This year OPEF VEX Robotics piloted an exciting new program at Julian Middle School called the In-House League. This program was designed for the student with little or no experience in coding and building VEX robots. The program allowed students to dip their toes into the exciting world of VEX Robotics with less commitment and intensity than our Competitive Club program.

Students chose from one of two sessions, one in the fall and one in the winter. Each session met once a week for nine weeks after school. Students learned how to build and program their very own VEX Robot. The session culminated with the Robot Rumble, where students put their robots through a gauntlet of challenges to show off their newly acquired skills. The Robot Rumble included two challenges: Bocce Bot (a take-off of bocce ball) and Not In My Backyard (a take-off of the beloved children’s game). The robots played both games autonomously, without the use of a controller!

Students gave the program a big thumbs up. When one participant was asked if she would recommend the program to a friend, she said, “Yes, because it was a very awesome program and you make friends.” And how can we improve the program? “Make it year round!” she said.

Parents were also complimentary of the program. One parent told us, “My son and his five friends were so excited to do VEX Robotics in BASE Camp last year. But they were intimidated by the idea of ‘trying out’ for the Competitive League and were not in a position to make the commitment that is required. The In-House League provided the perfect opportunity to continue exploring their interest in robotics, while having fun together in a hands-on, challenging and cooperative learning environment.”

Discussions are already under way as to how the program can become a permanent part of the OPEF VEX program in both District 97 middle schools.

The In-House League pilot program was made possible by funding from the OPEF Peter Traczyk Innovation Fund.