New too Vex Robotics and Teaching Rootics

I was given a Robotics class on my schedule and we have 6 of the Cortex (green clawbot) kits. I have 2k in funds my superintendent wants me to spend some of it on the robotics. Is there any reason to upgrade to V5? Are the Cortex clawbots programmable or do I need to add something for them to be programmable?

I don’t know if we’re going to compete or not in anything this year, I have to spend the money by the end of september. Any feedback would be appreciated.


Unfortunately, $2k is not going to get you very far in upgrading to V5 since you need the V5 kits (radio, joystick, brain, etc) then new motors. I’d suggest using the $2k for robot parts such as wheels, gears, metal, hardware plus tools. You could spend $2k really fast that way. Then maybe upgrade to V5 in future years when you have more money.


You do not need to use V5 for robotics classes right now. Cortex will be fine. You don’t need to add anything to program it. Just download the code to the cortex and connect it to the controller. V5 is definitely needed for competition though. 2k would only be about enough for about 1 competition team because you need the money for aluminum metal, v5, competitions, and a lot of other things. In my opinion, don’t compete this year. Spend the 2k on the classes and then maybe in a few years with more money you could start a competition club


The best option to program Cortex is RobotC, which is free. It has both a block and text-based editor.


Welcome to the forum @eleslie!

I agree with @Gear_Geeks and @Wack - getting started with V5 will be expensive and Cortex is perfectly adequate for the engineering classes.

However, a lot depends on whether you want to compete this season or not and what you already have.

Are you teaching high school or middle school?

Do students have only school issued iPads, Cromebooks, or they have access to PCs where they could install RobotC which may require administrative privileges?

Also, which exactly kits/parts do you have (pics may help)? Do you have Joysicks and VexnetKeys that are required for the competition?


There is an online curriculum on the vex website, so you could follow that or adapt it to your needs. It works with the clawbot kit too!

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For classroom use, the cortex system is very good. As an added benefit, many teams have old cortext systems just laying around after their V5 upgrade. If you look around on the forum/online you may find good deals for used cortex systems. You can also contact local competitive teams and ask if they have any old electronics laying around. Good Luck!


I would recommend not being competitive until you build up enough of a following for a program to get off the ground. Also, if you do plan on going competitive, 2k isn’t much in the scope of an entire season. Depending on what region you’re from, v5 is almost always a necessity to be competitive nowadays. It seems like funding may be a problem, so I would definitely recommend becoming sponsored by either local or big tech companies. There are many forum posts that describe how to get sponsors, so I won’t go into detail.

PS welcome to vex! I think you’ll find the community can be incredibly supportive even in a competitive environment, so don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.


6 kits are alot, id spend that 2k on parts and mybe see about coming up with a basic game of your own, (vex even sells a super basic class room competition) and let the students learn the design system as well as how to make good strategy. and maybe wait till you can get more funds to buy v5 and potentially go onto official competitions.

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Are the kits new/unopened or previously used? If the later, you may want to look over the part, particularly the motor leads to help in deciding what to order.

i would recommend going the upgrade to V5 as the cortex is almost 11 years old at this point, and by the time you actually order the V5, it would be outdated to the point where at cannot be sold.

There was the 269 series, then 393, then v5. Just a small correction to increase understanding.

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Maybe buy additional 393 motors so that each group can use more than just 4 motors. Also buy more parts.
DO NOT switch to v5. It’s not needed for classrooms. Cortex will likely be sold for years to come, even when its phased out of tournaments.
I would suggest making a little game for some friendly competition, to keep the classes fun and interesting.
Also do not let the students change the gears in the motors. If they want gears changed, have them approach you. If not done correctly, they can mess up the motor (like me)


I would respectfully disagree with your point about that. I think that the Cortex is likely to be phrased out soon, although it will likely still remain legal in Competiton for years to come. I don’t know how long the 269 series was still produced for, until the Legacy series came out, but probably not very long, before almost everyone made the switch to Legacy. Even now we are already seeing an impact, there are veryfew discussions about robot C now.

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True, but there’s a reason the v5 brain has 393 ports. It’s because so many classrooms already use legacy that forcing them to switch wouldn’t be practical.
Although I do acknowledge that in the next 5 years or so we may see 393 get phased out


If its just a normal classroom, use cortex. There is absolutely no reason to switch to v5 and using 393 may teach students how to work with less power than normal (would probably increase build quality later on).

If you ever plan on going competitive, it is 100% possible to switch to v5 in the middle of the season. Just don’t rush.


My account has had a hold on it for 3 weeks so I’m just able to reply.

This is a picture of the kit we have that students are building. Basic Claw bot. Can these be programmed after they are built? What platform do we use?


I had to spend my money, so we have 2 V5 Competitions kits now too. Wasn’t necessarily my choice.

@eleslie, there are actually many coding options for robots now that you purchased V5 Kits. For the legacy electronics (the green motor and the silver cortex), you need RobotC, which is PC only. For the V5 system (the black motors and the brain with the screen), there is VCS (the official coding platform offered by Vex), which is available on Mac and PC, and offers block text for beginning coders. An upgraded version known as VexCode, which is a little bit better in my opinion because you can wirelessly download code. There are also many other options for V5, which is great, but I am not informed enough to give my honest opinion, so feel free to ask others on the forum.

RobotC - Got it, I’ve only got 2 V5 Kits and there’s about 18 students. I’ve got 6 legacy kits… so we will spend most of our time figuring out those and then I’ll figure out how to use the V5 kits with so many students.

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For programming the Cortex:

I would probably recommend RobotC for beginners. The graphical and natural language parts of RobotC will be helpful for first-time programmers, while text-based RobotC can easily occupy even fairly advanced programmers.
RobotC for VEX is free and runs on Windows only.

PROS is a great option for students that seem to be consistently ahead of their peers in programming ability — just give them PROS and a link to the PROS documentation and let them explore.
PROS is free and runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.

For programming V5:

Do not use VEX Coding Studio. Even VEX has given up on it, and VCS is discontinued to the point that you will struggle to find a download link.

For beginning programmers, you should have no trouble with either Robot Mesh Studio or VEXcode. Both have block-based and C++ text-based language support, and their C++ APIs are actually quite similar.

Price and compatibility of VEXcode and RMS

VEXcode V5 Text is free and runs on Windows and Mac OS; Chromebook support is planned.
VEXcode V5 Blocks is free and runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Chrome OS; iPad and Android support is planned.
Robot Mesh Studio is free and browser-based. Programming can be done on virtually any device with a modern browser, but downloading code to the Brain requires Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS, or Ubuntu-based Linux. An offline version of RMS is available for Windows only. There is also a paid RMS classroom license that allows you (the teacher) to see every student’s code in one place.

PROS continues to be a great advanced option (PROS supports both Cortex and V5).