We're Hooked! A Rookie Team's First VEX IQ Competition

VEX robotics competition season is officially underway! Events are taking place around the state nearly every weekend between now and February 2017, giving robotics teams the opportunity to collaborate and develop their skills in a competitive environment.

South Newton VEX IQ team poses for a team picture. Even though they didn't feel ready for their first competition, the event taught the team so much and really brought them together!

South Newton VEX IQ team poses for a team picture. Even though they didn't feel ready for their first competition, the event taught the team so much and really brought them together!

We understand registering for that first competition can be a little unnerving. With almost 350 brand new Indiana teams working towards competing for the very first time, we asked one new coach to share her team’s experience at the October 29th Crown Point VEX IQ Tournament. Read Ms. Janice Skinner’s thoughts below about her South Newton elementary team’s first ever competition and why she’s so glad she was encouraged to let go of her uncertainty and give her students the opportunity to compete!


How many students do you have on your team?

  • 13 students from grades 3rd - 5th grade

Do you coach alone or do you have help? Did you have former robotics experience?

  • I am currently the only coach. I had no previous knowledge of robots. However, not knowing all of the answers has turned out to be really beneficial, as the students are forced to learn and persevere when there are challenges. It really makes them take initiative and ownership when they are asked to find the answer themselves.

How many practices did you have prior to your competition?

  • We began practicing in mid-September, working towards the October 29th competition that I had signed us up for. We did get about 6 weeks of practice in, but by the time the competition got here, we still weren’t sure we were ready...

What concerns did you have going into the competition?

  • I actually emailed the Event Partner to tell her that I had decided we were only going to come and watch instead of participate, as I was afraid we would ruin the competition because we were not ready. Fortunately, the Event Partner encouraged me to participate, reminding me that the outcome of the scores would not matter, the event itself would be a great learning experience, and that we were all in it together. She made me feel so much better and I’m so glad I decided to go through with it.

What are some things that surprised you about the competition?

  • There were so many. We never once felt like we didn’t belong. There was so much camaraderie amongst all of the students. Even though all kids and teachers were busy, they still found time to stop and help one another. I learned so much from speaking to other teachers and students. We are hooked!

What will you do in preparation for your next competition?

  • Having the field and having a second robot is going to be extremely helpful with a group of 13 students. Knowing exactly the measurements and dimensions of the field will allow the team to better plan and strategize. I’ve found it’s really beneficial to be certain every student has a role; for example, Scorekeeper, Designer, Social Media, Driver, Builder, Driver Schedule Manager, etc.

What did the students like best about the competition?

  • Getting to work with students from other teams that they otherwise had never met or known. Figuring out how to communicate and work together as a team. Watching other teams compete helped expose the students to new strategies and designs that they had not considered. Having fun while working hard!

What advice would you give to other new coaches around the state?

  • Regardless of feeling like you may not be ready, register for an event and give your students the opportunity to experience a competition! You won’t regret it.

We hope this was helpful for all of you out there who are feeling nervous about registering for, or attending, an upcoming competition. Remember, scores and standings are secondary to the values your students will gain through collaborating as a team and being exposed to other teams around the state!

Ms. Janice Skinner teaches at South Newton Elementary and was awarded with a State Robotics Grant through TechPoint Foundation for Youth in Summer 2016. To learn more about the State Robotics Initiative, visit www.techpointyouth.org/robots/

If you are interested in sharing your story, please email us at robotgrant@techpointyouth.org.