Why are game elements so expensive?

Right, because FRC and FTC don’t exist and don’t have non-Vex suppliers.

Please do, tell us how things work.

Finally, a statement we agree on.

VRC, FTC, and FRC are all expensive. Having had some experience with all 3, I would say that VRC is the most affordable, which echoes what many others say. That said, “bake sales” aren’t the only way to fundraise; many posts here talk about how best to pitch local companies to sponsor teams and organizations.

I don’t have experience with “combat robotics”, but perhaps that would scratch your robotics itch and allow you to use Arduino’s etc. and (possibly) come in at a lower price point.

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I think it is time for us to list “What have the RECF/VEX ever done for us?”

Monty Python’s Life of Brian tirade about the Romans is pretty close:

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You will be shocked to learn that in FTC, the major competitor to VRC, their main controller costs $300, and the driver hub costs an additional $200, bringing the total to $500 to VEX’s $350.

A V5 motor costs $45, motors in FTC cost $40 plus a $35 motor controller, and they don’t even have a built in encoder. Again VEX is cheaper.

(I could be wrong about FTC pricing, I have no idea how FTC works, this is just what I found on a website that appears to sell official FTC stuff)

These are not mass market products. In mass market products, development costs such as firmware and hardware development can be spread across a larger number of consumers. If you have a smaller market, things get more expensive.

(Side note, it feels so weird to be defending VEX. Ummm… SG3 was bad and they should feel bad, bring back Bo3, V5 is a step backwards as a general purpose hobbyist robotics platform by making everything a closed source black box. OK, I feel better now)

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We don’t know exactly what Vex’s Finances and Logistics are, so we have no idea how much they may or may not be making from their products. As much as I don’t like seeing the prices go up, I suspect it (and the decision to discontinue resellers) is probably the result of the economic situation right now. We’re still in a global chip shortage, inflation continues to rise, and logistics are even more of a nightmare now.

The cost for a company to make a product is not just the sum of the parts that go into it, there’s hundreds if not thousands of other variables that can effect the cost of production.

There’s also the cost of the labor that the workers put into making the products,
the labor that went into engineering the product,
the labor to engineer the machines to make the products,
the labor to maintain those production machines and any machines necessary to maintain them,
the cost of parts for all that maintenance,
the cost of the Quality Assurance staff/machines that make sure the products work as intended,
the cost of shipping all the parts/products to the warehouses,
the taxes and import duties on the products as they come into whatever country they’re going to,
the cost of utilities and upkeep of whatever warehouse the products are stored in,
the cost of labor for the workers in the warehouses,
the cost of shipping the product to the end user,
the cost of ongoing free (to the end user) tech support for those products,
the cost of ongoing free (to the end user) software updates for the products,
the cost of replacing and fixing whatever faulty products get past QA and to the end user.


There are MANY more things I could list just off the top of my head, but I think you can see what I’m getting at by now. The price of the product is not just the bill of materials, but the cost to run the whole portion of the company that comes up with the idea of and creates those products, gets them to your front door, and makes sure you’re happy with it. These costs are always changing (likely going up), and on top of that the company NEEDS to make good enough profit margins on its products expand their operations and create new products in order to stay in business.

We have no clue as to what the real word numbers behind these products are other than the one that Vex currently deems appropriate to sell them at. While we may wish that the prices were lower, it’s very likely that it isn’t out of pure greed that the prices are what they are, rather they are priced appropriately in order to keep the company still in business for years to come. And I think we all would much rather see them stay in business as if there is no Vex, there is no Vex Robotics Competition. And flawed as it may be there is a reason it’s one of, if not the, biggest robotics competition in the world. VRC has one of the most easy to get into robotics control systems, while still being priced low enough that a huge amount of schools are able to afford teams to compete in it. And while DIYing a robot out of other electronics may be cheaper, you need to spend more time and know a lot more than you do to get into Vex. With V5 if you want to get a motor to spin you need maybe 5 seconds to plug in a single cable, and a minute or two to get the code completed, compiled, and downloaded. If I wanted to I could build, wire, and program a functional drivebase in under 2 hours if I was working slowly.
It is the reason why many of the students that have competed in it are even interested in STEM in the first place, with many going on to fill much needed jobs in STEM fields. And I can personally say VRC is the reason why I have the job that I do today, and I would hate to see it go away.

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I know exactly what’s inside
To replicate I guess you could start with the Microzed eval board which was used in V5 prototypes, cost $214 - $318 based on which configuration you choose, then add 22 smart ports, 3wire logic etc. and I would be surprised if it’s even possible to build a DIY V5 for less than $400.

Avnet-microzed

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ok, so now when I am scanning a crowd for jpearman, I must look for this dood.

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oh c’mon sidoti we can do better than that

jpearman_ends_this_mans_whole_career

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Out of curiosity I looked this up months ago. Can confirm, not doable under $400.

