I’m doing a product investigation for my Engineering Class, and I have chosen to look into the VEX Robotics Design System. This includes multiple different components of the system and the educational benefits that VEX brings through competition.
As a part of this, I need product reviews, but I unfortunately cannot find these anywhere for the VEX System. Could you possibly take a few minutes of your time to write a review of the system, or components to help me?
Components I need reviews for; 393 Motors, VEX Cortex, VEXNet Joystick, LCD Display, Aluminium parts
For component reviews, please explain if you have ever had any problems with the product, how long after purchase these problems were made clear (especially for motors), what you were trying to do when the problem occurred and your general opinion.
For reviews on the system in general, please explain when you first started working with the VEX Robotics System, why you started working with it (competition? class project?), your opinion on the system (would you recommend? educational value of the system. what do you like and dislike?)
Overall pretty decent. PTCs inside will cause the motors o stop functioning when high loads are applied. Multiple configurations of gears inside allow for simple gear ratio changes, but internal motor gears also tend to break quite easily if used in a high load area. Motor controller 29s are awesome to use, just plug and play.
Probably the best part of the cortex is how easy it is to get started – everything is just plug and play. Very simple to use, and I’ve never run into the issue of not enough memory or computing power. Only case I’ve heard of running out of memory is for sound files. There aren’t enough digital ports on the cortex, and with newer rules there aren’t enough motor ports either.
Vexnet 2.0 is pretty nice, especially in comparison to 1.0 which dropped connections really easily. The controller is very straightforward, and I can’t really think of any negatives regarding the joystick.
A touch small with only 2 lines, but it functions well for what it is.
Good quality parts that are all compatible with each other. Makes building very easy.
I started getting lazy near the end, but I also feel like there isn’t much to really say about the joystick, LCD, or metal.
Regarding the motors, strength, quality, etc. (motors especially) is that the use of VEX for competition often puts much more stress on components that they may see when being used as an educational/classroom tool. History shows that this competition use has driven the release of new products, including the motor upgrade from the old 2xx motors with their plastic gears, and the whole “high strength” line of sprockets, chain, gears, and shafts. Therefore, I suggest every review include the end use: classroom/education or competitive robotics.
323 motors: they’re alright, but you must be careful with wire management, the insulation where the wire comes out of the motor can wear down easily causing a short.
VEX cortex: it works well, but way over priced.
Joystick: good quality (I’ve seen a drive team member throw one across the room in frustration, and so far as I know it still worked), the labeled button layout is nice, but way over priced, and some analog triggers would be nice (also I find VEXnet to be fairly unreliable).
LCD display: again, way over priced but it works well, and is easy to use (more room for characters would be nice though).
Aluminum parts: they’re nice and lightweight, but be careful where and how you use them because they can bend and or even break.
393 Motors: Fairly good. Some better protection at wire junction would be nice. Overall a decent low power motor with convenient compound gear reduction and mounting threading. Very good for low power general purpose robotics prototyping. The reason you might hear about negative reviews is because a part of VEX competition is about working the motor as hard as you can without them tripping current in the 2 minutes of game so your robot moves faster than anyone else’s. So the 393 motors take up a lot of beating in VRC, but I suppose the same will happen even if VEX allows more powerful motors. There’s been many test by jpearman and others on the motor; you can go look them up to make your own judgement.
VEX Cortex: Way overpriced. Nowadays you can buy a pi for 20 bucks or cheaper, with more computing power and memory. I’d say from a non technical perspective that the memory of the cortex is not big enough for very serious computing work. But it is very very convenient for teams. All of the hardware and software compatibility issues are reduced down to almost none. I’d never buy a cortex for my own projects. Some Arduino board or some pi computers would be a lot cheaper.
Joystick: Overall very robust and reliable. Never seen one break. I’d prefer slightly bigger joysticks, but everyone seems to be fine with them. Three power options (battery, AA chord to cortex, charger) make the product ideal for testing and practicing. But is indeed very overpriced.
LCD Display: Overpriced, but a good product. You can use the screen flashing as an additional feedback signal, and you can do some seriously useful programming work with those displays and three buttons. It is noted that the buttons tend to bust after some heavy use.
Aluminum parts: I would probably guesstimate that 90% (?) of structural components in VRC nowadays are aluminum parts. The aluminum parts appeared as a substitute for old steel parts. They are weaker than steel, but a lot lighter, which allows teams to use higher base gear ratios to drive around faster. Way way overpriced, but a necessity in VRC. The overall design of the product is great. Making good pre-manufactured frame parts is what VEX is good at, and they make a lot of money with this skill in FIRST. The strength of the material satisfies majority of VRC competition needs.