Re: Basic Getting Started Questions (Unofficial Replies)

This was originally posted in the official forum, but I made a thread here so the community can comment on it:

1 - Teams don’t have to from a school or club, there are even some one person teams. A group of friends meeting at home and forming a team is actually not too uncommon. Just make sure you register on RobotEvents.

2 - I don’t think it’s late to start, most school teams start in September. VEX has some kits with a good variety of starter parts, but to be competitive most teams need more things than just the kit (extra motors, batteries, aluminum, etc.)

3 - Worlds used to be in Anaheim, but this year it will be April 15-18 in a location “to be announced at the end of the summer”.

Kevin is correct on all counts, but I’m tossing in my 2 cents worth just to provide more psychological support to his answers:

  1. You definitely do NOT need to be associated with a school or any other organization. You can effectively create your own Vex organization by simply signing up and paying the $100 fee (or whatever it is now, I can’t remember). Then you pay for whatever tournament(s) you decide to take your team(s) to, which average about $50 to $100 per tournament per team. After forming your organization, you automatically have one team registered. If you want to register more than one team under your organization, I think it’s an extra $50 per team to register. By registering your organization, you get your own organization number, like, for example, 99999. You can then have separate teams 99999A, 99999B…, etc. Your Vex “organization” does NOT have to be an official non-profit or anything of that nature.

  2. It is definitely NOT too late to start. Most school kids don’t even begin to get their rears in gear until mid-September. People on this forum tend to be much more involved in Vex and take it far more seriously than the average teams, so you won’t be alone if you start in the next couple of weeks. Fear not.

As for basic starter kits, check out these:
http://www.vexrobotics.com/vex/products/classroom-and-competition-kits
A lot depends on how much money and time you want to spend. I think there might be kits even simpler and cheaper than the ones I linked to. You might even be able to get grants for starting teams, depending on circumstances.

There is no shame in starting with something super simple that can do little more than push cubes around. Kids on the forum talk about bombing posts with 20 cubes at a time, etc. but mostly what you will see at actual tournaments at the beginning of the year will be robots that never even leave their starting square. Start simple, make sure your kids learn everything about how the simple robot works, go to lots of tournaments, and learn from there. Also, Vex has an unofficial motto: Steal from the best, invent the rest. So make sure your kids look at what others are doing and take it from there.

The mere fact you are wise enough to come to this forum and ask questions already puts you way ahead of many teams out there. The kids on this forum are not only knowledgeable, they pride themselves in sharing what they know.

It’s a good time to start, definitely not too late.

Bare minimum startup cost is probably $1000. VEXnet (the remote control system) is $400 alone, although it’s always more cost effective to buy that as part of a kit. Realistic startup cost for a team with one robot including registration etc. is probably $2000.

There was a thread from a couple of years back discussing startup costs for a team (although a little dated now, one or two rules have changed).
https://vexforum.com/t/new-team-what-to-buy/21046/1

You might also take a look at the parts list for my “Open source robot” to give you some idea of what a simple competition robot would cost. (the specific design is no good for this years game though).
Open source robot

Competition super kit may be a good place to start but the additional money buys you more motors and sensors but not many additional structural parts.

What’s your proposed budget?

Look for the Skyrise manual for the rules about robot size etc.

Just for reference, we’re a completely independent VRC club and we just registered our team on RobotEvents last week. We don’t belong to any school in the area, and we work independently, so yes, this can be done.

The green eggs were independent of any school. They won worlds 4 times.

Being a part of a school often brings up politics and restrictions on travel, so it may even be easier to run a team that is not affiliated with one.

That’s a very good point. Schools often have rivalries/animosities that were born from and perpetuated by sports activities, which have next to nothing to do with the academic side of things.

Schools often operate extracurricular activities according to the same educational theories/fads they use in classrooms, and sometimes that can create cognitive dissonance in some of the mentors who expect the kids to actually do something besides play video games or talk on their iPhones. :slight_smile:

Also, for example, I know of at least one school system that has a policy of not allowing students to attend school-related activities if the weather looks bad. So if the school system deems that there is too much snow in the forecast, administrators can prohibit a school team from going to a tournament, including the State competition, etc.

