Starting your STEM Journey: Running your First Program with the Virtual Robotics Toolkit

They say that you must walk before you can run, and much like taking your first steps, practice makes perfect. This is an age-old sentiment that’s true for running your first program with the Virtual Robotics Toolkit as well!

Complex programs are difficult to master right away, they may take hours of practice. That’s why this guide is intended to give you a starting point as you begin your coding journey. Without further ado, let’s teach you how to program your first simple program: a square path.


Programming a Square Path

When programming a square path, you may want to avoid the hassle of adding a long line of blocks, primarily because it will save time! This is where loops come in handy. Rather than your program looking like this…

….you could use a loop to simplify it and make your program look like this!

Let’s first look at some of the basics.


Basics of Programming

One of the basic programming blocks is the Move Steering block, which allows you to adjust the number of rotations, seconds, or degrees the robot’s wheels will turn for. It can be found in the Action Programming tab.

Action Programming tab
Move Steering tab

To begin programming a square path, attach a Move Steering block as the starting block. Before continuing to build your line of code, we suggest taking a quick read through the Move Steering Block article on LEGO’s EV3 Programming Guide.

Next, set the speed of this block to any value between 0 and +100, and set the number of rotations you’d like the wheels to perform. Don’t adjust the direction value, as you’ll want your robot to drive straight for the first leg of its journey.

Then, add an additional Move Steering block. It’s best to ensure that this second block is set to a smaller number of rotations (one rotation often works perfectly), because this will be the block that turns our robot into a different direction! If this block is set to more than one rotation, the robot will rotate too far and will not be able to achieve a tight turn.

Next, set this new block’s direction to either a sharp left turn or a sharp right turn. You can do this by adjusting the directional value, pictured below:

Your program should now look like this:

Drag the highlighted blocks into the loop you have already placed. It should look like this:

This program, by default, will repeat indefinitely. If you would like the program to repeat for a certain number of repetitions, seconds, etc., adjust the value in this column:


Connecting to the Virtual Brick

Before your robot can run the program you’ve just created, it must be connected to the LEGO EV3 Programming environment! This can be done in two simple steps.

1. Turn on the virtual brick by pressing the center button

2. Enable WIFI

Connect your virtual brick to WIFI by clicking the box underneath the WIFI icon. Doing this will allow your robot to run your program.


Running your Program

There are three ways to download and run your program in the simulation environment.

1. Click “Download and Run”

Once you have created a program and are ready to try it out, click the gray play button in the bottom right corner of the LEGO EV3 Programming environment. Clicking this button will automatically download and run the program in the simulated environment, it will just take a couple of seconds to work!

2. Using the EV3 Virtual Brick

If you prefer a more realistic programming experience and want to use the EV3 Virtual Brick to run your program, this option may be for you. First, click the downwards arrow icon in the bottom right corner of the LEGO EV3 Programming environment. Clicking this button will download your program to the virtual brick.

Next, navigate to the Virtual Robotics Toolkit window and click the centre button on the Virtual Brick. Note: If it’s not visible, pull up the EV3 Virtual Brick by clicking the EV3 button in Simple Mode (if you are in Advanced Mode, press F12 to change to Simple Mode).

EV3 Button

3. Clicking the Play Button in the EV3 Programming Environment

The third way you can put your newly made code into action is by pressing the green play button in the EV3 Programming Environment.

Simply connect the virtual brick to the EV3 Programming Environment, then click the button (pictured) to play the program!

Play Button

More Resources

Facebook – @cogmation
Twitter – @cogmation
Instagram – @virtualroboticstoolkit
YouTube – Virtual Robotics Toolkit
LinkedIn – Cogmation Robotics

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Meet Priyanka!

Priyanka Tuteja is the Director of Operations and Marketing for Cogmation Robotics, which she joined in 2015 as a Marketing Intern. Over the years, she undertook various roles including Executive Assistant to the General Manager and General Manager.

Prior to her time at Cogmation, Priyanka lived in India, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in Electronics Science. Upon graduation, she worked as a Design Engineer for a Multinational company.

In 2014, Priyanka moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Wanting to put her business skills to the test, she enrolled in an International Business program at Red River College shortly afterwards. Knowing that she loved to teach, she naturally began to teach term courses in Electrical Engineering Technology at the college on occasion.

Priyanka is a new mom to a 21-month-old toddler who keeps her busy at home. She especially loves to travel, an interest that she’s explored quite a bit after joining Cogmation.


Q: What do you love most about your job?

On a day-to-day basis, I get to work with partners around the world who distribute the Virtual Robotics Toolkit, and I meet amazing people who are changing students’ life one line of code at a time.

I believe that the Virtual Robotics Toolkit is the ultimate solution to teach coding to kids around the world who would never otherwise get the chance. In the last few years, I have seen the world open its arms more and more to digital tools and simulation. I could not be happier for our future generation growing up with this kind of opportunity.

