Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to most of the frequently asked questions, and policies.
This question i.e. What are the benefits of Learning Robotics gets asked fairly frequently and is a great question. Here are some of the key advantages:
- Competitive Robotics introduces students to Teamwork, deadlines, milestones, the elation of things working and the tenacity and capacity to think on their feet when things are not working
- Competitive Robotics introduces students to Leadership principles and real life engineering in terms of introducing the engineering discipline required to build, document and cohesively work with others
- Both FIRST and VEX Foundation give out millions of dollars in scholarships every year to students. There are many other robotics competitions and robotics grants available to students in the field of Technology and Robotics See here for a list
- Physical Computing and Underwater Robotics prep students for innovation, entrepreneurship and internships at tech companies and for entry to top ranking university. Many of our students have formed non-profits to prototype, build and disseminate technology for the good of the society. Many of our students, hence have been placed at some of the highest Universities in the country.
Would it help, if we mentioned that one of our students built a drone from scratch – buying individual parts, soldering, putting it together, loading the firmware and testing over 8 months to get it working? Did we mention that the student was in grade 4 when he did this? Did we mention that he is currently building a wearable prototype to alert people when someone is coming within 6 ft of them for the COVID age?
Would it help if we mentioned that our teams have made it consistently to World Championships in FLL, VEX, FTC and FRC and that the confidence it generated has made these students feel that they are a cut above the average student.
Would it help if we mentioned that our students got full scholarship for an undergrad program at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities?
We think that these benefits speak for themselves. Wouldn’t you agree?
Our courses are structured into the following grade levels:
- [discontinued-Our robotics classes don’t work with Grades k-2] Grades k-2: Early Start Robotics – this is for young students who learn best in instructor led hands on building to learn robotics in a fun, educational way.
- Grades 3-7: There are two tracks. Robotics wise, both kids provide equivalent capabilities except that the VEX IQ robots can also be driven and competed with using a joystick but the kit and programming language being used changes. We offer LEGO Mindstorms, LEGO Spike Prime as well as well as VEX iq based courses.
- Grades 8-12: FTC with Java programming, VEX EDR with C++. Also Java AP Programming.
- Physical Computing: Robotics that interacting with the physical world with wearable electronics and sensors. This course preps students for innovation, entrepreneurship and internships at tech companies and for entry to top ranking university.
Our curriculum is fixed and published for each of the classes at http://innersparkrobotics.com/curriculum. It is password protected and the password is made available to all new parents as part of the welcome letter. If you have a student enrolled and you have misplaced or lost the welcome letter, contact us and we will be happy to supply the password to you.
On our side, we believe we offer top tier education. We don’t cut corners and we make things right when a mistake is made. We are very upfront and will even turn away business if we believe it better serves you. We started with a vision of providing the very best in Robotics education and we strive very hard to do that.
Look at the Why is the tuition more than at institution X? to further get more understanding why Inner Spark is THE place for your child if you won’t compromise on quality education.
All LEGO/VEX iq classes, including the Early Start Robotics classes are $675/3 month quarter. FTC/Java classes are $750/3 month quarter
There is one class a week.
Unfortunately no. Parents are not allowed to sit in the classes as it disrupts our classes and undermines the instructor authority. Our instructors are fully capable of working with the students and having parents there puts the students at unease. Our past experience has shown that sometimes parents will start talking to the children in the classroom or otherwise start asking questions which disrupts the class flow. Our goal is to provide the best, fun filled educational experience to the students and having parents there runs counter to our goals.
We hear this one enough, so although not a question, we believe we need to address it. In life, you usually get what what you pay for.
- Our instructors are very qualified – they have degrees in engineering, child psychology, formal instruction training. We don’t cut corners on getting the best educators we can.
- We develop and utilize curriculum that we developed working with hundreds of kids. Our curriculum is derived from the personal experience of our Founder who has coached tons of teams in various competitive leagues. The work is published in book form and highly reviewed on amazon (http://winningrobotics.com) so you can check it out yourself.
