How do you learn to physically build the VEX robots you want?

Just good old experimentation, experience, and brainstorming? Or are there any good resources out there about physically building VEX robots?

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This is method used a lot in FRC, but it would work in VEX too. This is what our team likes to do on kickoff every year. Do steps 1-4 and 6 as a team, and have each person share their ideas for step 5. Steps 1-4 are for figuring out what you want, and steps 5-6 are actually figuring out how to do what you want, but it is important to do all these steps and not skip any. This method should take 6+ hours for a large team, and at least an hour or two for smaller teams. I hope you find this helpful:

  1. Create a long list of all the abilities you want your robot to have in no particular order, from driving to shooting frisbees. It is important here not to think about the how, but instead about the what.
  2. Next, you put them in the order of how much you want/need them (e.g. driving is usually, but not always, at the top of the list).
  3. Then you draw a line between the “needs” and the “wants” or the “would be nice.”
  4. You then decide which of “wants” would be feasible and good for you to build (e.g. what you have the resources/time to do).
  5. Now is the time to think about the how, but not extensively. Draw your ideas for general ideas of how the robot will work from a few different angles (e.g. intake on the front, shooter on the back, and climber on the top. We use a whiteboard drawings so that they cannot be very precise, as it should be at this point.
  6. You should have a good set of a few different robots at this point (assuming you have several people do step five), so you work together to decide which one you think will work best. Take photos of everyone’s designs as a backup, but now is the time to start prototyping. Now you should have a good idea of what you want as well as how to build it generically.

Good luck!


use CAD to design your entire robot before building. this way you don’t have to make decisions as you go, and you won’t encounter any unexpected problems, which lets you have a higher quality, more thought out design in less time.


I’ve found that for the first robot CAD is very useful for figuring out how the major parts will fit together, but it can be hard to evaluate the effectiveness of a design that’s only ever been in CAD (especially intakes). CAD is much more helpful after the first prototype because you have a starting point of what works and what doesn’t, and you can build from there for the next robot. Plus then you can be designing the CAD for the next version while testing, driving, and programming the first version.

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that’s a fair point, things with complex physics like intakes are hard to guarantee as functional with cad. the way I cad intakes is by creating only the frame for the intakes and make sure I have plenty of room to experiment with different roller sizes and types. So you can still use cad to make sure intakes fit, you just can’t always use it to makes sure intakes work.


Honestly, I would just say planning and experience help the most. The Starting years for every team is rough with some exceptions, but usually, new teams improve significantly over the course of the season or in the next season. One thing I can recommend on top of this is to be active on the Vex Forums. Make sure to read the most important posts highlighting different things and ask questions if you need to.

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I’ll add one to this as although CAD is an awesome tool with figuring out more complex assemblies. A lot of the time building something and figuring it out that way is just faster in a lot of cases. Although experience has a lot to do with this (its my 2nd year in VRC but i’ve been working with vex stuff for 6)


depends on what you’re building. some things are easy and straightforward enough that it is easier and faster to just build them.

But I think you will always get better results from using cad, and once you get really good with cad it will end up saving you tons of time that you would otherwise be spending constantly tinkering and rebuilding bits of your robot that didn’t turn out quite right.

g o o d


Ah Ethan, helpful as always.


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I mean he’s right to some degree. Getting good at vex is the eventual goal. The trick is in getting good as fast as you can with the power of knowledge.

I use a advanced technique called brain and finger cad. I visualize what I build in my head. Then I hold up metal pieces near the incomplete robot to assist in the visualization. The downside is that the limit is 2 pieces held well or 4 pieces held poorly. You can put a fifth one if you use your mouth to hold one but that will affect your biological camera orientation.


Like they have said CAD helps allot.
After cad some terrible 2D drawings help
and tape before you bolt together

Why even bolt it together, tape and zip ties are strong enough on their own.

But in all seriousness I usually use really bad drawings to figure out the bulk of stuff to start and go from there.

Also using a decision matrix helps a lot

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