One-Day Design, Build, Compete, Inspire with Vex

In January 2007, we began something in the Philly area that probably few of you know about. Through the generosity of Drexel University’s College of Engineering (and Dean Selcuk Guceri), RD Carol Kauffman, and the help of Drexel undergrads who are FIRST Alums we worked with Velda Morris and the School District of Philadelphia to provide a “whole package in one day” event for inner city schools using the Vex Robotics Design System. Not only did these students and teachers get the thrill of the engaging process and event, they had the Drexel Engineering students as on-the-spot mentors, and every team left with the Vex equipment it used along with more Vex goodies as prizes and there were grand prize winners that received “scholarships” to attend the FVC (now FTC) PA Championship in Weatherly. Some have reported that the Vex equipment has made a very positive impact in their schools beyond the competition.

Here is the full story:

I’m also proud to tell you that, even among the FTC “uncertainty,” we received so much positive local feedback from the event we decided back in May to do it again this coming school year. Because of the budget cycle at Drexel, we had to spend the money by June and decided to go forward to ensure students would once again have this opportunity. The game we used last time was a variation of the classroom game “Wiffle War” ( This time around, we’ll involve our Drexel undergrads more in the game design and planning process and will once again work with the school district to provide a unique and inspiring experience for the students.

Without the flexibility and affordability of the Vex system, such a one-day experience wouldn’t be possible. We’re currently targeting a December event date and we’ll keep you posted on developments.

That’s fantastic Rich,

You’re like the Energizer Bunny … you just keep going … and going … and going …

Great work - looks like a good model for others to replicate. Do you have any documentation of the entire program?

We believe it can be replicated as well. No, there’s no “package” of documentation, perhaps I could put together a whitepaper. Essentially though, here’s the quick and dirty:

  1. Venue at Drexel is free, our RD scheduled that with the College of Engineering
  2. Food for the day was, drinks and snack for morning, drinks and pizza for lunch - I believe it was about 75 total people and we budgeted about $250 for food. Donations can easily reduce this number
  3. I had the field and game elements at the school, no cost.
  4. School district of Philadelphia took care of transportation for teams
  5. Scholarship prizes covered registration and event fees. This amounted to just under $1,000.
  6. Vex order totals about $3K looking at invoices for both years.
  7. The day is packed into about a five hour schedule … game/build/test 2.5 hrs (snack on own), 30 min lunch and welcome from Drexel, play 1.5 hrs, 30 min thanks, congrats, awards, mingle

So, for a little under $5K and a little time, six (or so) schools can walk away with an experience they wouldn’t otherwise have, and they all take home Vex goodies and have new friends/mentors to boot.