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


In this view, the simulation environment is featured on the top, while the EV3 Programming environment can be seen on the bottom.

To start your first project, you’ll only need these two windows, but if you’ve purchased course content and need to log in, click the three-window button to open the Learning Environment. Move your cursor to the top of the screen to reveal the simple toolbar, then click the three-window button.

If you open up other windows in VRT while using the software, click the second-most right button on the top toolbar to return back to the default view.

Default view button

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

The Learning Environment is the window located in the top right corner of your screen when you launch the Virtual Robotics Toolkit. It includes helpful resources that you can follow along with as you use our software.

You can access these resources directly from our online user manual or YouTube channel, or you can enter the details of a personal Microsoft account in the Learning Environment window.

Important: Users who choose to log in with a personal Microsoft account will need to email in order to register your account with the VRT Learning Environment.

Note: You don’t need the Learning Environment window (top right) to begin using VRT. You can also use VRT with a two-window display. Just press the two-window button (pictured) instead of the three-window button!

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 (
Twitter: @cogmation
LinkedIn: Cogmation Robotics (

Full user manual:

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