Getting Started in Robotics (Tips and Advice)

#1

I was looking at some older posts just because I was curious and found this one. I realized that its probably pretty hard for people that are new to VEX to find information and advice if they don’t know where to look. So I wanted to create this thread to bring attention to some good sources information, and also to create a place on this forum where lots of advice and information is gathered together to make it easy to access.

I will start off by listing a few places with useful information for people getting started in robotics.

  • 101 Things I wish I’d Known… This is compilation of 101 tips from people. Made by VRC and the REC Foundation.

  • Unofficial Vex Discord (I’m not sure if I can link it here, but look it up and you should find a link on reddit.) I’ve gotten lots of help there, and they have channels specifically for software and hardware.

  • Youtube is also a good source of inspiration. Many teams post videos of matches or robot reveals which can help you when creating strategies or design ideas.

And here is some advice of my own. In the thread I linked earlier there was a post by @RoboTurtleLord . In his post he said,

With Vex there are no instructions for anything other than the original clawbot and that is part of the way Vex works. You have to make your own “instructions”. By seeing other peoples ideas, and an understanding of how the mechanism works it is very easy to come up with your own based on your own needs and wants.

I think this is very true, but I want to explain how you can “make your own instructions”. You do this through documentation which is exactly what an engineering notebook is for. As you are designing and building your robot, and it’s code you should take time to document your designs, the design process, problems you came across while building and programming, and how you fixed or worked around those problems. You should document it in detail by taking pictures, creating sketches and blueprints, describing how parts of your robot work, and why they are a part of your robot.

My engineering notebook is something I’ve neglected far too much throughout my time in the VEX program, and it’s definitely come back to bite me on several occasions. Basically what I’m trying to say is spend time filling out your engineering notebook and do it well because that time spent will definitely help you in finding success in robotics.

If anyone else has tips or advice to help people get started in robotics then feel free to post it here.

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#2

Great idea!

One thing I’ve found over the years (in Vex IQ more so, but also in Vex EDR) is that many people are unaware of the free resources provided by Vex & its partners specifically for education & training. They have an online curriculum for building and programming (although I’ve only used the RobotC one up to now, so I’m not sure how good the VCS one is). They have lots of getting started guides for hardware / software as well as how to start a team guides.

http://curriculum.vexrobotics.com/
https://help.vex.com/
https://help.vex.com/category/121-getting-started


There are also places for those elusive “robot build plans” that people keep asking for.
http://cmra.rec.ri.cmu.edu/products/cortex_video_trainer/lesson/index_setup.html
(Here, they provide step-by-step instructions for Recbot, Squarebot, Clawbot, and Swervebot)


(the great @jpearman put this open source info up years ago and it might be a good next step)

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#3

To be really accurate, this list was started on the Chief Delphi forum in 2005, then ported to the VEX world a few years later, then taken over as an official RECF list a few years after that. It contains Much Robot Wisdom.

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#4

Thank you! It is very interesting.

Do you know any YouTube tutorials how to build good robot?

I would love to learn before the new school year starts.

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#5

There is no “recipe” or “tutorial” to build a good robot. You will learn how to build a good robot only by experience and experimentation.

You might start by building a robot from instructions, such as the Clawbot. Then you analyze how the different components work together, and the strengths and weaknesses of the Clawbot in achieving various different goals (you decide what goals are important).

Then you start to think about how you can make the Clawbot better, both with little changes and major overhauls. This is where experimentation is key: some of your changes will work well, some will introduce new caveats, and some will be obvious failures.

With each of these changes, you will get a better idea for what works and what doesn’t; what the pros and cons of different designs are; and how best to build different mechanisms.

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#6

Thank you! Too bad I run out of likes for today.

When I saw good high school robots at the end of the season, I wish I knew this when I was starting.

It is very hard to figure out what will work and what will not.

Other schools have high school teams helping middle school teams. I wish we had too…

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#7

As @Barin said, you have to build something and then change it to see what works & what doesn’t. Then change it again… and again… and then start something new based on ideas you had while changing the original and test and change that, too!

We moved up from IQ last season and the first thing I had the team do was build the Clawbot - this allowed them to get an idea for how to physically put the parts together in a controlled manner. We then added the sensors & moved to programming that Clawbot. Then they started tweaking it some for fun & to gain experience & test ideas. We did all that before we ever started working on a real competition robot, so by the time we started in on that we had a much better baseline of how to work with EDR parts. Over the course of the next few months, the team designed & tweaked & redesigned 50 bazillion times until they had something that did decent at States. This season, they were able to start from where they left off & move much more quickly towards a final product - the end result being a Worlds bid!

As a small, independent team we have almost no access to experienced teams assisting or to professional mentors - we pretty much just use logic and Google and test, test, test… :slight_smile:

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#8

I am the “high school team” in my organization with nobody above me helping me. That’s one reason I joined the forums. We’re all here to fill that “high school teams helping middle school teams” role.

I’d be glad to share my experience as a self-growing team above the organization if you want to pm me, but I can be long winded.

The important thing is to just keep redesigning. I sometimes redesign major things more than 10 times before I even touch metal.

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#9

One thing that we do at our school is focus on your manipulators before you even start on a drive train. Also youtube is a great place to get ideas for launchers, intakes, etc. Once you have an idea in mind prototype and try new stuff to improve from youtube vids :smile:

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#10

Thank you for all the answers!

I will try searching YouTube very early next season.

We only got V5 in November and didn’t have anything working until the end of January.

It was very confusing to get intake to work with the balls. But the robot could flip the caps and park and we qualified to regionals with skills! We still couldn’t launch the balls… :cry:

We don’t have vex build sessions anymore, until the next school year starts.

We know high school teams could take engineering classes and they say it helps a lot. But I can’t, because I am not in high school.

My teammate and me were going to watch some tutorials over the summer to learn more about the robots.

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