Complaints with Vex

Is anyone else extremely disappointed with the game this year, and Vex’s new products? I thought it would be better than Clean Sweep, but it isn’t by a long shot. The ladder? That just means my team, with no funding, has to buy aluminum. The new batteries? Yeah, thats cool Vex. Lets talk about the ones that our faulty power expander fried (more things to buy). The new Cortex Brain with VexNet? Awesome. Let me just return that VexNet expander thing you sold me last year. What? I can sell hexbugs to raise funding? Yeah, because people; A. Want to buy some novelty for $10 and B. Want to buy something they can make with the head of a toothbrush and a broken videogame controller. This new game blatantly favors the teams with more money, which is not in the spirit of vex which is to make it an even playing field.

Your frustration is…“understandable” but I think that you overestimate what some teams are going to do. Of course some might invest in aluminum and try and think that’ll help them lift, but the awesome teams will be able to do it regardless.

The Hexbugs are a great fundraiser. Each year, we buy 6 cases and run out by the end of the year. And as far as making it out of the end of the toothbrush, I don’t know how to do that. Make you could do that and sell those.

Go back to KISS and you’ll see that many some of the solutions you are thinking of aren’t exactly ideal.

Low cost options are always available:

The new batteries are actually pretty neat. 50% more capacity for the same volume. Might not even need the power expander…

Says right in the rules that you can use either the new cortex controller or the old one. You don’t have to buy anything new.

Hexbugs might seem overpriced, but from what I’ve heard (and witnessed) they sell nonetheless.

Could you elaborate on how the game itself favors teams with money? It’s quite obvious that teams with enough money to purchase a complete field and ungodly amounts of vex products have the upper hand in competition, but you may be forgetting that the spirit of vex is to encourage interest in engineering, which can be done regardless of your financial state or win-loss record.

The low cost is only for the field, not any of the parts so that really doesn’t help. I’m upset about the battery because now, due to a bad part, I have to buy all new stuff, and with the old batteries discontinued, it’s more expensive. I never said we HAD to use the brain, I would just have liked to know last year that vexnet would be so problematic, and they were coming out with an all-in-one unit next year. And the teams with the money to spend on the new brains, new motors and more metal have the upper hand. If it was going to be even, then Vex would sell a pack of parts that is the same for all teams, and they can only use that.

Dude thats how life goes. I see what you are saying but in the real wold companies can use the money that they have. Nobody says “hey Apple you can only spend $1000 on developing a new iPod because Joe’s Electronics is trying to make a similar product and he only has $1000.”

I can not think of a situation where money is not an advantage but in the end you need a brain in your head not just money. With some good engineering you can easily beat out teams who are money rich but knowledge/experience poor.

You can also do some fundraising by calling local businesses and explaining what you do as a team or b talking to family friends. Some teams have each member pitch in $50 as a participation fee as well. if you think about it most sports require a participation fee and it is usually a lot higher than $50.


I agree that in the real world things are different, but if were trying to make a level playing field, money is a variable.

Vex is actually pretty good with leveling the playing field. In FRC they give you a budget, sounds great right? Wrong, then all it boils down to is who can find a sponsor to donate tons of material and do lots of fancy machining for free.

The way i look at this one is you can complain to the forum who will give you tips or you can spend your time doing some fundraising or designing with what you have.

~DK (9/15/08)

VEXnet was problematic? Have you been to a 400-team event running on 75 MHz crystals?

VEXnet was in fact problematic for some teams. Potentiometers seemed to be a source off issues. My original 56 point 20 sec autonomous that i had run all season at regionals with RC turned into a freaking out robot when i upgraded to VEXnet. I rewrote the code and got it working with VEXnet and when i got to Dallas the working code turned yet again into freaking out robot. I had to rewrite a portion of the code only using the timer instead of using any sensors and i was able to get 26 points that way. I heard a few other stories from other teams and they all involved a potentiometer.

Despite the issues i still think VEXnet was good because there was no interference ever and only some of us had issues, i would guess that crystals would cause interference for all teams.


I wont spend the time to break that post down (someone else already did), but I have to say that everyone inside of Vex Robotics Inc., including myself (even though I’m contracted), has been killing themselves for the Vex program.

