What would you buy to start a new VRC team?

I’ve been asked this question so many times that you’d think I’d have an answer by now… but no, every time I’m asked it is back to the old drawing board to develop a unique answer. This time I’m going to throw it open to the forum and see if I can crowdsource some ideas.

So… let’s say a team has $1,500 to purchase hardware and software to get started in VRC. Right now, they have nothing. The $1,500 has to include all the hardware they need to get started in year one, including:

Boxes for safe storage of all the little bits and pieces.
Programming hardware.
Batteries, controllers and the rest of the robot.
VEX specific allan keys/wrenches

But NOT including:
Entry fees, game pieces, playing fields, legal plastic parts, or common hand tools such as wrenches and hack saws.

Two questions:

A) If you have a maximum of $1,500 what would you buy? Please provide part numbers, prices, and any reasons that you might have. (but leave off taxes and shipping, since those vary by location)

B) What are the top three parts that you left off the “Part A” list that you really, really wish you had?

I’m posting my answer to my blog, but will be linking back to this thread. Hopefully it will help introduce some new VRC coaches to the VEXforums.

Thanks for your help,


I honestly do not think that $1500 s enough to start a solid team. Before any parts you will need at least 1 computer. A netbook at the low end will run you $200. Then you will need tools and good quality tools are not cheap. You may be looking at another 2-3 hundred for tools. Then storage containers you were talking. Again not very cheap and after that you dont have much for parts. As far as parts go I would just get the basics. Buy a Cortex and controller combo, or a second controller if you want to run 2 drivers. Then basic wheels, just omni’s. Metal kits. ETC. I can make a list for you of the basics I would buy if you would like.

$200-300 for tools!?!?

I dont know what other teams use but we have mainly Milwaukee. Were blessed though because our advisor gets them free from a friend. But for decent power tools and hand tools 200-300 is a very real number.

Okay… great to see some replies here, but let’s keep in mind the scenario… a team has a grant of $1,500 to get started. We’re not going to tell them “that isn’t enough… don’t bother”, we’re going to give them some advice so that they can get started, have some fun and then upgrade their kit over time.

I’ll grant you that I could have said, “the team has access to a laptop computer running Windows”, but I didn’t… laptop computers with more than enough power to run EasyC or RobotC are available free of charge from computer recycling facilities in most areas. They aren’t fancy, but they work.

I did point out that they have access to general hand tools such as hacksaws, files and pliers. Laptops and simple hand tools are common enough that a reasonably resourceful team should be able to source them at no cost.

This scenario is VERY typical of what I have heard from new teams over my past seven years of coaching and advising VRC teams. $1,500, spent wisely, and combined with a bit of dignified scrounging is more than enough to have a successful and enjoyable start in VRC.

So… a team says “I’ve got $1,500, an old laptop, and a few hand tools.”

What do they do with the $1,500? (And yes, please… a list would be fabulous! I’m still working on mine!)



I have a very basic list made. It is the absolute least that I would get a team inorder to be successful and it comes out to $1,700.00. I have it but I do not know how you would like me to give it to you.

Dude my team spent 2000 on parts for the entiretly of it and we did pretty good.
1/4 of that was a cortex because it was a first year
My team tried to make the biggest list we could and it was like 3 thousand, in vex money can get you alot.

It all depends what you want/need. Our club has 3 teams that constantly need parts so it can get pricey very quickly. With one team you shouldnt be too bad and the parts should last a while. Just expect to be buying motors and motor controllers often.

The last time this came up my list totaled around $1750.


Get a donated computer, ROBOTC and EasyC both run on old hardware.

Same with tools, a parent/friend can donate them, you really don’t need much.

A great way to share the list is to just post it to this thread. (or a link to a previous post works, too, thanks)

But please… keep the list to $1,500, and then list the top three things that you would get if you had more money as a seperate list. (okay… you can add more than three if you want… but if you do, try to put the most important ones first)

Remember… the scenario is that a school or organization has $1,500, an old laptop and some basic hand tools. They don’t have any more right now, but maybe… over the next few years… will be able to build on that.

Do you tell them to go away, “Forget it, you can’t have any fun in VEX for less than $x,xxx”, or do you say, “Well, I’d love to spend more, but here’s what I’d do to get started if I were in your shoes.”

I mean, really… you can post whatever you want here… it’s an open forum, but I am currently advising someone in this exact position… $1,500 max, per team, and they are looking at starting three or four teams. This isn’t a drill… it is for real. You can post a $1,700 list if you want… or a $3,000 list… but $1,500 is a pretty typical initial supplies budget for a team just starting out here in BC.

And it seems to work… we’ve got some pretty good teams in the province that have started out with less.

And that is a hard, fixed, firm cap of $1,500. In fact, given taxes and shipping, it will be less than that, but a $1,300 list is too simple to be any fun.

No… having fewer teams and a higher budget per team is not an option.



There are ways you can save money. Someone suggested power tools, but they’re not really necessary (especially for a new team). Our team has functioned for two years with a bunch of allan keys, a vice, and a handsaw for cutting metal. As far as tools go, that should be all you need.

The four most important things for the robot are:
-Cortex Microcontroller and at least 1 VEXnet controller (along with VEXnet keys).
-Metal, Screws, Nuts, and other structure components
-Wheels (you should be fine with four, I’ll leave it to you to pick which kind).
-Motors, and any necessary extension wires and motor controllers

You said you already have an old computer, so this should be fine to run your programming software.

If you buy wisely, these things should fit within your budget, and allow you to build a functional competition robot.

