Complaints with Vex

I think sometimes you also have to plan accordingly. It is very possible that an all steel bot could be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to a pushing match. Contact is legal here and really light robots may have the upper hand when it comes to hanging but they may be very easy to push around. I would say pushing a hanger around and preventing them from scoring 10 or 20 points is the same as scoring 10 or 20 points yourself.

This also working for a steel offence bot. If you make a tank of a tube scorer robot none of the light robots are going to be able to push you around.


AL parts were available by February, and the game concluded in April. I don’t remember if they were around the whole time, but AL parts were an option that my team decided not to use.

True, at the expense of your top speed. Do you want a light and agile robot, or a bulky pushbot?

I think people may have misinterpreted what I said. My post was not to criticize the Vex staff in anyway. Why would I think better products is something bad?! I never said that you HAD to buy the cortex, I UNDERSTAND you don’t. I was saying that I wish I had known before that there was an all-in-one system coming out next year and save $150. I never meant this to be about “You can climb the ladder without aluminum!!!” I know you can do it without, however, it is easier. I never said you COULDN’T do it. I was simply venting my feelings on the struggles that teams with little to no funding have.

As someone who had a tiny ($750 overall, no parts to start with) budget and won an FTC event back when FTC wasn’t crap, here’s some advice to save money on parts:

  1. You won’t be able to do everything. Accept your budget as another design constraint and aim to build simpler designs that do one thing very well, rather than trying and failing to do all aspects of the game challenge. I’d pick a pure hanger that works over a hybrid hanger / ringer that does neither as well any day, and vice versa. Remember that you do have alliance partners and you can play defense if you aren’t a ring scorer.

If I’d done this and just built a robot that dragged a movable goal around, I’d have done a lot better than I did. Instead I aimed to “do everything” and tried to score the rings off the floor onto every goal without much success. Don’t do everything.

  1. Do as much advance planning as possible. If you can learn CAD, Autodesk Inventor is free for VRC teams. Plan out your entire robot in CAD so that you buy exactly how many parts you need. If you can’t do that, do some design sketches and figure out roughly what parts you need to buy to make the design work. You’ll always want more spacers, shaft collars, long shaft, threaded standoffs, and gears than you have in your arsenal, but most everything else you can plan out with significant pre-design.

  2. Start fundraising. Hexbugs work, but I agree that they’re a tough sell; it took my FRC team awhile to start turning a profit with the Hexbugs we bought. (We ended up making $250 or so, not bad, considering we still have some to sell) Other stuff may work better, like car washes, bake sales, and sponsorships. You’ve got plenty of time, so get to work! High budget teams almost always are the result of this hard work, rather than just falling onto money.

  3. Be a pack rat. Get some storage bins and keep them organized. They’ll pay for themselves when you realize that losing a few motors or a set of gears is about the same as the cost of a good storage bin at Wal-Mart.

You can build a competitive robot this year with the Classroom Kit and under $250 in extra parts if you’re conservative and stick to a simple robot.

Thanks for the advice and encouragement! I had no idea that Autodesk Inventor was free for VRC! How do we get it?

Actually, there has been a thread on the forums (I think is was also under news?) with the expected release date of the cortex microcontroller and VEXnet transmitters. There have been threads probably almost a year ago with early info on the cortex.

Also, on the VEXnet upgrade product page ( it says this:

If you have a student email, you can go to and get a free 13 month copy of most of autodesk’s products.

Well I’m glad to see that they offer a trade in!

There is no free Inventor for VRC. But I was told about this site by another user on the vex forums that you can get free Inventor off, you can create an account and download 2D and 3D CAD programs such as Autodesk Inventor 2010.

Autodesk Inventor has been available to students for a long time. In fact it was advertised on the Online Challenge page for weeks and still is.

So it seems like a lot of this post is financially based… As a PR guy, I can never understand this… People complain about raising money to help finance their team… Well, I am looking to help y’all fix those problems…

My basic philosophy is if you have kids willing to learn, willing to try something new, and willing to make a difference in the world today, money shouldn’t be their biggest problem. In fact, it should be their last problem. Everyone says we are spending too much on education… Well, let me phrase the question this way: how much are you willing to spend on your future, and the future of you’re nation? I am working on taking my efforts nationally, and I want to help everyone with problems like this…

Basically, my goals are big. Really big. For instance, this past year, I decided I was going to try and raise $60,000 for my team, all of which would have been spent. Mind you, this is a VRC team only. I also said I wanted to reach a million people, and tell them about robotics… I decided to be reasonable, and yield on that one… I only reached a quarter-of-a-million. Granted, I didn’t raise nearly that amount, but the thing was, I saw it as a possibility. I was thinking big.