FTC this year finally got an omni wheel, VRC members received an entirely new microcontroller, new joysticks, two new batteries, brand new communications system which is a LOT better than the crystals or the Bluetooth that FTC uses, high strength motors, etc. This is not even mentioning the new capabilities teams have thanks to the addition of Lexan to the allowed parts list.

As for Round Up, I LOVED Quad Quandary and I am completely looking forward to Round Up. Clean Sweep was a fine game as well, it was challenging but that’s the point.

I hate to be completely one sided, but that post was kind of uncalled for.

Eh, I think that people are entitled to their opinion. And it’s awesome that we have a courteous open forum where people can come and post their qualms get logical, respectable answers.

I would also like to add to the legit-ness of VEX. No disrespect to FTC, but they jumped the gun. When you compare price, fun, modularity, freedom of design, etc. VEX has almost the upper hand in all of those fields.

  • Sunny


If you want to discuss your displeasure with some of the new things VEX is doing, please call the office next week and ask for me. The office number is 903-453-0800.

I am more than happy to discuss all of the items in your post, but feel doing over this forum is not appropriate.

With respect to your power expander, if it is indeed a defect, please call our support line at 903-453-0802 and get an RMA number to send it back to us and we will evaluate it.

With respect to the batteries, NiCD batteries will become illegal in the US very soon and they are already illegal in most countries throughout the world. We really have no choice but to move to new batteries.

In any case, please give me a call.


warning, long, kind of cranky sounding post ahead

Cheap, easy, effective, pick any two, that’s what you do in engineering. If you want to climb the latter, work at it, and be creative. It’s quite possible. In fact, there is a SIMPLE method to high hang using more or less only a drive base (that I won’t divulge here, at least until my team builds one!). But it’s quite possible to do without buying all-aluminum and 4 high strength motors. Work at it, you’ll get up there.

As Paul said, this has kind of been forced on them, and there’s nothing they can do about it. And as someone who had a NiCD battery leak all over my team’s remote during worlds last year due to a short (through no fault of VeX, though dog-proof wiring would be much appreciated :slight_smile: ), …lets just say I’m glad to see this change.

First, think if you really need the Cortex. If you don’t feel the new features are needed (which seems to be suggested, considering the hostile tone towards VeX trying to improve their product line in your post), then by all means stick with the VeXNET upgrade, or even the v.5 controller and crystals. These things are must-haves because we allow ourselves to think of them that way (though I’ll admit, cool demos by John in Dallas certantly help :wink: )

Second, you need to read the VeX product pages more closely

Granted, though I haven’t been able to find anything tangible to this effect yet (quick sidenote: VeX staff, any updates on this?), it would certantly seem that VeX foresaw this complaint.

Now here, i’ll agree, i’ve never personally seen the immediate appeal of Hexbugs. But maybe that’s just because I spend all day building robots, and learning how to do such things as make a hexbug out of a toothbrush/video game controller. Because, I know that i’m in the VAST minority here, and have heard countless stories of fundraising success with Hexbugs. Try it out, you might surprise yourself.

The “spirit of VeX” is actually written out for you in the Round Up manual. It reads more along the lines of this:

Nowhere in there does it say that everyone must be competing on a level playing field, or that everyone must utilize the brand-new-shiny-Cortex to attract, nurture, and grow those engineering candidates.

I’ve worked towards this. I’ve gotten some kids really into this stuff. I didn’t do this by buying them expensive electronics, or winning competitions. I did it by sitting down one on one with them and helping them build things that they didn’t think they could. And that didn’t take a cent. It took time and effort.

If you get kids into VeX, your program grows. If your program grows, you get noticed more. If you get noticed more, you get money. If you spend your money wisely, you can use it to get more kids into VeX. That’s why successful teams are successful. They didn’t magically get their aluminum. That’s just the only part you saw.

Would you rather sink every successful team to your level, or work hard to play right along with them?

Sorry for the epic post, it just really bothers me when the people who are supposed to be becoming “the great problem-solvers of tomorrow” complain about, rather than face the problems given to them.

You can do it with steel, and I’m willing to bet more than half the teams that hung in the last vex game that had it used steel as well.

You mean the competition legal one?

If you think the Hexbug’s that bad, sell something else for a fundraiser. There’s lots of other stuff that clubs do, like candy bars, trash bags, etc.

