New Team Need Advice!!!

Hello Everyone,
I am planning on starting a VEX non-competitive club at our high school along with our competitive FTC program, for next year. The goal of the new club is to increase the general awareness of robotics at our school, but we don’t have enough time to start a competitive team. We are pretty small artsy prep school with 375 HS students, and I assume not many new people have extensive robotics experience. I need some advice on booting up our inventory and knowledge base:

  1. We are planning to meet two to three hours a week, first talk about the basics of Robotics and programming stated in the EDR curriculum and then work on all sorts of projects from simple mechanisms to full robots (probably in spring 2019). As of now, what parts should we buy? We are planning to buy the classroom super kit for a group of 5 people, but previous posts have said that these kits aren’t the best value and people should buy individual parts. For an introductory team should we buy the kit still?
  2. If we want to keep more people engaged and learning especially about programming should we get a second cortex, or is one cortex with a kit is very plenty for 5 kids?
  3. As the organizer, I have 1 year of FRC and 1 year of FTC experience as a builder with a little programming experience. Should there be a knowledgeable staff or student frequently instructing newer kids about how to build and how to program in order to keep people interested, or is VEX very self-explanatory and new kids will pick up concepts quickly with less guidance? If it is the former, I guess I need to get myself comfortable with ROBOTC early on right?
  4. Even if we are not competitive, should we still follow guidelines and goals provided by VRC instead of building whatever people come up with? I guess it is more intellectually stimulating to construct a robot that meets a well-designed goal, as opposed to just build whatever comes up to our mind? Any experiences?
  5. For those of you who started a new team before, how long does it take for a team to really be boot up? I mean people come for learning and wanting to build good robots, not just speculating, and small projects can be made, etc.

If you have prior experiences with non-competitive VEX / VRC, whether a student or a mentor, I would love to hear back from you. My email address is wanhuiwsz@hotmail.com .

Thank you a bunch!

  1. I’m not so sure about this and I don’t want to mislead you here, so I won’t say anything.

  2. As long as the kids are ready to share with each other, one cortex should be enough.

  3. There should be a few students/adults to help, (maybe 1-2) that are able to help when students need guidance, but it is pretty self-explanatory for the most part. When I first started, my team and I basically just started throwing stuff together and would only go to our coach when we got stuck or couldn’t figure something out. Otherwise, our coach didn’t intervene much other than to ensure we weren’t abusing parts or being dangerous. That was the best thing he ever did for us because he allowed us to experiment and learn what not to do, which is just as important as learning what you should do.

  4. I would recommend that even though you are not going to be competing, you should still build according to the game. This will help students getting used to building within some constraints. It is surprising how tough fitting a robot within 18" can get with certain designs.

  5. I’ve never started a non-competitive team, so I can’t really comment here. However, when we started our private team, we were In the Zone pretty quickly, within just a few days of starting. However, both us did have 3 years of experience when starting this team from middle school.

@Electrobotz, thank you for your reply! Do you know about the programming start up experience with ROBOTC?

Let me start by saying welcome to VEX Robotics. I started a team last year. So I do feel your pain.

  1. I received a kit by applying to a grant on https://www.roboticseducation.org/competition-teams/team-grants/. It all depends on your region and the type of school that you are from. Private schools are a little harder to get than public schools.
  2. I highly suggest getting a license to Virtual World on https://www.vexrobotics.com/robot-virtual-worlds.html. You can learn the basis of programming.
  3. Also, if you can attend any kind of camps over the Summer, then that should help, too.
    https://www.robotevents.com/
    Click on Robot Competions=>Workshops=>Camps
    You can find camps in your area. Mentors can get trained.
  4. This VEX Forum is a gold mine for all of the advice from experienced coaches and teams.

Good Luck…

Just gonna comment on #2: imo 5 people for one cortex could be a little much. Once you get more than 4 people working on one bot, people tend to slack off and not want to learn as much.
If you split the group of five into groups of 2 and 3, the students get much more exposure and room for experimentation (especially since everyone is new to vex). If you have the budget for it, go with 2 cortexes.

RobotC is a relatively simple language to learn and can be picked up in just a few weeks. There are several YouTube tutorials that you should be able to find to help get you started. I’ll link to a few in a bit.

I have also made a starting powerpoint that I could share with you. I use this to teach students at my old middle school. Let me know if you would like it.

My team had 6 people, but only 5 people actually worked on the robot. Like CVC011 said, once you get more than 4 people on a team, people start to slack off.

