Once you have started a VRC team or teams and have received your VRC parts and other materials, you are ready to start practicing. Whether you have one team or several, each will need some space to build and practice with their robot. Traditionally, the VRC game field takes up a lot of space, and takes a considerable amount of time to construct. In most cases, packing the VRC field and game elements away between practices will take up a lot of practice time. The new portable field perimeter makes field setup and teardown easier, but it still takes some time and manpower. Leaving your VRC field built and in-place for the entire season, if you’re able, makes everything easier.
- After school clubs can meet in a classroom, library, or other open space that’s large enough for a VRC field..
- Robotics classes with associated teams might have dedicated classrooms.
- Private/community clubs can meet in an industrial space, living room, basement, or garage that’s large enough for a VRC field.
Shared Space, or Dedicated?
VRC teams are as varied as the students who join them. Some teams are school-sponsored, some are formed through youth organizations like BSA and Girl Scout Troops, and others are groups of neighborhood friends and families. Each type of team has the same general space requirements for practice and storage, but some types of teams must share that space with other classes, clubs, or organizations.
Your space plan will have to consider how much of the team’s collection of VRC field, game set, robots, tools, and parts can stay out in the open between team practices. It’s possible that some of your equipment will have to be cleaned up and stashed away after each team meeting.
In a shared space, you need to consider whether open shelving is enough to store or protect the robots, tools, and parts; in a shared classroom, locking built-in or rolling storage cabinets might be a great idea.
Teams with dedicated spaces might benefit from building VRC field risers, and most designs provide storage space underneath. There’s not an official product available, but there are many community-created options that coaches are willing to share. Several examples are available in the ‘Files’ section of the VEX World Coaches Association group on Facebook.
How Much Build Space Do You Need?
The first thing your team will want to do is build a robot, and they’ll need an open, flat work surface that is large enough for all team members to help with the build. A build area can be as simple as a shared table or a group of individual student work desks that are pushed together. In many classroom setups, work surfaces have to be completely cleared of parts at the end of each practice; you’ll want to consider this as you choose where teams will build.
As teams move into more complex designs and mechanisms, they’ll want to expand the range of tools available to manipulate parts. Common tools for VRC teams include a dremel, table-top vise, hack saw, and small power tools to cut and sand metal parts. More advanced teams may use larger and more advanced tools. Each of these tools will need a safe work space.
How Much Practice Space Do You Need?
Students need to test and practice with their robot, and they’ll want to do that on an official VRC field to ensure they’re ready to compete at tournaments. Multiple teams in an organization tend to share a single VRC field; because 4 teams play in each head-to-head VRC match, it’s common for a set of teams to practice on a field simultaneously. Each team will need some solo time on the field, however, to fine-tune their autonomous code and practice their Driving Skills strategies.
A VRC field perimeter is 12’x12’ and just under 1 foot tall; ideally, the perimeter will have 2 or more feet of open space on every side so students and overhanging robots can comfortably fit around the perimeter. If necessary, a VRC field can be put in a corner, but both your walls and the robots will appreciate a bit of open space. The heights and sizes of field elements for seasonal game challenges vary widely, but they typically fit within the 12’x12’ horizontal space of the game field. Because the VRC field tiles are made of semi-flexible EVA foam sheets, the field should sit on either a hard surface or industrial/low-pile carpet.
How Much Storage Space Do You Need?
Storage space needs will vary based on the number of teams and robots. A single team might only need space for a VEX V5 Competition Kit and an in-progress robot. A multi-team club’s storage needs will be larger, especially as the club ages and accumulates additional parts and tools!
For VEX V5 parts, most teams use boxes, parts sorters, or peg boards for large structural pieces. Compartmented parts boxes are great for small items like sensors and connectors. Many teams incorporate sorted rack systems, cabinets, or rolling tool boxes depending on the available space and resources.
If you’re in a shared space, you’ll have to plan for secure storage of your team’s parts, tools, and robots, and ensure that everything is safely packed away before students leave. VRC robots that are built for competition typically have to fit into a space that’s 18” tall, 18” deep, and 18” wide.
- Workspace and storage at Team 3547: Virus
- Raised VRC field at Team 32092: Stargate Charter Academy
- Basement workspace at Team 41442: Canyon Creek Robotics
- Bin & pegboard storage solutions at Team 32092: Stargate Charter Academy
- Cabinet & bin storage solution at Team 1695: Daniel Hand High School