…I don’t quite see how, other than “teams that work harder to get more fundraising done will be able to buy more parts than me”…

You don’t need aluminum to hang. Here is a picture of our Hangin-A-Round robot. We only used two motors and compound gear reduction to lift us up. And we go higher than shown in the picture.

Wasn’t the last game with hanging before VEX released the aluminum parts, so all of the hanging teams would have done it with steel?

We built two robots for Hangin’ Around. “Otis” weighed seven or eight thousand pounds and could only hang if you clipped it to a chain and 12-ton winch, but “The Goat” could easily climb on the platform and then hang. The goat was built from all-steel parts with the extra-heavy 5" wheels, and hung with a single motor, and no cables or winch. It wasn’t even that difficult. In that year, if my memory serves me, we had no aluminum, high-strength gears, high-strength chain, omni wheels, or those very, very nice steel 12-tooth spur gears. I have to admit that The Goat ate 12-tooth plastic gears like popcorn, but it was still good enough to be a finalist in its only tournament. The students just learned the rapid-gear-change move.

Lighter robots will hang more easily than heavy ones, but you don’t need a $2,000 robot, honest.

It is an annual tradition in FRC for someone to post “why this game is not as good as in previous years”, pretty much as soon as the game is announced.

It’s great to see that tradition being carried over into VEX.

I’m sure it will also be matched by the annual tradition of people going “Wow. What an AWESOME game!”… once they start playing it.

I would like to reiterate my appreciation for VEX’s efforts to maintain backward-compatibility. While I will be investing in some new parts for my teams, every part I have purchased for my teams over the past four years is still VEX-legal. This makes VEX reasonably inexpensive for teams that are in it for the long haul. In fact, on a budget of about $600 (including $300 in entry fees and $300 in parts) 1346C captained alliances at 5 tournaments, made it to the semis in several of them, and won one of them using mostly 4 year old equipment and competing with many of the top ranked teams in Dallas. (Many of whom were also using well-loved parts!)

And yes, that includes the crystals, as we continue to use them at our local events as teams transition to wifi. As for the NiMH batteries, it only makes sense to move to a more environmentally-friendly, higher performance technology as the old NiCd’s die off. (They don’t last forever, eh?)

The new parts are exciting… but perhaps not as exciting as the sheet of polycarbonate, which will allow teams with sufficient creativity and a few basic tools to create some amazing designs at very, very, low cost.

So don’t get too concerned about “this game stinks!” posts. Embrace them! It is part of an enduring, if not glorious, tradition in other competitions.


You left out the part about having to walk to and from school, in the snow, uphill both ways, to build it. :wink:


I have to admit that I share some of the concerns of the OP. Our team of 10 students is low budget, spending $300-$500/year with funds saved from donations from the families and meager car wash earnings. The economy is terrible here – 20%+ unemployment, 50%+ kids on free/reduced lunch city-wide, 20%+ families “food insecure”, meaning they’re not sure from day to day if they will eat. Under these circumstances, selling non-edible Hexbugs seems almost unconscionable, even if we could.

We were a little frustrated because we spent $150 last year on the Vexnet upgrade because one of the events we attended was listed as “Vexnet”, but changed to “hybrid” Vexnet and crystal. Also, we had hoped to attend the Championship of the Americas (where we would need the upgrade anyway), but didn’t due to lack of funds. If we could go back, I think we would have saved the $150 and bought the $400 system this year instead.

Parts we would like but know we can’t afford: Cortex controller & system, high strength motors, aluminum, pneumatics, power expander, more high-strength gears, and more metal. “Upgrades” that we added to the team kit last year include C-channel, potentiometers, and couplers. We are VERY careful about what we buy, even shaving $5 purchases from our shopping list.

That being said, the team is excited about the new game and the coming year. The members have made the decision to build what we can with what we have. We have scaled down our expectations about our chances of winning or advancing and simply decided to make bots that score something on the field. We plan to build a robot that scores rings but does not hang, and also one that hangs but doesn’t score rings. Probably the ring-scorer will go to competition. The team’s emphasis this year is on learning, and there’s a lot of good learning to do, especially for those team members (most of them) who weren’t around 3 years ago for Quad Quandary or Hangin’ Around.

Having money is always easier than not, but you might impress yourself with how much you can do with just a little.