Starter Kit Gone! Good or bad?

Has anyone noticed that the new “Protobot” bundles appear to come with fewer pieces, but cost way more than the original starter kit? It looks like to get even close to the original kit you have to buy a $500 kit.

Please tell me that this is not the ONLY VEX robot kit we can get now.

well you can still buy all of the add-on kits. but wow, those look way overpriced. i hope for people first buying vex that they can still buy the original starter kit.

I can’t say for sure but according to the site you are getting anywhere from a 17%-21% discount compared to if you bought the part separately.

based on current pricing, but compared to the old start kit the new pricing does seem to be higher.

If you planned to add on, the old starter kit had lots of stuff that was supplied cheaply in a bundle, but if you didn’t plan to add on anything, much of what you got wasn’t very useful. Two limit sensors and two bumper sensors when you don’t have a programming kit? Only two wheels of the same size (for medium & large wheels)? How many times did we wish that they could have traded the servo for a regular motor module, and how many times did we wish for MORE GEARS??!!!

Based on a cursory look-over of the bundles, it seems you get less stuff, but smarter stuff. With the old starter kits, it took 2 starter kits to have enough motors, gears, and metal to build much of anything fun, and even then, you still didn’t have programming. With the Protobot kit, there are 4 motors and more gears, which gives a bit more flexibility for building. Before, it cost $400 for the Starter kit + programming. Now for $500, you get something similar to the Starter kit + programming, but with “smarter” parts (extra motor, gears, and wheels).

I still think the best deal of all is the $700 classroom lab bundle.

Upon more reflection, one thing I don’t like about the new bundling is that the R/C starter bundle doesn’t have a microcontroller. If someone decides that they later want to upgrade and add programming, they have to spend $150 for just the microcontroller, not to mention the cost of the programming and sensors. If I had made that purchase and wanted to add programming later, I’d have a lot of buyers’ regret about not buying the $500 Dual Control package and perhaps hesitate to upgrade at all. The current R/C starter bundle is great for someone wanting a cheap stand-alone set, but terrible for someone who wants to test the waters, then upgrade later.

What would make sense to me is to have the current R/C Starter Bundle billed as the “Economy R/C Starter Bundle”, but add another option: pay a bit more, say $375 for an “Upgradable R/C Starter Bundle” which has the microcontroller instead of the signal splitter. That way, people who want to start small but add gradually have flexibility to add on at a reasonable cost.

I realize that this would be $75 more for what used to be in the old Starter Kit, but I think the “smarter” packaging (more motors, gears, and wheels, rather than bumper & limit switches) is worth it. Also, we have to live with the reality that prices everywhere are going up, and Vex is no different.

Control is only one of the issues. Where is all the structural metal? I cannot even get close to building a functional robot design for a competition with this “Protobot” kit. I guess all the smaller competitions will only be “Protobot” vs. “Protobot.” The lack of hardware makes it almost impossible to make anything else.

In order for a person to get the parts equivalent to the former starter kit they have to buy a $500 bundle, a $80 hardware kit, and a $20 servo.

The starter kit allowed for more creative designs with a lower investment.

After having had a chance to look at the new kits (stupid school internet was down,) I see it like this:

Protobot kit- truthfully, this looks better than the old starter kit as far as movement and structure are concerned. it has more gears and wheels than the old one, and personally i would have loved to have 4 of each kind of wheel in my starter kit. and 4 motors instead of 4 motors and a servo is definitely a better deal to start off with. only problem being that it’s just hardware and movement

Radio Control Starter Bundle- still comes with more parts than the old kit, but the fact that this comes with the signal splitter instead of the microcontroller makes me wonder about the price.

Autonomous Control Starter Bundle- No transmitter receiver kit, yet it is the same price as an old starter kit w programming kit. Where do you save money?

Dual Control Starter Bundle- just looks like the old stater kit and programming pack; plus $200. Do not want.

Overall- the new kits offer a bit more variety and better hardware, but aren’t quite as good as the old starter kit for all-around usability.

