I’m trying to get back into VEX and have several questions:

  1. I get the impression I’m almost alone in that I’m a hobbyist. It seems like everyone on these forum has attended or will attend some kind of competition.

  2. Figuring out how to assemble a robot is more difficult than I thought. Definitely not as easy as legos. I’m thinking I’m going to need to cut and bend the hardware to be able to make the robots. Do all of you cut the hardware or am I missing something? What I don’t like about this is that the cut and bent parts might not be usable for future projects.

  3. Which are good tools to do the cutting and bending? (Especially since it is important to get perfect 90-degree angles when bending the metal)

  4. Do you use CAD programs to figure out what to do before committing time and cutting up the hardware. It seems to me that the point of the VEX system was to enable “quick and dirty” builds where CAD was not needed but I’m finding it is pretty time consuming to figure out how to assemble a robot just by trial and error. Especially if I’m going to be cutting hardware. Plus, the CAD models have already been done, it is just a matter of assembling the robot in the PC. Then again, this would be pretty time consuming as well. Is it worth it?

  5. The price of components goes from reasonable to prohibitive when shipping is considered. (Living in Puerto Rico does not help). Is there any other place to buy specific components like clutches, or just a pair large wheels?

  6. Does anyone trade? I have an unopened boxed set of wheels and need more gears and/or the ultrasonic sensor. I also have two unopened limit switches I might part with. (already have 2 broken ones I’m hoping I can fix).

  7. Are there instructions somewhere on how to assemble other robots besides the squarebot, protobot, and tumbler? (I found out after a couple of hours of assembly that I didn’t have the gears to make the protobot. I do not know if I have what I need for the tumbler.

No, you’re not alone. I’m also a hobbyist (see my creations in my signature). It’s just that there was a recent competition, so that’s what all the competitors are talking about.

I have thought these same things. I, too, started off with LEGO. What it sounds like you should do is build a basic design, and change a few things at a time until you find something you like. That’s how Nelson III was born.
I have yet to cut hardware, but I do use a lot of SteelTec, which is 95% compatible with Vex.

cutting: Dremmel
bending: vise and 90 degree angle bender, or pliers (not as neat, but I don’t have a vise

Some people are great at using CAD software, and that’s all they use until they get something that they like. That’s fine. Others, like me, have little knowledge of the workings of CAD. I also like to build it to see if it will actually fit/work before finalizing it. Most of my designing consists of rough sketches on paper.

There are lots of resources out there. The only thing is getting other parts to work with Vex. Most of the Vex system is compatible with other products (from micro-controllers to screws). However, I have yet to find wheels and clutches with the right size and shape hole (3/16" square key).

Ask around. Start a thread (in the appropriate category) like this one. I’m sure you can find someone who needs something.

Try using what you already have first. Be creative. Many new designs are just improvements on old ones.

I hope this helps, and happy building.

You are not alone. We are all hobbyist. We love building things. We just happen to use them in various contests.

There will be some manipulating needed to complete your robot. Cutting and bending will be needed. Yes, you will not be able to use them again, but that is why God invented IFI. :slight_smile: You can always get replacements.

A good hack saw and some pliers will do the trick. The metal will bend easily. Use 2 pliers and apply presure at the point where you want to bend. Or put the piece in a vice and bend with pliers.

Remember to always wear safety equipment. glasses, gloves, etc.

I’m a hobbyist switching to the vex 2.0 system because it offers some nice solutions to the problems some of my projects are facing.

Vex is actually nicely in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to this. On the one side is lego, where everything you can use is pre-fabricated. on the other side is a machine shop, where anything is possible but nothing is pre-fabricated. Having done both, I like vex which has a number of compatible pre-fabricated components (especially the gearing options!) and yet, you can fabricate large portions yourself, either from vex gear, vex-compatible gear, or whatever you’re willing to cut, drill holes in, or otherwise machine.

There are a large number of robotic part suppliers. Depending on your needs, a knowledge of fabrication (or a friend who works in a machine shop) and a hobby store, hardware store, and small junkyard can do wonders.

  1. I get the impression I’m almost alone in that I’m a hobbyist. It seems like everyone on these forum has attended or will attend some kind of competition.

There are a ton of people that just build robots for fun!

