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VEX IQ Challenge 2020/21 - Rise Above

The VEX IQ Challenge is a STEM competition for KS2 and KS3 students to test their robot design and programming skills. In the VEX IQ Challenge, students build a robot to solve an engineering challenge that is presented in the form of a game.

Rise Above field layout

The current game is called Rise Above which is played on a 1.8 x 2.4m Field configured as shown. Two robots compete in the Teamwork Challenge as an alliance in 60-second teamwork matches, working collaboratively to score points. Teams also compete in the Robot Skills Challenge where one robot takes the field to score as many points as possible. These matches consist of Driver Skills Matches, which will be entirely driver controlled, and Programming Skills Matches, which will be autonomous with limited human interaction.

The object of the game is to attain the highest score by Scoring and Stacking Risers in Goals, Completing Rows, and Completing Stacks.

Full rules and the game manual can be downloaded here.

Expert’s View

Chris Calver of VEX Robotics and Competition referee gives his opinion on the 2020/21 challenge

There are quite a few changes to the format of the IQ Challenge this year so if you have competed before, take a good look at the changes.

This is the first year of the VEX IQ Challenge on the larger fields. The length is the same, 2.4m but they are now 1.8m wide rather than 1.2m, giving robots a little more room to move around. Another big change is that the risers start in different positions for Teamwork Challenge and Skills Matches, something we have never seen before. Also, there is no “expansion” limits meaning whilst robots must start within certain size constraints, once the match starts a robot can expand to any size which is going to be vital if robots are going to make these three-riser stacks!

This game is a bit like a game of three-dimensional robot noughts and crosses – you need to place the coloured risers in the 9 goals to form a line of three of the same colour, much like the classic game. The part that is different to traditional noughts and crosses is that you can stack risers upwards as well so the game works in three dimensions. Pay special attention to the scoring rules though – you can only go upwards if the vertical stack is already on a completed row.

Good luck for the season ahead.

Get the FREE VIQC Hub App – All your VEX IQ Challenge rules in one place!

The FREE VIQC Hub gives you access to rules and regulations at your fingertips as well as having a utility for quickly adding up scores. Visit the Google Play Store or iTunes Store to download now.

VEX IQ Hub App VEX IQ Hub App VEX IQ Hub App

What do you need to take part

Parts are reusable year after year so teams that have taken part before will have almost everything they need. If you need spares or additional parts, these are available from Rapid.

New teams will need:

Competition Season Timeline

Each year, the new challenge rules will be available from May. Teams can immediately start work on designing, building and testing their robots. Registration is also open at this point, although you can register at any point in the season. When you register, you will be sent a sample of each game object to help you with your testing.

Regional competitions take place throughout the UK in the autumn and winter with the UK National Championships being held in March. The top UK teams will then go on to compete against the best in the world at the World Championships in April.

By taking part in the VEX Robotics Competition, students will learn to:

  • apply STEM principles to real world designs
  • work to rules and regulations
  • use sensors to aid the autonomy of a robot
  • program using graphical or text based languages
  • work as a team and build relationships with teams from other schools
  • document their work
Season Timeline

Regional Competitions

Find your nearest competition by visiting to check.

  1. Make a checklist of things to take to the competition and ensure you have everything ready in advance. The minimum you should be taking to a competition is:
    • Your robot with 2.4GHz or Smart radio module installed
    • Joystick with 2.4GHz or Smart radio module installed
    • Tether cable (looks like network cable) in case you need to re-tether your joystick
    • USB download cable
    • Robot battery and charger - bring a spare if you have one
    • Laptop for programming
    • Team ID plates with you ID number on
    • Spare parts - you never know what spares you'll need!
    • Drinks and snacks
  2. Arrive as early as possible for the event - check the schedule on and see what time you can arrive and when check-in opens.
  3. Your robot will need to be inspected by officials before you can compete to ensure it complies with the rules. Make sure you have read the rules thoroughly and that your robot is compliant before you arrive at the competition. Go to inspection as soon as possible so that you can make changes if your robot does not pass. The staff at the event will be more than happy to help make sure your robot is compliant.
  4. Assign someone in your team to keep an eye on the match schedule - make sure you are at the Field when it is your turn to compete.
  5. Charge your robot batteries regularly and make sure you charge your joystick from time to time
  6. Learn from the more experienced teams at the event. Watch how they organise themselves and learn from their robot deigns and game strategies. Experienced teams are always willing to help the novices and our staff will be on hand to help as well.
  7. Above all, don't panic and have fun!

Don't forget, you can attend as many events as you like over the course of the season. The more you attend, the better you will get!

Building your first robot

Before building your first ever competition robot, we suggest that you build the Clawbot that is included in all VEX IQ Starter Kits. This will allow you familiarise yourself with most of the major construction techniques used. It also gives you a nice platform to play around with some of the sensors and do a bit of programming before you head on to build your first competition robot. You might even find that for your first year, you use the Clawbot as the basis for your design.

First steps with programming

When you first build the Clawbot, you will notice that it has a program built in by default called "Driver Control" that allows you to drive the robot around with the remote control. Now you can create your own program to change the controls and do some simple autonomous programs - this will prepare you for writing your first program for your competition robot.

Before writing your first program, make sure that the Firmware is up-to-date on the Brain, Joystick and all motors and sensors. To learn how to upgrade the firmware, follow the instructions included in your kit or click here for a guide.

For support with VEX IQ products, the VEX IQ Challenge or with programming your robots contact

Building your first robot