If there is one thing I would tell anyone to learn, it is to think big. Set enormous goals that everyone laughs at. Seriously. Ask yourself “what kind of goals can I set that will make everyone laugh.” Follow that up with the question “which of those goals can I accomplish, and then knock the socks off everyone who laughed at me?” You can go ask all my teammates… They will say I am crazy and slightly weird. They will say my notebook is bad, and all the ideas that come from it are absolutely insane.

So I have this notebook. Inside of this notebook, I try to keep track of my ideas… When I say to think big, I am serious. I have a six-page list of company names to try and get to sponsor us… I just wrote down everyone I could think of… I started planning a trip to South Africa to help them get their robotics programs rolling. I have built (with some help) a website. I am working on changing this into a resource for all teams to come to, and get all of my team’s info on how we started, what we do, how we do what we do, copies of our notebooks, everything. So when I say big, I really do mean big.

So basically, here is the main message. There are thousands of companies out there, none of which have enough engineers, and just about all of which are realizing this problem. They are willing to give money to students who are willing and able, especially in a field like robotics. I am more than willing to help anyone who needs help fundraising. I am working on getting guides on how to fund-raise, who to contact, and what to say. But in order to start, you have to think big. Think beyond just a local company or two. Think about Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, NASA, Boeing, BAE Systems… There are so many companies I could list, and some of them are just waiting to give money away.

That being said, I must caveat it with this caution. In fundraising, you are doing really well if you get one response in a hundred. I don’t want to scare any of you guys off, but that is the truth. The thing is though, if you can take all of those rejections, and if you can keep going back year after year, talking to people you don’t know, and you might never meet again in you’re life, you are going to meet that handful of people that really care. Once you can get in on that group, you have not only most likely found funding for your team, but in a lot of cases, you just found you’re future employer.

So I know this post is long, and I apologize for that. But start thinking big. In fact, read the book called “Thinking for a Change.” It is by John C. Maxwell, and if you have time, read every single book he has written. I can guarantee, you won’t regret it.

If you have any questions, robotics or non-robotics, fundraising, anything, just send me an email at (Someone said they turned PM’s off…)

The New Zealand teams are super excited. We never got to play quadquandry, so this is a new challenge for us. We will suck every Milli-Amp out of the new batteries. We already have field sets and have ordered the new motors. Hey guys Cortex will be awesome now that the College teams have found all the bugs. Great year ahead, open field and proto-bots can be competitive.

Yep we are fired up. And we are going to squeeze every last 1/16" out of that plastic sheet using Autodesk Inventor. Hey we may even make one whole robot out of it and call it microbot!

hey unclejoe, are you the mentor/teacher of the team?
or just a regular student? :open_mouth:
(ur post is too long to quote :P)

First off, great idea. CAD + laser cutting ='s great possibilities.

Second, just to clarify, it is a polycarbonate sheet. Vex will not pass a robot with acrylic as acrylic can shatter where as polycarbonate will not.


You basically can’t laser cut polycarbonate…

You can laser cut it but it is not as straightforward as cutting other materials. Certain types of lasers will work others will not. If you Google it there is quite a bit of info out there.


That’s why I said “basically”. You need a high power laser and multiple passes, and your edges will end up rather charred, but it can be done. Probably not worth it. It’s a lot easier to laser engrave and machine to the engraving.

I am actually just a regular student… Unfortunately, I graduate this year… Which means I come back as a “mentor”… :stuck_out_tongue: :stuck_out_tongue: Why, did I sound like a mentor/teacher?

But yes, that was a rather long post… The basic message of it is to think big, and set ambitious goals… And just go ask people for money… They are waiting to give it away…

You can print your parts 1:1 on a piece of paper, tape the paper to the polycarbonate, then hand cut the parts out of the polycarbonate using tin-snips.

The 1/16" lexan is surprisingly easy to work with.

Actually in this year’s championship,my team have power expander problem during qualify matches,since the field’s resistance is much more in our workshop’s field,thus when we use power expander in championship,our motors got problem,so at last we didn’t use power expander but still good results.

totally agree KISS.