If you are looking for Spring of 2019, I would wait until August for the new V5 platform to come out rather than buying the current Cortex System. If you are just planning on using it for classroom use, the classroom kit might fit your needs. Here is the link to the V5 System. Pricing is shown, but the details for the contents of the kits are not available right now. They should be announced soon. Programming in V5 will not use RobotC but will use VEX Coding Studio. This contains an object based language and text-based language (basically C++). You will be able to toggle back and forth between the two so that students (or you) can learn how the object based language translates to the text based language. As for student numbers, I have run camps and I think groups of 4 are as large as you want to go.

Alternatively - if you aren’t competing, I’d recommend actually buying a bunch of used Cortex & motors as well as old game pieces. Potentially a huge savings, as there will likely be a LOT for sale when people upgrade en masse to V5.

@TeamTX, 536Mentor, mel j., The Electrobotz, seearin, Geekette
Thank you so much for all the replies! Lots of very useful information!

So, in the past how often do VEX Robotics Competition change its systems/programming environments/language? We might be competing for the year after next year, so I guess by the time V5 -should- still be in use right?

Does anyone know how similar will VEX coding studio is to ROBOTC? In terms of syntax and construct. My plans are if they are pretty similar, we might just buy some recycled cortex and use them and later switch to V5.

For a classroom bundle, does it contain enough channels and motors for two robots? I know it has only one joystick and one cortex, but maybe we can just get an extra of these control bundles, and hope there are enough physical parts to build 2 robots.

Based on past experiences, are used cortex and joysticks from ebay reliable? For joysticks does it make sense to purchase non-vex joysticks in terms of setup and control.

Also, just for the sake of getting very familiar with programming before the fall begins, does it make sense to get the current competition kits and use the cortex system, just for the sake of training? Based on past experiences does it require a huge amount of time and money to learn and switch to a new control system?

V5 is the first change in system hardware in approximately 7 years (maybe 8). As for the programming language, the change to VEX Coding Studio is the first major change in programming languages in probably 10 years or more, if you count Easy C and Robot C. Other languages have popped up in the meantime, PROS (out of Purdue University) and others. I would expect V5 to around for at least 5 years, unless there is some major unseen tech breakthrough before then.

My understanding is that VEX Coding Studio will have some similarities to Robot C, but not many. It will basically use C++, but will also support PROS and other languages. I think they are dis-similar enough that if I were you, I would dive right into V5. The cost is going to be the same or maybe even slightly less upfront, unless you buy enough of the Cortex systems to turn around and take advantage of the buy back program, which only lasts until December 14, 2018.

First, we need to understand the terminology. I think you are referring to the Classroom Kit.
The Classroom Kit will not likely enable you to build two robots without additional wheels and electronics.

The Classroom Bundle will allow you to build up to 6 robots, but as you can see is quite pricey.

The Classroom Kits and particularly the Competition Kit is being revised for V5 and the contents have not been announced yet. however, VEX has gotten a LOT of feedback from us and will provide a Competition Kit that much more closely aligns with what is needed to field a competitive robot.

I do not believe that there are any non-VEX joysticks that will work. The VEX net communication protocol is proprietary and not available to 3rd party vendors.

If you don’t plan to compete, have you considered VEX IQ? You can buy three IQ kits for the price of one EDR kit, and the programming experience is pretty much the same. If it were me, though, I’d simply stop participating in FTC and go over to VRC. I did, and I’ve never regretted it.

Also, VCS is not the only option for programming V5, as both PROS and Robot Mesh Studio support multiple languages for V5. Robot Mesh Studio already works with V5 for Blockly, Python and C, with C++ and JavaScript coming this summer (before the V5 product launch).

If you look on the general forum: “commonly asked questions” you’ll find a list of stuff you’ll need to start your team. Of course, this is a rough list and you won’t necessarily need everything on it, but it’ll give you a good idea of what you should get. I personally would recommend buying separate parts because you may not use all the stuff given in the kits. Also, I would recommend planning your robot and CADing it (if thats what you’re planning on doing) before buying equipment so you can buy exactly what you need and no more. :slight_smile:

This doesn’t answer any of your questions directly, Ideally to learn the fastest, find the best by you who is willing to take on rookies and work for them, watch bots online look up basic mechanical mechanisms like parallel bar system lifts, scissor lifts, and conveyor systems. then go out an build them. Luckily this years game has high lifts, transmissions feed belts, claws, flywheels and drive systems in its future … looks like even if you guys just try to compete this year you’ll learn a bunch.

If you guys are planning to slowly expand the program I would recommend having a competition team/teams in the future because for me at least that is half the fun of vex.