Texas is Growing!

After making it through our first year with only my son, we started with some heavy duty outreach this past spring. As a result we have grown to 6 students and now 2 robots. Yesterday we gave a presentation to the local Kiwanis about robotics and their importance on STEM education, and it looks like we picked up a couple more students and possibly a 3rd robot in the process :slight_smile:

This past spring when the reality of our team being the only robotics team in our county sunk in we decided to go on a mission and offer to buy a robotics kit for 2 of our local school districts. We have not gotten an answer from one of them, but I recently received this email;


The school superintendent was supposed to be at our presentation yesterday but had a pressing issue come up. The money is to be divided between 3 schools for grades 3-8. We will be working hard to see that the district decides on the VEX IQ platform and not FLL since not only is the IQ superior, there will be many more opportunities for the students to compete within the local area.

Since our “A” robot is complete the that team is now tasked with developing a presentation to promote the VEX IQ to the school district which we hope will lead the district to choose VEX over other platforms when they expand the program.

Any insight from teams that are familiar with both the VEX IQ and the NTX would be appreciated. Sorry for bragging, but we are on cloud nine after having things suddenly bloom all at once.

That is really cool that you have made such an impact!

I own an NXT, and 3018 had two IQ teams this year; although I did not do much with the IQ system. Also, I was on an FLL team a few years ago.

The NXT/Lego Technic system feels more refined. This is unsurprising because Lego has been working on these for years. The FLL robot must be fully autonomous, and they only allow the built-in drag-n-drop programming. There is also a “project” in which the students must create an innovative solution to a real-world problem. The rules in FLL are quite restrictive.

The IQ system felt less refined; maybe the way the pieces were created? The rules for the game look cooler though. It has auton and driver, and can be programmed with RobotC. (Although RobotC is harder for new programmers.) Instead of a “project”, IQ students create an engineering notebook.

If you want to mechanically design something really cool, FLL is the way to go.
If you want to have a variety of sensors, and advanced programming software, IQ is the way to go.

To sum up all of FLL

We had to give a short play thing. My team won it and I was alien Elvis getting thorium for my spacecraft.

This was 6 years ago just so you know.

Great to hear robotics seems to be expanding greatly in your area :D!

-Your robot looks great cant wait to see the possible other two!

-Good luck with promoting overall VEX/ robotics in your county :smiley:

Why ask for insight when you’ve already reached a conclusion?

I mentor about 16 robotics teams in 4 different competitions. Why? Because each has it’s own merits and helps build a foundation for the next level. Personally I would only ever give younger/beginner students fully autonomous tasks since it can quickly become glorified remote control cars otherwise. In VEX far too often I see the extent of programming being what I’d term motor = joystick and IMO that really isn’t the point of this whole exercise.

VEX IQ is new and I have no experience with it so can’t comment about how this compares to FLL on a technical level. All robotics programs have rules and constraints which are carefully chosen to achieve certain outcomes and hit target markets. The platform is just a delivery vehicle.

Perhaps you can change you signature to say “Official American Representative of teams X, Y, Z in New Zealand VEX Robotics” You most definitely do not represent robotics teams I mentor in NZ.

Interesting that FLL probably got you interested in robotics in the first place. The team coach helped guide you 6 years ago, even if you were Elvis, and that I’d be thankful for.

The reason I am leaning towards recommending the VEX IQ is due to the fact that I know of more than 20 IQ teams within 45 minutes of the Bonham school district, not to mention that IFI is about 40 minutes from Bonham as well which makes parts and tech support easier. I have had Eli offer to come look at a robot and figure the problem out on his off time. There are few FLL competitions close by, and based on experience we had with a Mindstorms set that we bought for my son, I find the IQ to be much better than what we had.

With that being said, I am sure that Lego has improved in the years since we used them, but I want input from others so I can give them the best advice.

How many people/teams is this $30k to support? If it is 10 kids wow! But if you have 300 kids in those 3 schools, it won’t go quite as far and more funding will be required.

Will the schools take possession or an external club? Makes some difference if you expect the IQ robots to be used year after year in school. The teacher participation and curriculum may have a lot to do with this answer.

Is there existing curriculum already geared around Lego Mindstorms in the elementary schools or is this green field new in the curriculum? (Project Lead the Way or the other one I can’t remember the name of comes to mind) If the curriculum is already existing for Lego or some Texas mandated curriculum that already points towards Lego, then Vex IQ may be a direction that is harder to overcome and change. You may want to get to know some of the school board members or the curriculum controllers (teachers and/or administrators) in the local district to guage this before you present your ask formally what to do with the $30k. (Rationality does not always prevail just to warn you.)

Or is this for competition robots only? May be an easier row to hoe than classrom integrated curriculum.

Disclaimer: I have had only limited exposure to the new VEX IQ parts, and have been VERY involved with FLL, as a competitor for 6 years, mentor for 2, volunteer judge and referee for 3, and summer camp instructor for 3.

It is important to recognize that in cases like this, there is no right answer, as each team’s situation is different. You have some good examples of this in your last post, regarding local availability. However, you asked for my views on the two programs, so I’ll give them. Based on my experience with FLL, I still very strongly recommend FLL over VEX IQ for most people. Here are a few reasons:

-The VEX IQ platform is certainty well designed. However, it suffers from being the new kid on the block compared to LEGO much like Tetrix did when it took over from VEX in FTC: because it is new, there are relatively few mechanical components, even if some of the core hardware capabilities seem improved. This problem is compounded on itself by the veritable juggernaut that is the LEGO back catalog: more than half a century’s worth of plastic parts, in hundreds of thousands of variations.