Q: What advice do you have for anyone considering the Virtual Robotics Toolkit as an educational tool?

Kudos to you for trying to take the first step to introduce coding to our future generation. I can assure that you won’t be disappointed. VRT is a great tool to help increase engagement in your classroom and get kids excited about coding. Before getting started, I suggest that you refer to our YouTube channel for different tutorials. Please do not shy away from contacting support@cogmation.com. Our customer support team is very responsive and we are always happy to offer technical support and online demos.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

We plan to get more students around the world engaged with coding and to continue developing VRT. We want to make it more fun and exciting for students, teachers and our various partners all around the world.


Connect with Priyanka!

Email: priyanka@cogmation.com

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Starting from Scratch – A Beginner’s Guide to the Virtual Robotics Toolkit

The Virtual Robotics Toolkit, with all its capabilities, can seem daunting at first! With so many options to choose from, how does one know where to start?

Hopefully by the time you’ve read through this short guide, you’ll have a basic understanding of how to use the software. We’re confident that you’ll love it just as much as we do!

The Basics

If you haven’t had a chance to check out our guide on downloading and installing the Virtual Robotics Toolkit, check that out first – click HERE!


Customizing the User Interface

Default Interface

Upon startup of the software, the default interface (pictured) is the first screen users will see. It includes the simulation environment in the top left, the Learning Environment in the top right, and the EV3 Programming environment on the bottom. You might be wondering how to log in to the Learning environment – click here to find out.

Half & Half

The default user interface can be manipulated to hide the Learning Environment by clicking the second-most right button on the top toolbar. In this view, the simulation environment is featured on the top, while the EV3 Programming environment can be seen on the bottom.

Fully Expanded

To fully expand the simulation environment window, click the VRT button, or maximize icon in the top right corner of its window. Doing this will hide the EV3 Programming environment.


Opening a New Project

The Simulation Projects window is divided into four tabs.

1. Sim Basics: A collection of beginner projects to get you started, including Sandbox, Apartment Cleanup, and Maze.

2. Competition Portal [COMING SOON]: A collection of advanced multi-player projects where you can test your newly learned skills against another friend or autonomous robot.

3. FIRST LEGO League: FIRST LEGO League’s 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 challenge mats (Animal Allies, HydroDynamics, IntoOrbit, City Shaper).

4. WRO (World Robot Olympiad):  World Robot Olympiad’s 2016, 2017, and 2019 challenge mats.


The first tab, “Sim Basics,” contains four projects to help you get started.

• Getting Started is nothing more than an empty room with a robot. In this distraction-free environment, you can learn the basics of starting and stopping the simulator, as well as how to use the keyboard controls to drive the robot.

• Maze helps you learn how to connect the MINDSTORMS® programming environment to the simulator. This will allow us to solve the maze by writing our own programs using MINDSTORMS® software and uploading it to the existing virtual robot in the simulator.

• Clean-up Challenge is the “build” challenge in this training series. While we can use the given robot to clear the playing surface, the real goal here is to introduce LEGO Digital Designer and demonstrate how we can use the LDraw import wizard to work with our own customized robots.

• Apartment is the last in the series of training projects. Here we can use the given robot along with its various attachments, and use our skills to program it to navigate around the room and vacuum the blocks littered on the floor.


The third tab, “FIRST LEGO League,” contains the following challenge mats:

• Animal Allies (2016)

• HydroDynamics (2017)

• IntoOrbit (2018)

• City Shaper (2019)


The fourth tab, “WRO,” contains the following challenges for 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019:

• Recycling Plant, Waste Sorting, Clean Road to School (2016)

• Elementary Challenge, Junior High Challenge, High School Challenge (2017, 2018, & 2019)

Each project tile on the Welcome Screen is further divided into:

  • Preview – A preview video of the challenge.
  • Read More – A PDF built around that particular project file.

Click on the tiled image to launch the project and give your project a name.


The Learning Environment

To log in, use the following credentials:

Username/email – virtualroboticstoolkit@gmail.com
Password – cogmation

Once you have successfully logged in, you will be given two options:

1. VRT Tutorial Video Playlist

2. VRT Documentation

  • Access the Virtual Robotics Toolkit user manual

Starting & Stopping a Simulation

To start a simulation, all you have to do is press the play button. Once pressed, a green bar will appear along near the top of the screen, indicating that the simulation is active. When a simulation is active, your robot can be freely manipulated.


Simulation is not active (green bar not visible)


Simulation is active (green bar visible along the top of the screen)

When your program has finished running and your robot is no longer in the default starting position, press the stop button, , to reset the simulation. This will bring the robot back to it’s original position.