So, if you don’t mind forking out the money for your own teams, being independent can have lots of advantages.

The dual control kit is cheaper than what I had originally linked to. This could get you started in the tournaments at a very basic level:
http://www.vexrobotics.com/vex/products/robot-starter-kits

To get started, you really don’t need sensors. Practically all you need is the Cortex, joystick controller, at least two motors and motor controllers, a battery, and a battery charger. The kits provide all of that in a way that is economical. I don’t think you could save any money by buying parts piece by piece. If you want to program, you can get trial versions of EasyC and RobotC to get started. You do not need to program an autonomous to compete (but it sure helps even to have the robot drive just a foot or so forward and stop). :slight_smile:

+1000 Confirmation

I am the original poster -

Thank you all so much - I already feel like part of the community.

I’ve told the kids that essentially, just expect to learn a lot and have fun.
Let’s learn this year and if things go better, then great, else, we’ll use it as a baseline.

I expect it will be awesome

  • learning to program some basic chips similar to arduino,
  • figure out some basic sensors maybe,
  • think about strategy
  • building something that moves and keep adding on
  • and then see what others are doing and, as said, try to use and improve.

If I had to ask one other question - it would probably be this - why would one choose First or Vex over the other. We were looking at First, but since Vex was supposedly going to be back in Anaheim for 2015, it seemed much more feasible than going to the midwest for First championships. (understand that we weren’t concerned with competing as much as seeing and learning).

Thanks!
Kevin

FRC is generally seen as more expensive, going to one competition can sometimes pay for a decent VEX robot. However I do not know the benefits of FTC as I do not do it(did not like the metal they made you use, but now I think that it is less strict) so that shouldn’t be a problem.

With your goal of winning a competition, honestly I wouldn’t shoot for the moon. If you want to win a competition then you will most likely spending way more than what you expected. However VEX has more competitions, more places, for longer, and usually do not require you to miss much(or any) school. FRC events are much more formal events(and you spend the money for it, they better!) lasting 3 days(officially 4 now) of all day competing, but they only happen a few weeks out of the year(vs every month with VEX).

Our team started out with VEX and then added FRC when we became larger, but this may not be an option for you to do.

PS VEX teams can be a few kids(2) but a FRC team in my mind cannot work smoothly without at least 15 dedicated kids.

And the cool thing is that if you have 15 dedicated people you could run 8 vex teams for less than even the poorest FRC teams. Then one student doesn’t get stuck with only being allowed to learn one thing and do it over and over. I asked a local toptier FRC team how much they spent in a year and it was in the ball park of 175,000 compared to like 1000 a year per team being the most feasibly you can spend. This is both for established teams who need to restock or replace broken parts or for game specific stuff.

Now FRC does have its own benefits. Realistic engineering parts and working more with engineers to name a few. The building season is structured around “realistic engineering deadlines” and is limited to from start to finish to be 6 weeks. This means there is less copying/ less design convergence.
Sadly it also means if half way through you realize your idea is bad because your a group of new people you really can’t go back.
In VEX I have seen rebuilds last as short as a few hours. Which is one of my favorite parts of vex. You can keep trying things. It is a lot more forgiving in terms of changing your mind on a design.

NEXT BIT IS PURE OPINION
Vex robotics is the essence of engineering in terms of creativity, strategy, applying mathematics, design and learning what does and doesn’t work.

FRC is a lot more about the nitty gritty of engineering.

When looking at costs, this kit has the cheapest price to parts ratio:

When we added up the parts cost back in 2012, there was a $1534 value on the parts if bought individually in the $999 super kit. Here’s another “what to buy” thread from a couple of years ago.
https://vexforum.com/t/what-would-you-buy-to-start-a-new-vrc-team/21741/1

Just as a quick addition. This is a crazy good deal.

The cortex/controller kit that would have have to get any way with like 200$ in stuff you will definitely buy for only 100 extra.

My only complaint with the super kit is you get too many parts people dont want. While the kit above is profit even if you only use the motors, batteries and chargers.