Twelve New Teams... but what to buy?

A colleague has recently approached me with some good news. They have received $6200 (Canadian dollars) to equip their class with VEX kits.

One of the goals is to try and have two students per kit, in a class of 24 students… so we’re looking at a minimum of 12 Cortex units.

Ideally they would like to keep 10% - 20% of the funds in reserve for purchases of specific equipment later on, once they see how VEX is fitting in to their class. AND, of course, there will be GST and PST to be paid, about 12%. So really, let’s say they have $5,000 Canadian to spend right now.

Let’s leave the toolboxes, playing fields and other gadgets out… and assume they’ll use RobotC on recycled laptops from Computers for Schools BC.

What kind of VEX hardware would you want to start out with? If you can link to the Canadian pricing at either or (are their other retailers with a Canadian presence?) that would be helpful.

$5,000 Canadian, don’t worry about tax or shipping… but you need to get 12 Cortex units in there somehow. All advice welcome!


Idesign is the only Canadian reseller that has all the VEX products and free shipping. TBH 5k isn’t very much, especially after they raised the Canadian prices, the 12 cortexes and controllers will pretty much take up all of that. So either having less units (probably reasonable) or some other inexpensive system like Arduinos would probably be necessary.

Regardless of which system you use, I’d recommend the get a set of good tools for each kit from the start though.

As drive teams are made up of 3 kids, I recommend a maximum of 8 teams. Perhaps, even 6.

Get lots of nylons spacer packs. Just saying.

We just received our order and we ran out of nylon spacers rip…

Shameless plug, if you don’t need tons of every size nylon spacers, you can get them in the individual sizes you need: And 1/16" washers are actually quite nice.

You will need wheels as the clawbot kit wheels are not generally used in competition. Omni and the grippy green tires.

I will talk about tools as they can speed things up for the students. I would get some additional tools like T Handle 3/32" and 6/64" hex keys and some 11/32 nut drivers for each team. MSC is good int eh US, not sure abooot Canada. A small chop saw at Harbor Freight does wonders for cutting productivity. Get a face shield too. Personal opinion but I think a chop saw is less dangerous than a band saw. A bolt cutter works well on the shafts and a good file or two helps smooth out the rough edges better than a grinding wheel (which sharpens the pieces for most kids until they get good at it).

Get some more potentiometers, high strength gears in 84, 60, and 12 tooth sizes. 36 is used but less so in making lift arms. Bearing blocks are always in short supply too as well as many more motors and some back up 2-3 wire motor controllers.

Standoffs, shafts, shaft collars of all kinds will be needed and only seem to get cut shorter. Add some nylon spacers too for drive and lifts.

Lastly, zip ties by the thousands and a cheap wire cutter or two for the tails.

Unfortunately, I agree with others that you will not be able to have 12 kits for $5000, even if the goal is using the kits for education only. If you are looking to just teach with the vex cortex, you could probably buy half as many joysticks/vexnet keys as cortex, since much of the work would be sensor programming.

Vex competition robots typically have about $2000 in parts. This came up a couple months ago on this thread, and I put together a shopping cart of what (imho) a team would need to get started in competition.

My Club has been doing Vex since it was the ftc and we generally have come to the conclusion the teams should consist of of no more the 5 and typically at least 3 members although we have had teams with more and fewer members in the past we now stick to the 3-5 model and we have roughly the same number of students you do typically between 20 and 25 students and every year for a while now we have had 5 teams with your goal being 24 kids I would say 5 teams will be enough. You can build basic competition robots out of the kits vex makes and you will still be able to compete especially considering how well square bots have been doing early on this season.

Jason – that’s a tough one. I know that 2 students per lab team is a good ratio, but a competition team is better with more. I consider 3 a minimum and 5 is better for a tournament. You can build and program a robot with fewer, but you need more to guarantee success at a tournament, especially large events.

The most cost-effective way to buy the Cortex bundle is through the Dual Control Starter Kit, which includes a Clawbot and the Cortex bundle. The problem is that this costs CDN $700 per robot, which is CDN$8,400 for 12 kits. I don’t see how you can solve this problem in the new kit market and I don’t see a lot of useful VEX kits on eBay Canada either. The Dual Control kit does not include enough extra parts to build a competition-competent robot.

The magic number (US dollars) for a decent starter kit is more like $1,350, but that’s only 3 robots by the time you convert to CDN$. Time to get more money!

What Rick Tyler said…this year I have had the luxury of being well funded and the minimum number that really works is 3. To be really competitive at tournaments you want about 5 or 6 kids on a team (there are always exceptions both ways to this rule). I have found I like to start them in smaller groups and then as time goes on and they have learned all the basic stuff you can combine them into larger groups.
Also once it seems you have some grants, often if you get the kids to ask other groups such as your school PAC and such, other groups will help them get…one more kit…and if you do it enough times. With my old team the robosavages we grew from one kit to 20 over just a few years.

Also bearings…about 60 to 70 for a top level bot…I think the dual control combo comes with about 30.

My club has 4 teams and already had the cortexes and base kits, and we still spent around 6 thousand dollars in additional aluminum, motors, batteries, etc. with that budget i would recommend 2 teams, possibly 3. I understand that the intent of these robots is not to be the most competitive well-equipped robots, but you can only squeeze 12 cortex’s (with joysticks) or 10 base kits without the controller. i would recommend about 4 full equipped kits, or if you plan on Competing, 2 dual control kits, and then the rest on parts. in conclusion, 12 teams, even with double this budget would be unrealistic, and so is having 2 people per team, i would only recommend this if your club has really dedicated people, from my experience, only 10% of the people in clubs are that dedicated.