VEX hardware, battery and cortex abuse at the USA Science and Engineering Festival

I spent Saturday at the USA Science and Engineering Festival on the Mall in Washington DC. I think Blake will post a description and pictures, but let me say it was amazing.

I was in the VEX Robotics tent that was set up with 8 Robot Soccer fields (field perimeters are 8’x16’) with PVC pipes to create goals. The robots moved a full sized soccer ball around. There were a variety of robots to choose from: Wheeled robot with an arm that could grasp the ball; a tank bot that was pretty speedy and 4 legged robots that could climb over everyone / everything.

The robots played non stop for the 7 hours I was there. The crew recounted that they had 4,000 people on Saturday, I’ll estimate that we had about 2,800 come through the booth while I was there on Sunday. So there was a ton of action, robots only got about a 2 minute break while one set of future roboteers left and the new ones got set up.

First thing that is amazing is the VEX-Net and the Cortex. They worked well all day, there was no interference, no “weird connection issues” With at least 32 robots going at all times that was amazing. To do it in the DC mall with all the RF, wireless and alarm system radio noise was impressive.

Battery life. We were using the new battery packs. We got very good life out of them, about 45 minutes of non stop drive time (4 motor drive on the robots). Those little cubes get hot when run non stop. They also get very hot while on the charging station.

Battery life on the joysticks were also good, but at the end of the day there was a huge pile of used AA batteries. Watching the lights on the Joysticks gives you a good idea on where you are at with batteries.

VEX metal and gears rock. There was minor repairs, I didn’t see any broken plastic parts, and I watched a lot of soccer being played like Battle Bots. There was some motor damage, but about what I’ve seen with my demo events and new drivers.

When robots had issues they got sent to the repair table. It was manned by JVN, Paul C (boy do those guys have some quick hands when working on robots) Ricky Q and roboteers from the Super Sonic Sparks 4-H team (Dave F’s amazing crew from Westminster). Robots were flying in and out like cars in a NASCAR race.

Takeaways on build: There is no such thing as too many cable ties when you are playing against a legged robot. Most of my requests for early repairs had to do with the legged robots ripping wires out of the controller. If you are using the three wire to two wire converters they need to get tied down.

For demo bots, using the “star” locking washers on the motor screws is a must. Most of the repairs that I saw were motor screw related. I use them on my long term demo bots and they work well. (Remember they are not competition legal)

Overall I was impressed on how much abuse the robots took and how well they stood up to it.

Sounds great , can’t wait to see the pictures.

Follow VEX on Twitter: they’ve posted a couple pics already! :slight_smile:

Off topic – your screen name looks familiar. Are you the one who put together this year’s FLL Mission video (the unofficial one that’s way better than the official one(s))?

What the heck is twitter? Wait, don’t answer that. I don’t care! I hate these stupid social networking sights! Everyone is so obsessed with them.


No, we didn’t make it, but I’ve been giving it a lot of publicity! :slight_smile:

I’m also RoboDesigners on the FIRST forums, ChiefDelphi, and Youtube…

I’m glad to hear that the batteries kept up under the strenuous driving! Just like lyncas, I can’t wait for some more pictures! :slight_smile:

Sounds like a great event, sorry I missed it. Glad to hear about the hardware standing up to abuse. We haven’t tried the new batteries yet, unfortunately we stocked up on the old ones right before worlds last year. We use low strength (PURPLE) lock tight on all screws that we don’t use locknuts on.

From what I heard it sounded really great, and I really wish I could have made it there with the rest of my team, really would have liked to help out there, sorry I missed it.


There were THOUSANDS of happy people who got to experience driving a VEX robot in the Lockheed Martin sponsored VEX tent. The Expo on the Capitol Mall was blessed with 2 beautiful days of weather. The public happily waited in what, at times, were long lines to enter the tent. The cheering from the tent could be heard from quite a distance.

Besides the VEX crew (and can I mention how much fun it was to see Paul, Ricky Q, Karthik and JVN lined up repairing robots alongside Super Sonic Sparks-both adults and kids!) An event like this needs lots of volunteers. There were lots of enthusiastic volunteers from Lockheed Martin, as well as experienced VRC volunteers, working the fields and interacting with the public. A big shout out goes to Blake Ross for an outstanding organizational plan and to Brad Lauer from RECF. It was quite the weekend!

I was lucky enough to go to Washington for this event, and also for the PLTW Innovation Summit during the preceding week.

I outlined my experiences at this events, here:


Both events were very cool, and I’m glad I was able to participate!


John - I passed a link on to my Lockheed Martin colleagues - They might not get all the inside jokes, but I’m sure they will appreciate your kind words. I’m still in search of some pictures - I didn’t take any, but LM did some official photography, so some should exist. - Blake