- Every student in our classes works individually with their own kit, without getting blocked behind someone. We have to cover those costs.
- Our class sizes are pretty small (on an average about 6 kids although we sometimes hit up to 10 kids max)
- We provide top tier education, this is what it costs us to run our place and unfortunately, we cannot drop our tuition below this.
- For FTC classes, we do not know of anyone else in the entire state who offers these classes. The structural and electronic material is very expensive and we need to cover our costs.
- When you compare us with other top tier education providers and their prices, we are actually a great value for money given we provide the structured education over a long period of time allowing better retention.
Our makeup, vacation polices are listed at http://innersparkrobotics.com/policies.
It helps to have some context on our makeup policies. The curriculum we teach is fairly advanced for the kids their age. Missing classes is very heavily discouraged since a lot of our value is in the hands on exercises that we conduct during classes. It is exceedingly difficult to provide the exercises with the same amount of detail to a student who misses a class.
Having said that, if there was an unavoidable reason, you may schedule a missing class makeup using this link – Schedule a make up class
- For Early Start (grades K-2) and LEGO/VEX IQ (3-6) classes, Yes! To schedule a trial for Early Start class – click here – Schedule a trial class
- For FTC and Java (grades 7-12) classes, No, there are no trial classes. You MUST register and pay the cost for a quarter at least to attend classes. These classes are fast paced and it is not possible for anyone to join once a class has met a few times and so the class has to continue with whatever number of students it started with. Additionally, our costs for these classes are extremely high and as far as we know, nobody in the entire country offers FTC classes like ours. Many schools have a robotics club where 20+ students work on a single robot but that does not give much chance for students to work on the robot at all. In our case, we have invested about $2500+ per student so that every student in a class can have an individual robot in the class to work with.
You may reach us by text/phone/email any time. Most of the times, we notice is fairly quickly and if it is something really simple, we will reply back you to immediately or at least pretty soon. Questions that we deem urgent such as – hey is the class there today? will be replied to almost immediately.
However, if you have a complex question that does not already fit within the parameters of day to day business and forces us to reconsider an existing policy, talks about changes required in a class or the way we conduct business, then we will take a few days to get back to you. We might, in certain cases, ask you to come in for a face to face meeting since some subjects are best dealt with in-person. The primary reason for delaying such questions is because day to day operation and helping the students and parents takes the top priority.
Prioritizing helps us manage our time better and provide the best value.
We are not superhuman and sometimes do miss a text/phone/email and so if you haven’t heard back in a few days, send back a reminder mail or just stop by to talk to us. It is very rare for a reminder mail to go unreplied for any significant length of times.
World Robotics League (R) or WRL is a competition that we setup because we feel that all existing robotics competitions fall short on the goals of delivering objective, sustained learning where students remain excited throughout the year. You can visit the website http://worldroboticsleague.com to learn more.
At Inner Spark Robotics in Redmond. If you would like to setup a chapter of WRL or wish to setup the challenges for in use home, let us know.
Whether the question is for LEGO hardware, EV3 hardware, VEX iq hardware or FTC hardware, the answer is a resounding YES!
Students learn best when they have the hardware to experiment at home. Without that, they are simply attending a class once a week for an hour where they learn material that they will likely not retain very well without being able to have it to experiment with. The biggest part of robotics is hands on experience and without having the material at home, it is extremely difficult to do that.
A full listing of things that you should purchase for a FTC or WRL capable robot is present HERE
Yes, it is a bit expensive, but if you buy these parts piecemeal instead of in one go, you will pay significantly more in shipping and wait for a long time as parts come into stock or go out of stock.
Finally, this is recommended, but optional – you should probably purchase this book – Black and White version (Click Here), Color Version (Click Here), Kindle version (Click Here.) This is the book we use as a text in the course and it will help the student greatly as well as provide enough context to the parent to help the student when needed.