-Besides the obvious improved selection, LEGO offers a more subtle related advantage, which in my opinion is decisive, when considering what we are trying to achieve: kids are familiar with it. Most kids who will come into your teams, no matter what platform you choose, will have played with LEGOs. Many times, they’ll bring in their own kits to contribute to the team, and use mechanisms inspired by their own LEGO kits in their robots. Not only will they be familiar with how they work, but it’s a GREAT way to pitch the program; I can’t tell you how many kids sign up for my LEGO robotics summer camp almost entirely on the basis of seeing the word “LEGO” in the catalog. To these kids, its a smooth transition from playtime to serious robotics competition, a transition that I could see being much more jarring if you present them with an unfamiliar platform.

-Mindstorms is doubtlessly a quality platform as well, and as mentioned, quite battle-tested. If you haven’t yet, take a look at the new EV3. Some impressive new capabilities.

-Even moreso than in VRC, in FLL/IQ there will be a WIDE range of skill sets, from teams that can hardly do anything, to teams that can do it all with ease. FLL has a proven track record of being FANTASTIC at dealing with this, with numerous missions with varied difficulty. The quality with which VEX IQ’s more VRC-like approach, with a few repeatable tasks, deals with this remains to be seen.

-As mentioned, FLL forces autonomy, which I think is valuable for students at that age. Students who have FLL experience are FAR more likely to seek out/use sensors when they graduate to VRC and FRC than those who did not. Relegating autonomous to a side-competition in VEX IQ hurts this.

I judge these presentations every year. This post…how should I put this…this is not a good post.

FLL’s target age is the same as VEX IQ. Namely, the target age is kids. The competition is designed around this fact. You may feel embarrassed to have dressed as alien elvis years ago, but trust me, there are literal tens of thousands of kids each year having a BLAST doing similar things at their competitions each year. The FLL research project is a FANTASTIC way for kids to have FUN doing this stuff, especially those who may not be immediately attracted to building and programming robots. FLL teams I’ve been involved with have brought in many kids who may not have done the program otherwise through these projects, and they are just as inspiring, if not moreso, than the robot game. And every year, I leave the judging room grinning from ear to ear, inspired by the students who were inspired to sing me Gangnam Style parodies about using robots to help seniors. :slight_smile:

Finally, I want to end with a word of warning to this community, about some of the verbiage I’ve heard about VEX IQ and FLL. It is great to be enthusiastic about a new program, that’s what will help it grow. It is great to think one program better than another, we should all objectively analyze these things when making choices, and strong competition will create better products from all parties in the future. However, I’ve been seeing a disturbing trend, of people not just hoping for the overall success of VEX IQ, but people hoping that it achieves this success by achieving “victory” over other programs in the process. This line of thinking, and targeting existing programs for conversion rather than starting new ones, is downright dangerous to the mission of both the RECF and FIRST: To make STEM education accessible and inspire students. Fewer than 10% of students currently have ANY access to ANY of these programs, and spending any energy on converting one program to another is energy that could have been spent tapping that 90+% untapped market. I’ve made clear that I am a strong FLL supporter, but I would NEVER walk up to a happily functioning VEX IQ team and try to get them to throw away their VEX IQ parts and buy brand new EV3s. Spreading VEX IQ is great, but always remember the bigger picture.

Well said, there is ample room for several platforms, I am trying to figure out which one is best suited for our area.

What I like about VEX and VEXIQ over FLL is that there is more emphasis on the design and build of the robot. In my 2.5 years of FLL, there was way more emphasis on programming than anything else, and the limit of 3 motors really limited a competitive design to a very basic set of options. In VEX, with so many more parts and systems to work with, robots can be so much more creative and challenging than an FLL robot. Yes, programming is important, but I don’t think it should be the whole show like it was in FLL.

I think you’re getting confused here. There isn’t a comparison to be made between FLL and VRC since they are vastly different programs. Compare VRC with FTC and the later has far more scope with [near] open raw materials permitted. Funnily enough you can actually use a whole lot of the VEX mechanical parts in 2013/2014 FTC.
When you look at the complexity of some FLL World Festival robots I doubt you could replicate that with VEXIQ simply because the parts are somewhat bulky in comparison. Interestingly the mechanical complexity of an FLL robot stems directly from having a limited number of motors available - you need to get creative in order to achieve your goals.

So far as programming goes I can attest to watching teams with zero FLL experience not do so well with VRC programming and those with extensive FLL history approaching VRC/FTC with a different mindset altogether. Go look at some factory robots and I’ll guarantee there isn’t someone behind it wiggling a joystick! Real world robotics is all about programming like it or not and these robotics programs are helping to prepare you for it. Personally I find the VRC 15 second autonomous period depressingly short but on the other hand it suits the overall goal of quick-fire high intensity matches.

Some stats for the current respective seasons:
VRC - 10 motors
FTC - 26 motors
VEXIQ - 6 motors
FLL - 4 motors

It will be very interesting to watch VEXIQ develop this season and much like VRC and FTC I’m sure there will be other differentiators between VEXIQ and FLL. Having more choices is a good thing and as a previous poster mentioned the overall market penetration is currently very low.