Creating a Starter Kit


As my teams nothing but net season ended at state, I am looking forward to the next game and have understood a lot from my first year in competition. Even though I have a school team, I am looking to buy vex parts so I can begin testing and building when the game is released this summer. However, the basic kit with steel parts does not seem to be the way to go as this year my team had 0 steel parts on our robot. Essentially I am looking for a cost effective way to purchase the base parts needed ie cortex, controller, vex keys, aluminum, motors etc., without having to purchase the starter kit. If there are any sites or combinations of singular parts that you have found useful in the past please let me know! (Is it more effective to make a design and then purchase all the parts specifically?)

Thanks in advance!!

I don’t have any combinations but in regards to your last question it depends on how you like build. If you like to rapidly prototype your ideas and test individual ones fast than its good to have a lot of stock metal and what not around. But if you like to design it and perfect it before building than buying for that design specifically isn’t the worse way to go.

If it’s just to test and prototype and you want to save some money, keep an eye on eBay, every so often some used items pop up, but not all the time.

The competition kits are the best value to get all the items you need - Cortex, Joystick, bunches of parts, etc. Then you add to them. You get some parts that are not necessarily useful now but could be later. I have not found E-bay to be much of a discount.

We estimate a new robot costs about $1,500 all-in once you buy all the necessary parts. You will have a few hundred in tools unless you have them handy already (files, saws, Dremel, vice, nut drivers, t-handle hex keys, etc)

A couple of old threads you may find interesting (prices may have changed slightly from that time, for example, motors are cheaper now IIRC)

My “open source robot” from 2013

An old sack attack robot that team 8888 created that has the full BOM (bill of materials) included.
(the inline attachments/images need fixing, I will do that later)

Personally I would start with the Clawbot kit and add Aluminum and other parts as necessary. The Clawbot kit is good value even when you ignore the steel parts that have limited use on a competition robot.

I usually find the clawbot kits have too many things you do not want. The best value for useful parts I have found is

If you want most of the things in the mechatronics kit upgrading from dual control to

gets a whole bunch of assorted steel parts for more or less free

From there the long aluminum structure kit is pretty good value. 2 of those could probably build an entire robot

Years ago when Craig’s List was safe we put a listing that we were looking for used Vex Parts. A few days later I heard back from a coach who was getting out of the business and his school no longer participated in VEX and we got a huge amount of material for very little money. Not sure I would still do it this way, but you might find a kit or two out there on CL.

Expanding on the OP, it’s really true that the Vex classroom & competition Superkit could use an update. Or perhaps 2 separate bundles, one for classroom, and one for competition should be made. With the possible exception of 1 X 5 C-channel for driving bases, steel is hardly used these days in competition, rendering all the old steel chassis bumpers, chassis rails, and angle bars useless. On the other hand, for prototyping, small, cheap (steel) pieces are desirable. So having one kit for multiple purposes may not be optimal for either.

Depending on the vintage of the old kit, you may or may not find useful stuff. If it has a cortex and reasonably up-to-date electrical system it might be worthwhile. But old metal, motors, and even plastic parts (gears, chain) will have limited use if they’re too worn – they’re OK for prototyping, but not for competition.

We just donated a kit with parts accumulated from 2005 - 2012 to a non-competing extracurricular club, which was grateful to receive the parts. But if they wanted to compete, perhaps only 10-20% of the material would be usable for a competition bot.

I don’t know about steel not being used on compitetion bots, my robot is entirely steel except for one aluminum C-Channel because I ran out of steel and I am still highly competitive in my region even with an all steel not against all aluminum bots.

Mine is also mostly steel with a few pieces of aluminum and I am also competitive in our region

@ThunderRobotics Us too

I wouldn’t say that. Maybe for teams that have the money to buy the aluminum, but many teams don’t have any aluminum at all.

Steel definitely has its uses, such as extremely sturdy structures (this year’s lifts, sometimes) or compact center of mass adjustments (last year’s drives to counter last year’s lifts). My team is very fortunate as far as funding, as our school provides us a generous budget and easy fundraising opportunities. As a result, we only use steel when we want to. Our drive last year was entirely steel to keep our center of mass somewhat low while our aluminum lift was raised, and this year I experimented with a lift early in the season, and I used steel for that.
TL;DR: Aluminum is advantageous, although that advantage is not impossible to overcome.

I realize that my post was an overgeneralization, but as a principle

  • If you were going to buy something new, rather than using something you already have…
  • If cost differential weren’t a consideration…
  • If you wanted to be as competitive as reasonably possible
    Wouldn’t you be buying more aluminum and not much steel?

I realize that I’m also operating from the flawed assumption that “there’s more than enough old steel lying around”, which doesn’t apply to someone starting completely from scratch. However, I still think the idea of “more aluminum, less steel” than the current superkit (classroom & competition) offers might be worth considering, at least for a competition kit.