VEX Capabilities

Sorry in advance for my poor english. I want to buy and try, for the first time, Vex products. I have questions :

  1. With Easy C 2.0 and MPLAB, my laptop plugged directly to microcontroler, is it possible to read sensors in real-time without compiling ?

  2. Is it possible to make the program Easy C 2.0 or MPLAB write down, in a flat file, on the laptop, the reading values from sensors in real time ?

  3. If not, is the softwares offer a way to communicate with other language like Delphi via COM or API ?

  4. Do you have RFID tags and sensors to make recognition easier for some objects ? (lights, doors, chairs) ;

  5. If not, is it possible to “plug” a phidgets RFID tag on the metal frame of VEX ?

My project now, I want to make the things below possible by a robot :

  • Set the chairs near the table (in correct position) ;
  • Close and open doors ;
  • Patrols for thief and send mails or react to it ;
  • ON and OFF the lights ;
  • Recharge itself : plug himself on the 12 V on the wall ;
  • Wifibot to move around in the house via internet.

I know I can code a robot to do that things… Is VEX can do that things ? It’s not only a project, it’s an obsession, a dream, a wish to attain that goal.
If I can do it, I’ll prove myself that this is not a dream, it’s possible.
Thanks !


I have moved this post so the VEX Community can help you out since we have already answered via email.

Hi Jeff, I’ll try to answer some of your questions

Yes it is. There is software available that will show you sensor values, you can use that

The Vex is attached to the laptop via a serial cable. You can write a program on the Vex to send information / data out the serial port. When it gets to your laptop, it’s on the Serial / USB port. You can write a program in the tool of your choice to read the serial / USB port and save the data or use it in other ways. MPLab C and Easy C are just for the Vex microprocessor, they can not be used to write programs that run on your laptop.

Delphi has the ability to read serial / USB ports so you could use that to write the program for the laptop end.

Presently there is not a standard Vex component that reads RFID tags. But since Ricky’s seen your request they know there is interest. In the past they have created new parts based on customer input.

I’m assuming you are talking about this USB Reader Tag Kit. The short answer is yes, this device has an output that could be used to drive a digital port, so it would sense when the robot is near the RFID tag. But, it appears you want to tag items and then read the value of the tag. The phidget has a USB port on it, you will need to do a USB to Vex serial conversion and then connect it to the serial port on the Vex. Using it to sense RFID is easy, doing the conversion and serial port reads of the data is much harder, but is also possible.

The Vex bot is somewhat limited in size, so some things may be harder. I’ve built a chair bot that can push/pull wheeled chairs into position. It is also capable of closing a door. You can build an arm/hand that can turn the knob, so opening the door is possible. Patrol for a thief and reacting to it simple to do. Just remember the robot can be carried, so there is always the possibilty the thief can steal the robot. :slight_smile:

Send mail, On and off the light and WifiBot are all things that will need a Vex/Network connection. The makers of the Vex are going to ship a new wireless controller, what you want to do may be possible with that. Someone from Vex will need to respond to that.

So far it sounds like it’s possible, keep us posted on how you make out!


Hey thanks for the answers.

The solution is simplier : I want to plug my EEE-PC laptop all the times to the microcontroler. I thought the VEX controler was connected via USB but it’s not the case. Anyway, there are converter SERIAL-USB to… The program put inside the microcontroler will read the sensor values and write them down on the flat file on the PC.

Delphi will read the flat each 0.2 second (or else) and reacts to it. I chose this solution to be able to let many languages to connect to the microcontroler. And I hate DLL, registry and Active X… Simple of all is a flat file.

In the same time, Phidgets will be plugged via USB on the same laptop. Using my laptop this way is like if it was a “controler”. I’m trying to use the best of the best for the “genre” : VEX for the motions and frames, Phidgets for the nice sensors and the small Laptop EEEPC (from ASUS) to the power and versatility. Plus, I’m working full time for a software doing text-to-speech, voice recognition and face recognition. And… my laptop is plugged wireless to internet…

It’s impossible to be able to make the robot completly autonomous… I must adapt some situations to it : like putting the beer always in the same place… :slight_smile:

For the stealing of my robot, maybe I’ll put an electrical Teaser on it… ahaha or a paint gun.

What do you think of the project ?

Thanks !


So ? Is it possible with the vex lab kit you’re offering ?

I agree on putting an EEE PC with solid state drive on it. Makes things easier and has LCD too.