I will provide information that fits your guidelines, however, when writing YOUR blog, you will need to trim, shape, and form the community’s guidelines into something that you can present to your readers.

The key in start up is to get only what you need. Pretty much, 10 motors, a handful of sensors, cortex, and as much metal as you can afford.

Dual Control Starter Bundle with Cortex - P/N: 276-1700 - 550
This gets you off the ground. Instantly, you have the control system, a controller, and a couple of basic sensors.

Booster Kit - P/N: 276-2232 - 180 x2
Metal, metal, and more metal. Need more metal, get 2 of these.

EasyC V4 for Cortex - P/N: 276-1714 - 75
Meets your software needs, and easyC is quck to learn.

2-Wire Motor 269 w/ Motor Controller 29 - P/N: 276-1667 - 20 x4
Add some motors.

2-Wire Motor 393 w/ Motor Controller 29 - P/N: 276-1668 - 30 x4
More motors.

7.2V Robot Battery NiMH 3000mAh - P/N: 276-1491 - 30 x5
Smart Charger w/Optional Power Cord - P/N: 276-1445 - 20 x3
Need Power, right?

If my calculations are correct, we’ve arrived a total of $1395. I believe all of the above are the core of a competition robot that is well prepared to perform during qualifications and eliminations.

And this is where my list ends. I’m ending it short because while the above is enough to get started, the team will find that it’ll need collars, bearings, wheels, and other accessories to continue.

As far as tools are concerned, the 8 teams I currently help use nothing more than allen wrenches, hack saws, and files. All of which can be easily obtained at your local hardware store.

  • Sunny G.

For parts storage my middle school team and my new high school team have both been very well off with 2 cheap tackle boxes.
Compacts small and has many small cubies.

Thats what our teams do. We put hardware (screws, bearing flats, ETC) into tackle boxes and all the metal into plastic drawers and individual parts into tubber ware

Well, our team spent the bear minimum, we bought the classroom kit from vex, then bought 4 motors, and bought another battery, then we bought some plastic etc, and essentials like tool boxes from B&Q (very cheap), then things like allen keys, we bought from amazon … i would say that it is just enough to do it, but you need to be very careful what u buy …


Great post. We get these questions in varying dollar amounts from time to time. John V-Neun and I thought it would be fun to give you our thoughts. we brought in one of our interns who is a seasoned VRC competitor and has built many, many VRC style robots for us as an intern over the last few years. He used to be very active on this forum when he was competing.

In any case, we have two lists: One with the current product available on vexrobotics.com and one using the new kits announced a the World Championship this year, which will be available August 15th.

First list total = $1,481.86:

276-1163 Classroom Lab Kit (Cortex) $850
275-1411 Robot Competition Upgrade $270
276-1668 Motor 393 w/ Controller 3 @ $28.99 ea
276-2177 Motor 393 2 @ $19.99 ea
276-1491 3000 mAh Battery 2 @ $29.99 ea
276-1696 AAA Joystick Batteries $12.99
276-1445 Smart Charger $16.99
276-1500 Cord $3.00
276-2156 Optical Shaft Encoder $19.99
276-2216 Potentiometer $12.99
S/W easyC or ROBOTC $79.00
17187311 Home Depot Husky 22in Plastic Tool Box $29.97

Top 3 items that did not make the cut:
[INDENT]276-2155 - Ultrasonic
276-2154 - Line Tracker
276-1321 - Motor 393 Integrated Motor Encoder[/INDENT]

Second list total = $1,489.88:

276-3000 Classroom & Competition Super Kit $999.99
276-1668 Motor 393 w/ Controller 2 @ $28.99 ea
276-1491 3000 mAh Battery 1 @ $29.99 ea
276-1696 AAA Joystick Batteries $12.99
276-1445 Smart Charger $16.99
276-1500 Cord $3.00
276-2232 Booster Kit $179.99
276-2252 High Strength Sprocket & Chain kit $39.99
276-1424 3-Wire Extension cables $39.99
S/W easyC or ROBOTC $79.00
17187311 Home Depot Husky 22in Plastic Tool Box $29.97

Top 3 items that did not make the cut:
We think this is great for entry level and think after this kit, they are ready for the next step. Our recommendations are:

Aluminum Structure
Partner Joystick[/INDENT]

This gets us very excited about the new kits that are coming. Attached is a pdf of the Parts list going in our new kits.

Our philosophy for these lists is simple: New teams need a little bit of the basics (including sensors) to compete locally in VRC. These lists provide those basics. The CLK was formulated to be the best value in VEX. All kits should start with that. The new kits were formulated with both the classroom and competition in mind so the items that many teams don’t use in the CLK have been removed from the new kits.

We truly believe that a new team using this list can be very competitive at the local level and that should be the goal for a new team on a budget like this. I can tell you that they will have a lot of fun with either of these lists.

VEX C&C Kits.20120606.pdf (14.7 KB)

I’d say skip the Pneumatics and Aluminum for a new team, but the Partner Joystick is a must. You really want the team to work together, having two people drive/operate the robot helps that a lot.

(Nice set of parts in the C&C kit, it will help teams go a long way).

A place you could go to get tools is Harbor Freight
They are very inexpensive. Some of their tools reflect their prices. Rule of thumb for Harbor Freight tools is to stay away from anything with a motor. Hand tools will work great. We use them in auto shop all the time.

i think the new super kit will have a majority of the neccesary parts, you just need to get some motors, batteries and aluminum

I think aluminum is nice, but it’s really not necessary for a competitive robot. If you have money left over after the build, then maybe you would want to buy some to make your arm or whatever you have lighter, but again you can get by without it.