fiber optics

it would be cool if Vex had fiber optics, either for communication with a separate sensor that could interpret it… or for decoration or something… after all, light travels faster than radio signals…

what are you asking? Yeah light travels faster than radio signals I’m glad you know it but think about the chance of this happening first. you are asking to have a new sensor designed and built as well as a new concept designed and built. maybe it should be your own little project and you could show it of when you finish it would be really cool. but it seems like many of your posts simply say Vex should have _______. and that’s it. this could be a cool learning experience for you to try to build it and you may learn a bit about how it works. I now many members have taken on their own projects like this and let me tell you it is REALLY cool to see their final products.

Personally, over the short distance from a vex microcontroller to a motor, it really wouldn’t make a noticeable difference in response time. While more data can go through the fiberoptics, it is still limited by the microcontrollers rather weak processor.

And don’t forget that your wireless robot would then become tethered by something that costs like $10/foot (blind guess). And is easily broken. And can’t bend more than a certain amount.

Fiber optic cable has its place, and that place is sending huge amounts of data from one place to another (both long and short distances).

Now… I’m going to go out on a limb here… but light waves and radio waves are all electromagnetic radiation. I believe they travel at similar/nearly the same speeds, the major difference being their wave length. I’m no science wizard, so I could be wrong but… I don’t think I’m that wrong.

Perhaps you are confusing the speed of sound with the speed of light? (which does actually have a huge speed difference).

There is no difference between the speed of light and the speed of radio wave propagation through the same medium. There is a tiny difference between the speed of a signal over copper compared with fiber optics, but that delta is negligible compared to the latency introduced by the logic components, and over these distances you couldn’t measure the difference without some serious physics-lab equipment.

Using fiber optics for decoration, though. That might be interesting.

just one question: If, by some chance, i do get the said device to work and happen to have detailed skematics, what are the chances of Vex taking those and launching production? Or could i just leave it as a file for individual Vex users to build themselves?

In short: If i design it and have detailed instructions, it works well, and is worth the effort to produce, will Vex build it?

As someone who doesn’t represent anyone in anyway…

I doubt they would even build it if you had a prototype along with schematics. What is the point of fiber optics on a Vex robot? You have to think about the practical applications as well as the cost. On a Vex robot, there is absolutely nothing that fiber optics brings to the table that isn’t 100s (or 1000s?) of times cheaper to do with simple copper wires.

Would you use it as a connection between the robot and the controller? That’d probably be the worst use of it, there is no controller lag as it is now using radio waves and it would cease to be wireless. Add to that the fact that they have a new WiFi system coming out.

Would you use it to connect sensors and/or motors to the micro controller? Again, why? That stuff costs far far more than simple copper wire and again you don’t gain anything. It would make everything bulkier and far, far more expensive. Even if the fiber cables are cheap, the electrical to laser interface at both ends is going to be expensive too.

As a decoration, it would be pretty cool. But for that, just buy a bundle of bare fiber optics and use what ever light source you want.

I hate to shoot down anyones idea, but try applying your desire to think of and develop a Vex product toward something with a more realistic price and/or problem to solve.

Unless there was some sort of multichannel device that could put multiple signals on one fiber using WDM. But again, unless you use some sort of high efficiency solar cell powered off the signal, you still have to power it so that’s still at least +5v and gnd.

I guess what i was thinking was something kind of like this:

a “super sensor” that could pick up a ton of different kinds of info at once, and then “talk” to the microcontroller in fiberoptic code that way you could overlay the info… like the “multi-channel” thing mentioned earlier. I think it could be really good for programming…but i may be wrong.

Fiber optics are good for bandwidth. They are hardly any faster than normal wiring. The vex microcontroller isn’t fast enough to justify the use of fiber optics. Fiber optics only excel at providing huge amounts of bandwidth for the same size, something which the microcontroller cannot utilize beneficially…

Part of the problem is that you have the process in the wrong order.

  1. Define Problem
  2. Propose Solution.
  3. Test
  4. Repeat 2 & 3 until you’re pleased with the results.
  5. Woot!

At this point you’ve done #2, are looking forward to #5, and are in search of #1. #3 has barely been considered and with the lack of a “super sensor” there doesn’t seem much point in seriously thinking about it.

My main issue, is that I’m not seeing what problem this solves or what it helps the students to learn (other than “it’s a lot easier to use copper wire”).

There are a number of areas in Vex that are open for improvement. For example, I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing planetary reduction gears for the Vex, simply because it’s a common gear-form that engineering students should be exposed to.

I’d also like to see more reasons for people to build transmissions that shift. (I was thinking a competition involving ping pong balls and billiards balls would be ripe for teaching that part of engineering).

In both the above examples, the problem is clearly “What aren’t we teaching that is so closely related to what we are teaching that we probably should be teaching it?” The proposed answers come in the form of a product that isn’t available (and may never be) and a challenge that could be used as an introduction to the problem. Clearly, other challenges could also be used, for example the magnetic climbing challenge combined with a table challenge is also ripe for a two speed transmission solution.

However, both examples are clearly not up to step three yet. They’re simply things I’m thinking about.