I kind of hope they decide to keep on selling the old kit.

There’s no doubt that the Starter Kit is the best value and variety of parts for the money. To reconstruct it, I think you’d need:

Microcontroller: $150
Transmitter/Receiver: $130
Hardware & Metal Kit : $80
Gear Kit: $13 (but call it $10, since you don’t get the 84-tooth gears)
Wheel Kit: $30
Motors & Servo: $80
Misc. doodads, like PWM cable, wrenches, etc. ~ $20
That’s ~$500 of stuff for $300, and I don’t think any of the other bundles give you that much savings

But I must say that I am not a fan of the Starter Kit as a “Starter Kit”, i.e., first-time kit for Vex newbies. My son and 3 friends (all FLL graduates in high school) each acquired the Starter Kit shortly after its release. After building the Squarebot, they couldn’t envision anything else they wanted to build. The metal was too long, and no one wanted to cut anything, for fear of ruining it. Offers of joint build sessions (to combine parts) were turned down. Those 4 Starter Kits sat in closets for nearly a year.

What turned things around for us? The Radio Shack 50% off sale. We stocked up on metal, gears, and the programming kit. I deliberately cut some metal to stock sizes, and reassured my son that we could purchase more if he ran out. He started to tinker, realized that Vex could be enjoyed, and we decided to buy TWO Starter Kits for a school team (intended for one robot, not 2). We urged the other 3 members to stock up on parts to make their Starter Kits more fun. They did not, and those 3 kits still sit in closets.

After 3 years of Vexing, I can finally say that we have found every piece in the Starter Kit to be useful (except, perhaps, the plethora of 1/4" screws), but it took 3 years to learn to use all the parts. For the sake of veterans like us looking for a good value, I would love to have the Starter Kit kept in circulation, but perhaps it ought to be renamed something like the “Builders’ Bonanza kit”. Its optimal audience is definitely not “Starters”.

After watching what my son and his friends initially found useful in the Starter Kit, I noticed that the parts that got used were gears, wheels, axles, and structural metal that didn’t need to be cut. I definitely think the Protobot kit is a step in the right direction for that audience, but I agree that a little more metal would go a long way. More 4" axles (why only 1?), longer axles (12"), gussets, a couple more small (5X15) plates, and a couple more chassis bumpers would give much more variety to the kit.

I agree, more metal is definitely the main thing that the old kit needed.

I’m really annoyed that Vex got rid of the starter kit. But what annoys me even more is that the Protobot kit is $420 without programming software. The Protobot kit even has less parts than the starter kit. I think that Vex should bring back the starter kit. I’m trying to buy an affordable kit with a microcontroller and other add on parts and I can’t find anything.

I’m just curious of how many people want Vex to bring it back.

I’m also annoyed and it would be great if Vex brought it back.(Please?)

Vex got rid of the starter kit!!!

HATE!

sorry…couldn’t help it…

looking back at it, maybe the starter kit wasn’t that great of a deal…but i see that the expansion kit (protobot parts) is a really bad deal…

OLD STARTER KIT OWNZ!

I honestally dont care that much, I supose that if we didn’t have as much money and resources as we did it would make me kinda mad.

Unfortunately no matter how you look at it the VEX line is, in my opinion, too expensive for a home user. For schools, clubs, teams, and other groups VEX is a good deal because you can have several users on the same kit.

At the same time though VEX is nice because with one large investment you can be fine for several years with only periodic updates.

Since the introduction of the VEX Robotics Design System in the spring of 2005 we have received a lot of very useful feedback from our customers. Much of this feedback was focused on the VEX Starter Kit; they told us what parts they liked, what parts they didn’t, and what parts they wished we had included. We’ve acted on this information and are proud to introduce three upgraded Robot Starter Bundles.

These new Robot Starter Bundles center around the VEX Protobot Robot Kit. This kit includes a better selection of VEX components tailored specifically for building robots. Users can follow step-by-step instructions to build the VEX Protobot or VEX Tumbler, or use the 300+ included parts to design their own VEX Robotic creations.

