New VEXU Team - Questions

VEX Forum Members,

Hello! My name is Joshua Granger and I’m the President of the IEEE student chapter at Louisiana Tech University. I’m a Junior in Electrical Engineering and this is the first time my university has participated in VEX robotics.

Our organization has been very fortunate, and we had a company purchase everything we need for the competition. We have: two classroom and competition super kits, the arena and field tiles, the full game object kit, and the team license for ROBOTC.

However, I do have some questions that I hope someone could help us with. Being a university team competing in VEXU, we will be following the appendix rules that states we are to bring both robots for our alliance in the competition. So, not only are we participating for the first time, but we have to build two robots!

Questions:

  1. On Robotevents.com, some events state that they are “skills only”. If we sign up for one of these events, we only participate in the Robot Skills Challenge and the Programming Skills Challenge, correct? Do both of our robots participate at different times in these challenges, or do we only need one robot for that? How do these work?

  2. If we are interested in going to an event that is the actual competition itself (“the game”), do those events also host the skills challenges? For example, if we were to go to the event in Muskogee, OK: what will be at that event? Will that event be “the game?” Will that event have skills challenges? Will both of our robots be in the skills challenges? How does that work?

  3. What, generally, should be the first step in designing your robots? Do most teams completely 3D model them first or just get a rough sketch and start building as they go?

  4. Are there any team size restrictions? What size are most university teams that participate?

I have quite a few other questions, but these are the ones that I’d really like to get answered as soon as possible.

Thanks!

  1. So in Robot and Programming skills you compete with both robots on the field at one time. It is the same setup as a traditional match except there are no opponents. You are also allowed to drive to the other alliances starting tile and use their driver control loads.(driver control loads can be used during either skills challenge.

  2. In my cases events offer skills in addition to their tournament. It is possible that they do not so I would suggest reaching out to your event partner(people hosting the competition). If not otherwise stated assume that competitions run “the game”. Skills only competitions are fairly rare.

  3. For most people I would suggest a lot of pre sketching of the robots. The issue with that would be that you have(assuming) next to no experience with VEX parts. So I would suggest starting with lots of prototypes of different subsystems to get you comfortable with the parts. Then trying to plan out the robots. If you are going to CAD the robots I suggest Autodesk Inventor over SolidWorks because there is a really good community Inventor library.
    http://botsnstuff.com/wiki/24CAD2013
    EDIT: The other most important thing is to watch VEXU and HS matches over the last few years to get ideas of what kinda stuff can work.

  4. So there are no size restrictions. The range can actually be pretty varied. I would guess the average is probably like 8? The issue obviously is that different people are always more or less dedicated. QCC2 the VEXU champion last year was 4 members while AURA the finalists has 20+ members in a club that does a variety of robotics but only sent 4 to compete at the world championship. I would assume that the 4 members did most of the work but they did draw on the support of a larger team.

Just a little side note. Make sure on robot events that you are only looking under the VEXU category found here.
https://www.robotevents.com/robot-competitions/college-competition

Thanks so much, Tabor!

Your information is very helpful. You are correct in most of your assumptions, we’ll need a lot of help along the way I’m sure :wink:

I expect to have a blast with this but I know we’re going to spend many stressful hours trying to get gear ratios right, getting our programs right, and so on.

You mentioned that skills only challenges are fairly rare. A competition that we were interested in participating in was the following:
http://www.robotevents.com/robot-competitions/college-competition/re-vexu-16-2973.html

The title of the event is “Rice U Nothing but Net Skills VEX U Challenge.”

Would you say that event is skills only or is both the competition and skills challenges? I have sent multiple emails to the contact information listed for the event and I cannot seem to get a response from them.

Thanks!

This is a skills only event that will qualify teams to the World championship.

That is from the event description of the page you linked. These types of events are becoming more and more common because they allow teams to participate evenly with teams around the world and earn the US dedicated skills world qualification spots.

I have just registered a new team and paid the registration fee of $100 with the approved team tag of DAWGS. Do I need to register a second team to recognize that we have two robots? How do I declare a tag for our second robot?

Are we finished in terms of signing up with VEX?

No, it’ll be the same team, same 5 letters

Yep, you only have to register the one team. Then there’s just registering for competitions

Welcome!

The first step is going to a high school competition. It is MUCH easier to know what has a chance of working and what doesn’t when you have seen robots playing the game up close. VRC competitions appreciate having volunteers from Vex U, particularly if you know what you’re doing (which you will soon).

Especially since you are inexperienced, you should probably not completely 3D model your robots before building them. It can be tricky to know how how exactly a design will behave without physically testing it. Vex is designed for rapid prototyping, and if you build physically from the start then you won’t sink time into ideas that aren’t compatible with the laws of physics.

