in the remaining sections. Note that you can jump between sections using the “In this article” navigation on the right side (desktop) or top (mobile) of the page. 

Finally, take a look at the appendices (if they've been added to the document already), which specify the awards that qualify teams to the next level of competition based on the number of spots allocated to the event. For local events, championship spot allocations are determined by the REC Foundation Regional Support Manager. Appendix C lists the VEX Robotics World Championship spot allocations for each program, age level, and region; an initial set of spots is allocated in the fall, and those numbers are adjusted in January. Find your team’s program, age level, and region in Appendix C, and make a note of the number of VEX Robotics World Championship spots that have been allocated. Use the chart in Appendix A (VIQRC) or Appendix B (V5RC) to determine which awards at your Event Region Championship will qualify teams to the VEX Robotics World Championship.

  • Learn multiple ways a team can qualify from a local event to an Event Region Championship, and from an Event Region Championship to the VEX Robotics World Championship
  • Discover how spots are awarded for double qualifications at local and championship events
  • Review guidelines for how long a team has to register for the VEX Robotics World Championship after qualifying
  • Discover what happens when an invitation to the VEX Robotics World Championship is declined or expires
  • Learn how to determine which awards at an event will qualify teams to championships based on that event’s allocated number of spots
  • Learn how to find the number of VEX Robotics World Championship spots allocated to a specific program, grade level, and region

When you’re done, return here to check your understanding of what you’ve learned.

Unit 10: Additional Benefits and Resources with Team Registration

Introduction

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As you’ve learned in previous units, your team registration allows your teams to compete at local events, post scores on the World Skills scoreboard, and work to qualify to compete at Event Region Championships and the VEX Robotics World Championship. Registered teams and their associated adult contacts also gain access to a wide range of benefits and resources to expand their activities and knowledge.

This unit reviews the REC Foundation Online Challenge program, the annual VEXcode Virtual Skills challenges for the current season’s games, and the wide range of support and educational resources for coaches and educators. 

Learning Outcomes

After completing this unit, a coach should be able to:

  • Describe the REC Foundation Online Challenges and some possible prizes
  • Recall how to find and enter the team’s Virtual Skills key in VEXcode
  • Locate resources to help students learn and use Virtual Skills in VEXcode
  • Use expert-created VEX IQ and VEX V5 lessons to teach students in clubs, workshops, or classrooms
  • Recall where to find collections of useful REC Foundation and VEX links

Additional Benefits and Resources with Team Registration

The REC Foundation supports students and coaches whether they’re competing at an event or learning in their team practice space or homes. A wealth of resources exists to take student learning beyond the competition field and support coaches as they learn and grow.

Read the article “REC Foundation Online Challenges” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library) and review the Online Challenge web page.

Then read “Virtual Skills” (VIQRC Library / V5RC Library), “Accessing Virtual Skills” (VIQRC version / V5RC version), and the VEXcode Virtual Skills page.

Visit education.vex.com to learn about the range of expert-created STEM Labs.

We’ve shared a lot of great resources with you in this course, but we understand that it’s a lot to remember. If you forget everything else, try to remember these two URLs: shortcuts.recf.org and shortcuts.vex.com. All of the other URLs you’ve visited during this course can be found on those two pages, along with many many more that we think you’ll find useful.

  • Learn about  the REC Foundation Online Challenge program
  • Review where to find and enter the team’s Virtual Skills key
  • Discover what students can do and learn in VEXcode Virtual Skills
  • Browse expert-created VEX IQ and VEX V5 lessons to teach students in clubs, workshops, or classrooms

When you’re done, return here to check your understanding of what you’ve learned.

Coach Certification Final Exam

Congratulations! You've reached the end of the course, and are ready to assess your knowledge in the final exam. Click this link to proceed to the final exam. When you have passed the exam with a score of 80% (41/51 questions correct), you can proudly call yourself a Certified REC Foundation Coach!

Certificates are emailed approximately once per week, and will be sent to the email address entered during the exam. You can confirm your status as a Certified Coach by contacting your REC Foundation Regional Support Manager.

Need to reach us about a course or certification? Email us at volunteercerts@recf.org.