Driving with the Keyboard

We can only drive and program our robot when the simulator is running.
To turn the simulator “on”, press the Play button and begin driving the robot using the W, A, S, D keyboard keys.

As mentioned earlier, a green band will appear at the top of the screen to let you know that the simulator is “on”. As each key is pressed, it will become highlighted in the on-screen display, and the robot will move in the specified direction.


W = moves the robot forwards

A = turns the robot left

= moves the robot backwards

D = turns the robot right  


Connecting your Virtual Robot to the Programming Environment

It only takes two steps to connect your virtual robot to the LEGO EV3 Programming environment.

1. Turn on the virtual brick by pressing the center button

2. Enable WIFI


The EV3 Programming Environment

The Virtual Robotics Toolkit is designed to work with the EV3 Programming environment. If you are new to MINDSTORMS® programming, the language itself is quite different from traditional programming syntax. Unlike other languages, MINDSTORMS® robots are programmed by arranging sequences of modules to create new behaviors.

Mastering the LEGO EV3 Programming environment requires lots of experience and practice. To keep things simple, we won’t cover all of its details and features, but you’ll be able to self-study using LEGO’s own guide! Click here to access it.

You can also reference our own YouTube channel if you’d like some extra tips and tricks for navigating our software and the EV3 Programming environment! Click here to check it out.


Additional Resources

Facebook: @cogmation
Instagram: @virtualroboticstoolkit
YouTube: Virtual Robotics Toolkit (www.youtube.com/user/VirtualRobotics)
Twitter: @cogmation
LinkedIn: Cogmation Robotics (www.linkedin.com/company/cogmation-robotics)

Full user manual: https://www.virtualroboticstoolkit.com/documentation

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Meet Marwa!

Marwa is an engineer, entrepreneur, and a mother to a nine-year-old girl, but that’s not all. She’s also a consultant of tinkering, complexity and planning, a STEM capacity building manager, and a co-founder of Ideasgym.

Ideasgym is a leader in the educational technology space that teaches students STEM principles using online/mobile learning, as well as face-to-face sessions. She co-founded the business in 2011 with her husband, Yasser Tawfik, who had been introducing robotics education, open innovation, and entrepreneurship to Egypt since 2002. Since both of them are engineers, robotics education eventually became an important part of their growing business!

Ideasgym has already seen great amounts of success. Their course “LEGO Robots Online Training Using VRT” won second place in the DigiEduHackEspoo challenge led by United Nations Innovation Labs in Espoo, Finland.

Marwa has a B.Sc. in Electronics and Electrical Engineering, as well as a M.Sc. in High Power Lasers and Meta-material devices from Alexandria University. She has also earned a M.A. in Educational Technology from the University of Tartu.

Marwa is an accomplished woman with many accolades to her name. She won first place in the MSMEs category for her Ideasgym work in the Women in ICT Awards, hosted by UNDP and MCIT, was a finalist in Miss Digital Africa 2019, and was selected as a Tony Elemelu Foundation Entrepreneur in 2018. Further, she has beeen a World Robot Olympiad National Organizer, and is a former speaker at the 2012 Global Education Forum in Dubai.

Among all of these accomplishments, Marwa is also a co-founder of the IEEE Egypt Women in Engineering affinity group, a former IEEE RAS Juniors chair, and was a DigiGirlz robotics workshops leader for Microsoft Egypt from 2014 to 2019.


Q: How did you first hear about the Virtual Robotics Toolkit?

I heard about the Virtual Robotics Toolkit through the World Robot Olympiad (WRO).

Q: What inspired you to get involved as a partner?

It was always a challenge to purchase robotics kits and make them available to schools. Part of my work involved training disadvantaged groups, and I saw that the high cost of the kits was a challenge.

The exporting and purchasing of robotics kits have been a great burden in Egypt since 2016, and from an engineering perspective, the use of a simulator is one of the essential engineering skills that we are thrilled to teach our students.

Last but not least, the Virtual Robot Toolkit fit perfectly within our pedagogy for the Ideasgym online platform we started.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge as an educator?

Linking the virtual environment to the real environment when using online technologies is a challenge that our team is working on every day. As our online teaching strategy is different than other MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), we are constantly researching to analyze and test our methods. Despite this, our greatest reward is the positive feedback we receive from our students, teachers and educators across the globe.

Q: What advice do you have for anyone considering the Virtual Robotics Toolkit as an educational tool?

VRT is a very good tool – it allows anyone to build a well structured curriculum around it. Prior experience with LEGO robots can be a great asset as it helps you use VRT efficiently.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

We are currently working to test and spread our pedagogy in different countries.


Contact Marwa!

Website: www.ideasgym.com
Facebook: @IdeasGym
Instagram: @IdeasGymEgypt
Twitter: @IdeasGym
LinkedIn: IdeasGym
YouTube: Ideasgym

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