That said, don’t cut parts until you know that whatever you’re trying to build will fit together. If you need to use CAD to check that then you should.

At Worlds, you want at least 4 people if possible. At smaller competitions, 3 is fine. When you’re at home working on robots, you’ll find you hit a natural limit where adding more people doesn’t lead to better results, but where that limit is will depend on the complexity of what you’re making. If you’re making a robot without much sensors or programming and you have 3 dedicated people working on it, you might have trouble finding jobs for anyone else. If you’re building a monster with heaps of custom fabricated parts and very complicated sensors and programs, you could potentially involve ten or more people.

And of course if your club does things besides working on Vex U robots, there’s no limit on how many members you can have.

Hello there!!

I’m sure this has been answered already but that event is a skills only event. My best friend is the coordinator of the event and I apologize he hasn’t responded. We have been really busy with running our FRC team this year that we haven’t gotten around to much VEXU items yet. We ran the event last year and it was a huge success for both high school and college.

If you have any questions, you can contact me and I’ll be glad to help. I went to LSU for 4 years and I have a friend in Louisiana that is looking to do VEXU but doesn’t really have a team. It would be great if we could work something out for the both of you all. He has some experience with VEX already.

Thanks for the support, guys!

@Highwayman: Thanks for clearing that up, we’ll get registered ASAP.

@Oliver W: What you mentioned makes complete sense. I also think that it’s a bit late in the competition to take a whole lot of time 3D modeling our robot. Perhaps in the future when we have a better design process, but I think for now your suggestion of staying away from CAD is good advice.

Also, our organization is about more than just VEXU. So, naturally, we had a bigger audience when we were recruiting people to start our first VEX team. I currently have 35 people signed up and interested but I expect to filter out a few of them and keep the ones who are able to be the most dedicated. I’d like to have 10-20 people on the team in case some participants cannot travel to the event we choose to attend. Right now, it’s looking like we’ll be going to Muskogee, OK which is about 6-7 hours away.

@xavbro: No worries! Thanks for confirming that information. I understand the busy schedule part – I’ve been pretty busy myself setting this team up! We’re going to have a blast.

Thanks for extending your offer to help! Where is your friend located?

I’m not sure. I would have to double check. I know he is near LSU but I think he’s about an hour out. I can get in touch with him and let him know.

Make sure you guys sign up for the Texas VEXU event (http://www.robotevents.com/robot-competitions/college-competition/re-vexu-16-3119.html). If the qualifying way is the same as last year, you’ll need to be at this event since it is one of the qualifying events for worlds. You can also make it by having one of the top skills scores in either programming or robot skills.

I didn’t say to stay away from CAD! Using it to plan things before you build can make the process faster and less wasteful. I just said that for a new team creating a complete robot in CAD before building is not a great idea because there’s no substitute for experimenting with the actual parts and learning about their strength, stiffness, etc. You will likely need to use CAD since you will probably want to use 3D printing.

To get started with CAD, download Autodesk Inventor for free and then download the VEX parts from here.

Unless you have a good reason such as limited space or per-member costs, you probably don’t need to “filter out” people. A membership fee is a good idea to raise some money for the club and this will have the effect of reducing membership to people who care about being members. If you feel your group needs to be smaller, raising fees is one of the best ways to achieve that. To dedicated members, even if they are pretty poor, a fee of $50 per year isn’t much when they spend hundreds of hours engaged in club activities but it is a barrier to people who just want to spend time with their friends or pick up something for their resumé.

But limiting club size probably isn’t something you need to do, and membership fees should mainly be a way of making sure your club has money rather than a way of keeping people out. People who turn up occasionally are healthy for a club. The social circles of the people who turn up most often are likely to overlap a lot. The social circles of people who turn up occasionally will have less overlap. That will get your club more connections, which will help you get members, sponsorships and faculty support (and also jobs). Not everyone who turns up will even want to work on robots all the time, and not everyone who turns up will want to travel to every competition.

And your most dedicated members may be more dedicated if they are the core of a larger group than if they are on their own.

For most high school teams, each new participant in the team is an additional cost. That’s not really how it works for Vex U teams.

Well, we’re not really all that close to LSU, haha. That’s unfortunate!

Thanks for all the help, though. We were considering the Texas VEXU event but we’re not sure because LaTech uses the quarter system and that is a terrible weekend for us. It’s the weekend before our last finals and most of our students don’t want to do that. We’re actually looking at the Muskogee event on February 6th.

@Oliver W:
My bad for misinterpreting what you meant in your original post! Haha. I agree that modeling something in CAD would be a good idea, but I also agree more that hands-on experience will better benefit us as we get familiar with the parts.

Also, thanks for your advice concerning team size. I appreciate it.