- Buy the EV3 core education kit from LEGO Education. Click HERE to get to it. NO, THIS IS NOT SOLD AT AMAZON! NO, THERE ARE NO OTHER AUTHORIZED RESELLERS ANYWHERE ON THE WEB. Buy direct from LEGO Education. It is NOT sold even in LEGO Store. LEGO Store sells a different version of the kit which misses multiple sensors and a rechargeable battery. Trying to supplement them costs 50% of the cost of the kit. DON’T DO IT!
- DON’T BUY THE EV3 EXPANSION KIT LISTED HERE
- Instead, purchase the materials listed on this link – CLICK HERE This is a curated list of parts that we created and really recommend. This will give your child enough freedom to build anything they want without getting stuck all the time. The EV3 education core kit above contains all the electronics you will need but lacks enough structural parts to build a good robot.
- Finally, this is recommended, but optional – you should probably purchase this book – Black and White version (Click Here), Color Version (Click Here), Kindle version (Click Here.) This is the book we use as a text in the course and it will help the student greatly as well as provide enough context to the parent to help the student when needed.
What do I need to buy?
For a full competition ready robot, you should get the following two together
The following is a good to have:The first two are good to have up front since they get you enough in terms of electronics and structural parts so you can build a good sized robot and you can wait for the third one during the competition season although given its relatively low cost you likely are just better off getting everything in one go.
We do teach using gears and chains which are not packaged in VEX kits above. Here they are:
- Chain and Sprocket kit https://store.robotmesh.com/vexiq/motors-and-gears/vexiq-chain-sprocket-kit
- Gear add on kit for Rack and Worm Gear: https://store.robotmesh.com/vexiq/motors-and-gears/vexiq-gear-kit
- Differential and Bevel gear kit: https://store.robotmesh.com/vexiq/motors-and-gears/vexiq-differential-bevel-gear-pack
Where do I need to purchase this from?
- We are lucky be physically close to Robot Mesh, an authorized VEX reseller. They are located on Redmond/Kirkland boundary. They sell at the same price as everywhere else and you can pick what you need from them easily, in-person. They are very knowledgeable and they can help. Look up their address on the link above.
In short, no. Longer form, by means of in class teaching, hands on exercises, we will get the students well versed with how to build and program robots. If your team decides to participate in World Robotics League competitions held at Inner Spark throughout the year and works towards performing well, by the time your chosen competition time arrives, your team will be fully ready to fly and do well. Most of our successful teams have done the above. As experienced coaches, we will get you ready for the competition before the competition season starts by means of in-class instruction and World Robotics League. During the competition season, the parents will need to perform the day to day management of the team.
Unfortunately, we are unable to do that. Refer to the above question, Will Inner Spark Coach our team.
Unfortunately, we are unable to do that. Refer to the above question, Will Inner Spark Coach our team. Our experience has been that the best performing teams have a high level of motivation between the students and the parents. They work throughout the year, learn the material by focusing on it during classes and further cement it by participating in World Robotics League competitions. World Robotics League further helps them understand the competition format, things that can go wrong, how to handle things when things go wrong, strategies and planning for eventualities, leadership and a sense of accomplishment that comes with competing in a fun skill based competition.
We have learnt with past experience that a team that has done everything above does not need much help and can operate by itself. A team that does not perform the tasks above has to figure out all of the above under stress during a very short period of time and is rarely successful no matter how much support we provide. Given that, we do not help outside the class during the competition season. We can provide in-class help only.
Unfortunately, we are unable to do that. Refer to the above questions, Will Inner Spark Coach our team? as well as Will Inner Spark instructors help us outside class to get ready for the competition?
We work pretty hard to get students ready for any competitions throughout the year and teams that follow our prescribed path are quite successful without any additional help. We would suggest you engage throughout the year to avoid needing such help.
Unfortunately, we are unable to do that. FTC materials start going out of stock almost immediately after the announcement so it is prudent to plan ahead and get anything that you might need ahead of time. FTC materials is pretty expensive and we cannot stock them. We will not loan or sell any of our materials under any conditions.
Unfortunately, we are unable to do that. You can purchase the parts from official sources by looking at the links I want to buy a EV3/VEXiq… in the FAQs.