  1. Figuring out how to assemble a robot is more difficult than I thought. Definitely not as easy as legos. I’m thinking I’m going to need to cut and bend the hardware to be able to make the robots. Do all of you cut the hardware or am I missing something? What I don’t like about this is that the cut and bent parts might not be usable for future projects.

We start off trying to use the stock parts as much as possible, but sometimes custom cuts is the only way to go. I try to think ahead on the part size to see if things will move. Examples are we needed 44 plates for corner supports. I cut them to be 55 (out of the premade 5 wide parts) and we used them. Later on we needed that extra row to support another section of the robot so it worked out. Likewise for the axles, we cut them to be a little longer than needed to accomodate wheel swaps.

  1. Which are good tools to do the cutting and bending? (Especially since it is important to get perfect 90-degree angles when bending the metal)

Hand snips, a 22-24 tooth hacksaw and a file does most of our cutting; hammer, vise for bending. We bend against two chunks of steel to get clean bends.

  1. Do you use CAD programs to figure out what to do before committing time and cutting up the hardware. It seems to me that the point of the VEX system was to enable “quick and dirty” builds where CAD was not needed but I’m finding it is pretty time consuming to figure out how to assemble a robot just by trial and error. Especially if I’m going to be cutting hardware. Plus, the CAD models have already been done, it is just a matter of assembling the robot in the PC. Then again, this would be pretty time consuming as well. Is it worth it?

My co-mentor is a master CAD user. So he designs in the CAD package and things get assembled from there. If you are doing complex gear trains and motion it’s the way to go, the software will help check for all the clearances. For smaller things or prototypes I just bolt them together. There are some good cheat sheets on gear spacing to make it easy to count off how many holes to skip.

  1. The price of components goes from reasonable to prohibitive when shipping is considered. (Living in Puerto Rico does not help). Is there any other place to buy specific components like clutches, or just a pair large wheels?

We don’t use clutches that much, so don’t worry that. There are lots of hobby places that sell parts so you might find something that will fit. I will say that I hold orders for parts to make the shipping costs worth it. ($6 shipping on $10 parts is ugly, but $10 on $120 worth is a little easier to take)

  1. Does anyone trade? I have an unopened boxed set of wheels and need more gears and/or the ultrasonic sensor. I also have two unopened limit switches I might part with. (already have 2 broken ones I’m hoping I can fix).

Not really, but thanks for the offer.

  1. Are there instructions somewhere on how to assemble other robots besides the squarebot, protobot, and tumbler? (I found out after a couple of hours of assembly that I didn’t have the gears to make the protobot. I do not know if I have what I need for the tumbler.

There is a huge amount of robot plans that you can find with a little searching. I’d start with this collection of plans.

Good luck!

T

Specifically, Vex Machinations at the above link is a collection step-by-step building projects. Does anyone know of any other step-by-step project guides?

Vex for the Technically Challenged also has some suggestions regarding metal cutting, in answer to your question #2.

Thanks to everyone for their replies. Those links are exactly what I needed.

I don’t know what you’ll be designing in the future, but some robots can be built just fine without cutting anything, and some require cut and bent parts to work. You’ll eventually have to cut something to get an appropriate structure. I recommend that you keep all of your cut and bent parts around, as some of them will come in handy again. On a robot I built a few years ago, I cut two 1x25 beams into 1x4s and 1x21s. I have used both sections frequently to this day.

For most basic stuff, you can get away with a Dremel and a hacksaw. these are also good for making your own custom parts out of scrap metal. If you have access to a bandsaw, I recommend getting a metal cutting bandsaw blade to speed up the process. Just be careful; bandsaw blades have a mind of their own and they want your fingers!

CAD is a very good tool for robot design. I personally use it to pre-assemble and plan out robots; as it is truthfully faster than putting in all your screws, nuts, and axles and then realizing that you didn’t leave enough space for your gearbox.

This web site has a retailer finder that can answer this question for you, but don’t forget about your good friend Ebay.

On occasion, someone will make a thread on here offering to sell their stuff, but you’ve got to be quick, because they go fast. Again, your good friend Ebay is useful.

You can find lots of good ideas for robots in the image gallery, but if you’re out of ideas I recommend finding a problem around your house and trying to solve it with Vex.