Newbie to robotics, what should I get for my starter kit?

I’ve been looking at Vex kits for a while now, and I’m thinking about finally making the plunge. However, there are so many options that I’m not sure what to get.

Here’s my info, to give you a better idea of what would work for me:

I’m a software engineer, so I’m planning on getting RobotC with it.
I’m not going to use it for competitions. It’s just for messing around.
I want to be able to program it to operate autonomously with sensors, but also be able to drive it around.

Should I go for the more expensive Cortex, or would PIX be fine?
It looks like it would be cheaper to get the Autonomous Control
Starter Bundle, and buy the controller seperately. Is this accurate?
Are there any extras I should get as well, such as sensors?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I would get the Cortex. You’ll probably hit the limitations of the PIC faster than the average user.

The Autonomous starter kit is really not as useful as it seems. It doesn’t include the “cool” sensors like the Line Follower, Encoders, or gyro.

I would get a Protobot Kit, Advanced Sensor Kit, some limit switches and bumper switches, Cortex and controller.

Cortex has more IOs, more motor ports, 2x the motor current output limits, more memory, you’ll probably be happier with it over the PIC.

It looks like Autonomous + controller is cheaper, but thats only because it doesn’t include Vexnet keys (2 required). When you consider that, Dual control bundle is cheaper. If you want to play with sensors, the $100 advanced sensor package is a good package deal. Vexnet provides a lot more control channels than the 75MHz system.

Another option is to volunteer at a place that already has equipment, some team or…
If you find a local BEST hub, and volunteer to help its kit-committee and/or teams, you can probably be a “tester” for the electronics in the off-season. That saves a couple hundred dollars on electronics. You’ll still need Vex building materials (if you don’t want to cut your own like BESTers do) and sensors.

Thanks for the help, guys.

Should I get the Programming Hardware Kit? What are the benefits of it with the Cortex?

You can download programs to the Cortex with a USB A-A cable, if you don’t mind having a wire between the PC and the robot.

The programming hardware cable is USB-serial-RJ45.

The hardware cable can be used to connect the PC to the Vexnet Joystick, and then you can wirelessly download programs, as well as wirelessly get data from the Cortex to the terminal screen of the PC.

Ah, so the hardware cable would be useful in debugging, but otherwise isn’t necessary. That’s cool. I can always wait and get one later if I want to write some advanced programs.