I am so excited about the new VEX IQ Challenge – Rise Above.

If you are new to Vex IQ competitions it can be a little daunting with the number of rules and trying to identify how to approach the game. 

Don’t worry, I will give you some pointers and tips along the way.

As an engineer and project manager, I have come across several different models to describe the process you will be going through in your project. This process is known as either:

  • Design cycle
  • Engineering Design process
  • Project life cycle

Each organisation or institution may have some variation in terminology but essentially these processes are iterative but use different terminology and have different phases that have their unique deliverables or outcomes.

Vex Robotics has adopted the Think – Do – Test design cycle. This is a simple representation of a design cycle and a perfect place to start. However, if your school teaches you another more detail process you can use that too.

With the competition just released, we are at the very beginning of the cycle. So we start with the “Think” phase. On this first iteration of the “Think” phase, it is important to breakdown the competition game manual to extract some functional requirements for your robot.

It can be difficult to extract the important pieces of information from such a large document, so I am creating some videos to help step you through the process.  

To develop your functional requirements you need to be able to answer the following questions.

  • What is the maximum number of points that can be scored in this game and what are the configurations of the risers to obtain that score?
  • What are the physical constraints on the robot?
    • The size at the beginning of the game.
    • The size the robot can extend to.
    • The number of motors and sensors it is allowed to have.

So now you need to do some analysis and list the functional requirements your robot needs to satisfy. You will use this list to evaluate potential solutions against.

Potential solutions can be inspired from all sorts of places in everyday life. However, for some students, it is best to start with a standard build that Vex Robotics with build instruction provided. It is a good process for the students to assess each of these potential robots against their identified functional requirements in a matrix form and provide this analysis in the teams engineering notebook.


By starting with a standard build, the students will be able to get some quick success of basic functionality that they can compete with at local tournaments. They can then work on their robots, undertaking continuous improvement to achieve more functionality enabling the team to achieve higher scores.

Finally, before you move to the “do” or create phase. Make a plan of what you need to build, the tasks that need to be completed and who are doing them and most importantly a schedule or timeline for the tasks to be completed by.

Don’t forget to document everything in your team’s engineering notebook. This can give you a competitive advantage at local meets. A detailed engineering notebook is required to obtain the excellence award.

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