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To put things into perspective for those still concerned…
FRC (First Robotics Competition) recommends a minimum $25,000 every year to maintain a team of 20-30 students
Some notable expenses of our team thus far were:
4x These
6x [https://grabcad.com/library/frc6328-2020-telescoping-arm-1] ($2,400 each)
1x brain
And 1x This, which we luckily got for free

All things considered, VRC may be expensive but it can ALWAYS be worse!

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I’ve tried other robotics kits, and I think you get what you pay for. There are some individual parts I outsource b/c I can find them cheaper, but for motors, brains, and sensors… I feel like it’s worth the $. I don’t do the competitions, so maybe I don’t see the huge costs you’re seeing.

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I don’t have experience with “combat robotics”, but perhaps that would scratch your robotics itch and allow you to use Arduino’s etc. and (possibly) come in at a lower price point.

The entry point for a 15 lb combat bot team is probably $700-1000 without an active spinning weapon and mostly DIY build (transmitter, receiver, motors, ESCs, battery, gearboxes). Can easily reach $2500 for a sophisticated design and materials, active weapon, spares, etc. The hope is that most of that is reusable across one more competitions & seasons, but that doesn’t always work out to be the case with combat :smile: .

PART 21-22 had 8 VEX Robotics & 5 NRL Combat Robotics (BotsIQ) teams, We also run the Northern California 15lb combat bot championships for NRL SacBotBattles.com . 90% of our combat members are heavily engaged on a VEX team.

Two PART alumni are leads on Glitch Battlebots , and Combat Robotics @ Berkeley has quite a few former VEX participants.

We view the 15lb combat/battle bots as a great complement to VEX - it still provides a student-led, team-based experience, but allows them to explore different aspects of design/CAD, physics & material science, manufacturing, electrical engineering , and (especially now) supply chain management

Running both programs together is significantly less expensive than the entry-level FRC team for hands-on engagement.

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My layperson belief is that one of the benefits of combat robotics is that the weight class one competes at effectively allows one to select an “investment level”. Is that accurate? Would a “typical” 3 pound or 6 pound competition combat bot cost less than the $2500 I’m assuming a “typical” 15 pound bot costs?

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If you’re looking for a robotics hobby, I would not recommend starting at the 15lb scale. Antweight, 1lb, and Beetleweight, 3lb, are much better starting points. I have built multiple iterations of my beetle, and it has never cost more than $500 per robot. Now, granted, I build 2-3 robots plus spares and then travel all over to compete… so it’s not all that cheap either.

Tl;dr of this whole thread:
Robotics is expensive. Some options are significantly less expensive. Some companies aim to be the least expensive supplier of the expensive hobbies.

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If you’re looking for a robotics hobby, I would not recommend starting at the 15lb scale.

We look at combat not as a hobby, but as a team-based competitive robotics program, just like VEX, FRC, etc. Our beetle weight bots/teams are typically 2-3 people max. While ants/beetles are the way to go for a hobbyist new builder, we have better success engaging new high school builders in the 15lb class (plus bigger bots = bigger sparks). And then they move “down” to beetles to fight the pros.

In some ways, the smaller bots are harder for new builders/team members. And on the west coast, a $500 beetle will get you the opportunity to get KO’d by = Calvin Iba’s Lynx in 10" :joy:

Tl;dr of this whole thread:
Robotics is expensive.

Agreed

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Of course, no comparison to “real-world” robotics! I wonder If I could substitute a couple V5 smartmotors here to save some money on this robot motor???
image

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Yes, the cost definitely scales , but so does the team size. 2-3 people seems to be the max team size for beetles ranging $250-500, but in our experience they tend to need to lose more components at each competition because they are fighting expert hobbyists. I know many of the midwest BotsIQ leagues are starting to add junior bots (3lb), but we don’t have anything like that on the west coast yet.

Our 1st 15lb bot was design/built by a new team of 8 or 9. Cost was around $1500 IIRC, and fought in 5 competitions / 2x champions, placed 12th at Nationals (edit for clarity: did need new ALU chassis components as the team tweaked the design, but used same weapon). Once the club started to get more experience, the next generation was closer to $2500, and we now target a team size of 5-6. $1500-2000 should be reasonable for a competitive 15lb.

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Robotics is expensive
Yup, it is
Supply chains out of whack?
Yep
People unhappy?
As always
As a competitor I’m pretty happy with what vex is offering, it would be great for some more durability or repair since I enjoy tinkering but I see why vex doesn’t have that quite yet.
For the games I’ve always wanted to see a game with old elements used again but that begs the question about the condition of the elements and how that supply chain would work.
Would it be feasible for vex to make an authorized repair program? Certified people to fix brains and motors and such?

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  • Robotics
  • Woodworking
  • Bikes
  • Skiing
  • Boating
  • Electronics - looking over at thousands in Ham Radio gear

You just need to think what makes you happy and maybe get you a cool job.

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THIS.

What you learn from analysis, design, prototyping, assessing, notebooking/quantitative, teamwork, time mgmt, programming, troubleshooting, learning game theory, etc is way undervalued.

Look at it this way… learning costs money, but NOT learning costs so much more.

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