One thing in particular we’ve learned from our customers is that they want more options for customization. The three different Robot Starter Bundles each couple the Protobot Robot Kit with a different control system; users can choose the option which best suits their needs. We now provide a variety of entry-level options to better suit customer needs, ranging from basic Radio Control to full Dual Control (including programming hardware & software!)

The Protobot Robot Kit itself provides a lower cost fourth option for customers who already have a VEX Starter Kit. Many customers have emphasized that they desire additional robot components & kits to build additional robots but do not want another set of Control Components. The Protobot Robot Kit is perfect for their needs.

We are pleased with the positive response to Protobot and look forward to your ongoing comments and ideas.

John makes some very good points. As a customer oriented organization, we work for the people who buy our products and support the VEX brand. In this case there are some other practical business issues at work. Every company sourcing product from Asia has seen unprecedented cost increases this year. In an effort to improve their standard of living, the Chinese government raised the minimum wage 20% back in January. Other policy changes have created a labor shortage further inflating costs. Coupled with cost increases on metal and plastic, its a fact of life that product costs have gone up across the board. Here’s an interesting article on the topic: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_14/b4078078846220.htm

We should note that since launching VEX in 2005 we have not raised prices. Under the circumstances, rather than simply increase the price of the starter kit to $379 or $399, we’ve taken the opportunity to improve our offering.

VEX is first and foremost an educational robotics brand and our primary customers are middle schools, high schools, community colleges, tech schools and universities. These customers demand larger and more diverse bundles and have critiqued the starter kit for several years. For the relatively narrow but passionate robotics hobby niche audience, we are developing new and improved VEX products at lower price points like VEX Mini.

We’re proud of the VEX Robotics value proposition and feel we compare very favorably to other products on the market. The VEX brand is growing rapidly and will continue to do so on the strength of listening carefully to customers and continuing to innovate. We appreciate the opportunity to have the kind of meaningful dialog the VEX forum affords and look forward to your ongoing feedback.

I like the addition of the ProtoBot and different package options. I think for most schools, they should consider the VEX EDR for $700.

In terms of consumer, I feel that most people want to buy a basic robot kit for the lowest price point possible. The VEXplorer already fills that need. Therefore if you want competition ready robot kits, the ProtoBot with programming or EDR is probably best for your school.

After you put together a few starter bots and realize all the extra accessories you need you will see that the ProtoBot has many of things you need at a 17% discount compared to just buying the Starter Kit and extra parts.

I agree that the kit doesn’t come with enough metal. When I first saw the kit, I was excited, but then I looked at the picture and I decided that it wasn’t enough. The price isn’t as great for the parts it comes with.

Please bring back the regular starter kit!

As much as many of us would love to see the old Starter Kit offered at $300, I think a more realistic question is, “Would we love the old Starter Kit at $379 or $399?” Everything costs more these days, and though we don’t like price hikes, it shouldn’t surprise us.

For my team, the old Starter Kit does fill a need. We have added students gradually to our team, and for every 3-4 students added, we add a Starter Kit. It’s nice to be able to add on in $300-$400 increments, rather than laying out $700 for the Classroom Lab kit all at once. But if we were starting a new team, we would bite the bullet and get the Classroom Lab Kit. My preferred way to gradually expand the team would still be to add Starter Kits, but I think we would be able to find different ways to add on without them if they were not available.

I find this news to be very disheartening. I have competed in several “one kit” competitions (as a students and now a mentor) and found the “old kit” to be well rounded and very useful for that type of game. With the things included in the new kit, it will be very difficult, if not nearly impossible to build competitive robots with the new kits. I know in Indiana, there is now a “rivalry” type of attitude amongst schools that hold competitions similar to the one kit competitions, and with the new kit it will be virtually impossible to build competitive robots for their competitions. I hope that you guys take the “little competitions” in to account with this issue.

Just my $0.02