fun with Vex History

hello again everybody…

Woah I haven’t posted here in a while. So I’ve been in Vex for a long time. My first competition season was 2008-2009 in Elevation. I was 12 years old. And my last was 2013-2014 in Toss Up. I coached 6 middle school teams at two different schools in that time. Now I’m 20, I’ve just finished my second year at university, and I was reflecting on all that Vex has done for me, giving me a head start into mechanical engineering and design. I actually build high powered rockets during the year for the university, and this last year I was a research assistant in my university’s robotics lab. Neither of these opportunities would have been possible without my seventh grade science teacher asking me if I would like to join our school’s first Vex Robotics team, and that’s something I’m very grateful for.

I’ve seen a lot of change and growth of Vex throughout the years: new parts, more complicated game challenges, etc… And this got me thinking.

I was wondering, what are some things that you’ve liked about the way Vex has changed and grown over the years? What do you want to see in the future? I know I’ve got my top picks, but I wanted to know what the community thought, because I haven’t asked y’all questions in a long while.

Welcome back :slight_smile:

Always awesome to see people who can’t compete still engaged with the community.
Anyways I’ve loved all and any new parts or components vex has released throughout the years. But I think we need some more.
First off, a new micro controller. The cortex is awesome but it can be made much cheaper. Personally, I think Vex should go the FTC route and let us use smartphones as micocontrollers, maybe even iOS devices. I am an avid objective C and Swift fan and I would love to use either of these to program my robot. And maybe the new mc will have 12 motor ports setting the max motor limit to 14 O.o You could build some damn impressive robots with 14 motors.

I’d also like to see a bigger field (I’m thinking 20 X 20), which, at this point, is really something that’s impossible. IDK, maybe Vex could sell an expansion kit for people who already have fields to to be able to just add segments and expand their field. Might be too much of a hassle but I think it would be worth it. We could have much more complicated games but without the field getting cramped. And then there would be a point to having 3 team alliances. That’s definitely something I’d like.

Other than that, not much. Vex is already too perfect :slight_smile:

The growth of Vex, along with IQ, has been explosive. I can’t see how they can continue hosting Worlds all under one roof with everyone there (VRC, VexIQ, VexU) all at the same time.

Will anyone be surprised if they move VexIQ Worlds to Indiana?

Also, by breaking things up a bit, it opens up the possibility of a larger variety of cities to host Worlds, which would be good for the kids to see different places in the country/world each year. Just saying.

I think its really important for the programs to feed into each-other. Elementary school kids seeing the bigger robots is an important educational experience and even if it means getting a little crowded I prefer everyone to share a single event space.

The fact that games are going around sports is getting me thinking that a game inspired by either soccer or football (based on where you’re from) would be cool.

You could have it like this year where there are goals on the other side and each one is a certain amount of points. Say there is a smaller goal and that’s worth 3 points or something. Then there is a larger goal that is worth less points.

You could also have it where they all are together but there are a couple of goals on all sides of the field where you can put balls in. Say there is a bar in front of 2 and those are worth more than those with an open goal. You couldn’t descore those like you could the ones that are just open.

I don’t know but it seems like a cool idea and it seems like it would fit perfectly with the theme going on recently since starstruck is a bit like tennis/table tennis and nothing but net is like basketball.

I have been a mentor/coach since before it was VEX, since before it officially became the FIRST VEX Challenge. We ran a local league using the Edu-Robotics Kits that were designed to be trainers for FRC. We were involved when Radio Shack got the manufacturing rights to the kit and named it VEX. We competed in and hosted FIRST VEX Challenge competitions, then FIRST Tech Challenge (using VEX). However, when FIRST went to the Pitsco platform for FTC, we stayed with IFI and VEX. (Although we did host a FTC event in the first year of the split, we didn’t compete in it.) I have seen the tremendous growth in VEX over the years. We have qualified for the US Open numerous times (but have only attended the past two years). We have qualified for Worlds four times and have attended each time we qualified. We are recognized as being one of the better programs in the state of Wisconsin.

I have really enjoyed the growth of the program over the years. The skills that my students have developed from the program have been tremendous. Not just gear ratios, torque calculations and PID programming, but teamwork, communication, conflict resolution and problem-solving, dealing with success and failure are skills that will carry them through for their lifetime.

It has been great to see the development of the platform over the years as well. When my alumni from the early days return, they are absolutely amazed at what the robots are capable of today. Are there things that I wish were better? Always, but I understand that good engineering involves developing the best solution (product) possible given the constraints at hand.

As for the games themselves, I think that the GDC (Game Design Committee) has to balance the challenge so that it is truly a challenge to the strong established teams, yet also leave parts of the game so that new teams have the opportunity to achieve some modicum of success. Hence, the ability to push stars under the fence. As much as we hate to see push-bots, sometimes that is all a new team can come up with, particularly early in the season.

We are not involved with any of the FIRST competitions. And I want to start by saying that they are good programs as well, however we are in VEX for various reasons. One, bang for the buck. We field six robots with 3-4 students per robot for about the same as it would cost to run 2-3 FTC robots. Two, accessibility. In my opinion, the VRC games have advantages that I prefer see also above). They are generally not overly complicated, particularly regarding things like penalty points, yet are sufficiently challenging for all. Three, I like the continuous improvement model. Our six robots usually compete in at least 5 events plus league each season, beginning in November through February (not counting state, the US Open or Worlds, should we qualify for any of them).
Just my thoughts.

