Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy

Use the motivational effects of robotics to excite students about STEM

August 24, 2021

Update to Internet Security Protocol Forcing Discontinued Support for Robot Virtual Worlds

By Vu Nguyen

The Connection Issue

It is with sadness that we bring you some unfortunate news regarding Robot Virtual Worlds, and its ability to connect to CS2N. Over the past week, we've received some support emails mentioning that they aren't able to log into CS2N through their Robot Virtual Worlds software (also will happen for the same family of software like Virtual Brick, Expedition Atlantis). You may see something like this when you try:

login screen of expedition atlantis

The Investigation

We investigated the issue through a series of tests of our CS2N server, its external communication setup (API), and then looked into where it is hosted (we utilize both Amazon AWS and Heroku). What we found was that there is a security protocol called "TLS" that has several different versions available. The version that it uses (TLS v1) has just recently been dropped - aka is no longer supported - by Amazon AWS and Heroku. 

What this boils down to is that when Robot Virtual Worlds tries to communicate with CS2N, it gets blocked by Amazon AWS and Heroku, and this situation is permanent. 

Analysis 

After some attempts to find ways to work around this issue, and some lengthy internal discussion, we have concluded that since this is something that we don't have control over (big companies like Amazon and Heroku have dropped its support), we have to call it a day. We've worked so hard to create the integrated experience with Robot Virtual Worlds and CS2N. It's great knowing that tens of thousands of teachers out there have used this in their classrooms, resulting in millions of students who have gone through the activities, and earned millions of achievements over the years. We are so proud and extremely thankful for those who have used the software to help teach STEM and CS to students all over the globe. 

It's also worth noting that you can still use the virtual worlds and save progress, but you must use the "Local Account" creation. This means that the progress is saved on the computer that you/the students are using. 

We will be going through all of our courses that previously used Robot Virtual Worlds/Virtual Brick to track progress and those courses will no longer be looking for earning of those badges. It will still need students to pass the quizzes, and in most cases upload their program. These programs can still be viewable as a teacher. These courses are:

  • Introduction to Programming with ROBOTC VEX IQ
  • Introduction to Programming with LEGO EV3 (EV3-G)
  • VEX CORTEX/EDR Video Trainer

What now? 

With every end brings a new beginning. Thankfully, we have been working hard recently to work on a web-based robot simulation software that we have integrated directly onto CS2N. 

If you are in need of a virtual solution, we now have a fully integrated and web-based Virtual EV3 course where you don't even need to install additional software to use (other than a web browser, of course). You can take a look here:

ev3_virtual.png

Since LEGO has introduced the SPIKE Prime, we are currently working on a Virtual SPIKE Prime offering. We also already have a SPIKE Prime Robocamp offering that gives a short "summer-camp" like experience to teach coding:

robocamp.jpg

We will continue to build on the virtual offerings as we continue to our research work, and can't wait to see where the future takes us. 

Thanks again everyone!