Sorry, after your lengthy post, I thought you were pretty well set up. You had a plan to use the laptop as the primary “brain” for the robot with sensor input coming from the Vex and Phidgets. Output was going to the Vex frame / drive system. You knew the control issues, understood how to use Delphi, that text to speech was possible, etc. You seem to have all the big design issues resolved and were ready to start building metal.

So given all you said and planned the answer is yes. Not easy, not a two night project, but yes it’s possible.

At this point I’m waiting for pictures of how you make out.

Good luck!

Hey thanks for the reply. It’s encouraging to be agreed by an expert. But I was wondering which kit can help reach my goals. The lab kit is affordable but it’s a lot of money…canadian (with Heavy taxes) moneys. Do you think the starter kit with 2 claws and extra motors is enough ?

The lab kit + 2 claws + extra motors = 1150 $… and Phidgets are not included.

Thanks again !


So ? Is it enough ?

You could consider buying the protobot or one of the starter packs and then look at the optional parts to add on, or even experiment with alternative parts which are cheaper and compatible.

Thanks for the answer. I’ll go with that suggestion. But before buying, what exactly is a protobot ? Which use I can get with it ?

Thanks !

Here is the link to the Protobot Kit page. It includes the structural and mechanical parts, but no electronics or control system.

You’ll need to also buy some Vex Motors/Servos/Sensors and a Vex Microcontroller to interface them.

You’ll also need a programming kit so that you get your custom code onto the microcontroller. The programming kit can double as the link between the Eee and the Vex Micro.

Given that list, I recommend you start with the Autonomous Control Starter Bundle, since you will need nearly everything that bundle provides.

To complete your project, you’ll also have to order claws, extra sensors, whatever else your design calls for. I’d suggest that you just get the starter bundle initially and experiment a bit before you order all the parts for your final design. As you gain experience with the Vex system, you’ll be better able to predict what your final parts-list will be.

Hope this helps,

  • Dean

Thanks for your answer. That’s what I’ll do. But, maybe my question seemed a little bit confusing. I’m wondering for what usage is the original ‘protobot’ doing. The tumbler can switch to top and bottom and the protobot is useful for… ? To catch balls on floor ? To steal my beers ? :smiley:

Vex products seem very nice to develop practical robots but the marketing surrounding the products made me hesitate a lot. It is presented like if it were for competition or something like this…

Maybe they should take the same approach of Phidgets…



I was a bit confused, but I think you’ve figured out what it’s for :wink:
It really is an introductory model to help teach the basics of Robotics in general, and the Vex system in particular.

Vex is clearly aimed at the educational market, which of course means competitions. As you’ve noticed, this is where the bulk of their marketing is aimed, and it seems to be the driving force behind many of their product decisions. This is good, because it gives their product line a clear focus.

Many hobbyists like me have latched onto Vex because it is a perfect half-way point between the ease of assembly and reusability of Lego robotics, and the rigidity and strength of custom machined/welded metal.

I’d love to see Vex go after the hobby market more seriously, but the truth is they’ve already done the important part. Specifically, they use standard connectors (0.1" headers, RJ11, TAMIYA battery connectors, etc) and protocols (Servo PWM, serial, etc), as well as standard fasteners and a sensible bolt hole pattern.

The VEX 2.0 Microcontroller will add WiFi, I2C, and USB to the list of supported standards!

So, given all that, Vex is a great choice for hobbyists because we can easily integrate parts from Vex, Sparkfun, Lynxmotion, etc… It’s a great hackable platform!

Welcome to Vex!

  • Dean

Nice ! That’s exactly the kind of answer I needed to know. Thanks a lot. Maybe I should wait for the microcontroler 2.0 with wifi ? Do you know when it’ll be on the market ?

Thanks again,


Last postings from the Engineers at VexLabs, indicates that General Availability (GA) will be FALL 2009.

There will be some Vex Competitions this Season that work with the new Microcontroller.

If you buy a VEX 0.5 Microcontroller (the one currently available), you will be able to upgrade it to Wifi later with the VEXnet upgrade kit. As far as I can tell, the only thing the VEX 2.0 microcontroller offers over an upgraded VEX 0.5 Microcontroller is the I2C and USB ports.

This thread talks about the VEXnet upgrade kit being available in early 2009. It doesn’t say when the VEX 2.0 controller will be available, but I’d guess later in 2009.


  • Dean

Thank you very much for answers. Since It’ll cost me more than 1000 $ for all that I need, maybe it’s better to wait a little for the next microcontroler with the WIFI available.

I’ll continue to work on my software synopsis.

I’ll need beta-testers if you have some interest of course… :o)