I think the some of the best growth I’ve seen is in the parts. I used to compete, in middle school, with old 3 wire motor modules, and we always had problems with putting too much load on those things, being the over-confident and not very knowledgeable 12 year-olds that we were. AND THEN THE 393 CAME OUT AND WE WERE SAVED. After working with that motor for so many years, it doesn’t seem so powerful now, but back in the day we were all like “INTERNAL GEARS MADE OUT OF METAL??? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.” Around the same time came high strength gears and chain, and then after I graduated high school came high strength drive shafts, which I would have loved to use. Some years had more new products than others, with the learning curve getting steeper and steeper with each new development. But I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the creation of these things. They give experienced teams more opportunity for learning new systems and new teams an avenue for simplifying tasks that would otherwise be unattainable. By far, my favorite innovation has been high strength sprocket and chain. My high school didn’t give robotics much of a budget before we went to worlds ( from my high school’s perspective, robotics didn’t recruit as well as football. they were proven wrong the next year : ) ). So I remember asking my family to get me high strength sprocket and chain for Christmas that year, and it was an integral part of nearly every build after that.

Also I love how this community has grown. As a seventh grader going to worlds, getting thrown in with the high school teams (there was no division separation back then), I didn’t recognize anybody or any teams, and my team felt kinda lost and alone in a large group. But by the time I was a sophomore and we went to worlds, I knew who most of the officials were, I could recognize teams and people from the forum and what I’d seen online, etc. By the time I was a senior and my team told me “ok, we’re allied with someone named Tabor for the next qualification match, we have no idea who this is” I could say “yeah we do know who that is.” And I could say that for most of the people we saw compete, despite the fact that the competition had grown exponentially since the first worlds I ever went to.

One of the reasons I loved worlds this year was I got to spend a lot of time meeting people that I have only talked to on a computer! Including Tabor haha

The donuts were top quality.


I was thinking some more about this, and I think I forgot to mention something, which is the way products have not necessarily been completely changed, but made better in subtle ways. The control system especially. When it first came out I was skeptical (granted, I was in 8th grade), as we always had problems with losing connection. However, the system slowly improved with new updates to the firmware, new VexNet keys, etc. and I really appreciated that. I was able to change my mind from stubbornly against a system or part to totally for it, which seldom happens.

The one thing I miss is the Inventor’s Guide. I wish I still had my copy of that book, we used to have the whole thing printed out, and I used it to teach basics to middle school students. I like that it’s still available as a PDF, though. I should dive back in and see what’s still relevant…

Thanks for the info.

Anyone for VEX Worlds moving every 2 years??

One of the main problems with worlds, is that they say that the venue is overcrowded and that they struggle to fit the teams under one roof. There is one simple solution. STOP INVITING MORE TEAMS THAN YOU CAN HANDLE! It seems logical, but every year more teams are invited, meaning more spots at worlds, making worlds more packed, making it harder to fit everyone over one roof. It should be easy…

I would also like to see a VEX Worlds: Showcase event. Basically, taking every team at VEX Worlds who won an award, and host a competition just with those teams. Would be interesting to see how they do. (or maybe award winners + the top 10 teams from each division (qualification table) could be interesting)

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@Karthik has always promised more teams would be invited to worlds because he wants more teams to have the great experience of a world robotics competition!

Right now however I think they have found a sweet spot with the amount of teams that were at world’s this year as it wasn’t too overcrowded.

In regards to a showcase event, A good amount of teams, especially some of the great teams in other countries such as NZ wouldn’t be able to come because it costs them A LOT of money to just get to worlds. Not to mention lots of teams like to start building for the new competition right away.

You’re right, it SHOULD be easy, but the fact is, it’s not. I’ve helped with the US Open for a couple of years (a tournament that started with 17 middle school teams and about 25 high school teams and has grown into a massive competition) and it is NOT easy to organize an event like that. The amount of organization and infrastructure that needs to be set up, not to mention the volunteers that help out, is insane. I didn’t fully understand it until I volunteered myself a few years back. Figuring out the difference in the number of teams that qualify vs the number of teams that sign up vs the number of teams that show up, plus setting up the pits and fields and making sure that everything is ready, for the insanely huge number of teams attending… that’s hard for the US Open, and the US Open isn’t as big as worlds. I know for the US Open, they want to keep inviting more to give more teams that opportunity for experiencing the competition and I’m sure it’s the same at worlds. And the people that run tournaments do the best they can to accommodate those people, which should be easy, but it is not.

In regards to a showcase event, all I can think of is it being called “The World Championship… World Championship.” It would be cool but it seems kinda redundant.

Oh, and the moving every two years thing… I’m not sure how I feel about it. It was interesting to see new places, but you also have to consider the venue, the city, the cost of travel for the teams, etc. Even the US Open, which has been in the same 10 mile radius (almost) for the last 7 years has changed venues something like 4 times. I would love for Worlds to move around, I think that would be cool. But after a decade or so, especially with the growth involved, wouldn’t you run out of new places that can host the event? Thoughts, anybody?

I talked to a few teams that would rather it move to the Western US again (notably some of the NZ and Singapore teams) and have it also be in a city with a more major airport because of the flights they had to take.

It would be cool to see new places and everything but cost is probably the #1 thing we should think about

After a decade, you would mostly have new participants in the program, though, so repeating a venue once every ten years (or even every five) is a lot better than having the same venue 4+ years in a row. Yeah, I would like it to move around. VEX probably liked being able to sign a multi-year contract with Louisville though.