VEX Robotics: Building a Better Path Towards Our Future

Aastha Singh, Writer

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VEX Robotics is the world’s largest and fastest growing educational robotics competition, extending to all 50 states and over 40 countries with the aim to bring tools to educators and parents today to help shape the innovators of tomorrow. Students of all ages learn engineering concepts and build robots as they compete against each other in regional, state, national, and international competitions. They are given a new challenge each year and must design, build, program, and drive robots to complete the challenge to the best of their ability.

There are 3 main VEX divisions: VEX IQ, VEX EDR, and VEX U.

VEX IQ is for elementary and middle school students: moderately easy game, small field, small robots, mostly plastic parts, and easily snappable pieces.

VEX IQ Starter Kit parts. Source: Robot Mesh

VEX EDR is for middle and high school students: harder game, bigger robots, bigger field, mostly metal parts, and pieces have to be screwed together. VEX U is the same, except the competition is for university students.

VEX EDR/U Starter Kit. Source: Robot Mesh

Their main goal is to inspire students and get them into the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) field, a field where there is a constantly growing need for innovative problem solvers.

Founding

VEX was founded by electrical engineer Tony Norman and mechanical engineer Bob Mimlitch out of a garage in Greenville, Texas.

They met while mentoring a local high school robotics team, discovering that they have similar beliefs on how to correctly problem solve.

In the span of 12 years, from their first challenge Bridge Battle all the way to the current challenge Turning Point, VEX has grown out a small garage in Texas to a worldwide company with over 300 employees and nine worldwide offices, the largest subsidiary of its parent company, Innovation First.

VEX Robotics Competition logo. Source: VEX Robotics website.

Mission and Values

 

VEX’s main goal is to get students interested in the STEM field. They claim that “The world faces an unprecedented need for new innovators, thinkers, and problem-solving leaders. At current rates, there are simply not enough students choosing STEM-related paths to meet the global demand.” VEX is working to change that.

They envision a world where every person has the opportunity to create hands-on with STEM. They want people to have fun problem solving and recognize its importance in creating a better future for us all.

Their core values are creativity, iteration, and quality. They want students to be creative and find solutions to problems, keep redesigning solutions to create better ones each time, and create something that goes above and beyond expectations and guidelines.

They also highly value diversity, mentorship, and the pursuit of excellence and success. They want students to have open minds and appreciate a number of diverse perspectives and be able to overcome any hardships to get the job done.

About VEX EDR

The challenge for the VEX EDR 2018-2019 season is called Turning Point.

The object of the game is to obtain a higher score than the opposing alliance.

It is played on a 12” x 12” field. Two alliances of 2 teams each (one red and one blue) compete against each other in matches that consist of a fifteen second autonomous (programmed robot, no driver allowed) section and a one minute and forty-five-second driver controlled section.

VEX EDR Turning Point Field. Source: VEX Robotics website.

The two types of matches are Standard and Robot Skills. In Standard matches, two alliances go against each other to earn points. In Robot Skills, individual robots go against the clock to try and rack up as many points as they can by driver controlled methods or programs, usually both.

The robots usually perform tasks such as pushing scoring pieces into a scoring zone or lifting parts to stack for points.

Robots are made of mostly metal parts, with plastic gears and motors. Pieces must be screwed together, mirroring real-world engineering.

Most basic VEX EDR robot, called a Clawbot. Source: VEX Robotics website.

During competitions, each robot but have a pair of license plates on to identify the team, or else the robot will be disqualified.  Each robot may not be any larger than a set of size constraints defined at the beginning of each season.

In addition to the competition, each team must document every step and engineering decision they make in a notebook, called their Engineering Notebook. They also have to complete something called a STEM project. Every year, VEX gives a topic in the field of science and teams have to research the topic and create short presentations displaying their findings.

There are online challenges VEX offers, such as contests that deal with CAD (computer-aided design), animation, essays, website design, programming skills, photography, art design, video making, robot design, and engineering skills.

In order to progress to further competitions, teams must win awards or have the highest skills rankings. The main awards are given for best STEM presentation, Engineering Notebook, Robot Skills champion, Alliance Match champions, and overall excellence in all fields.

Outreach

Currently, VEX extends to over 50 countries and 22,000 schools. They have more than 20,000 teams with over 1,000,000 students worldwide.

There are 11,000+ VEX EDR teams in over 45 countries with over 900 tournaments held annually.

Why VEX?

VEX inspires students to be problems solvers, innovators, and leaders. Students work together in teams and learn how to lead. They work together to solve problems and learn teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills.

VEX teaches the designing and engineering process in a way that is very hands-on and can challenge and motivate students.

VEX’s easy to use system fully integrates and exposes students to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, all of which are in very high demand and will continue to be so in the future.

Costs

The cost for an entire VEX EDR Turning Point field, with all field and game components included, is $1,539.92.

Since fields are reused every year, it’s not necessary to buy a new field every season. Individual field and game components must be bought every season, to keep up with the new challenge. The total cost for a full set of Turning Point field and game components is $499.95.

A Clawbot Kit costs $149.99. It is the most basic of all the kits, containing only basic parts and instructions on how to build a basic robot.

Clawbot Kit. Source: VEX Robotics website.

A VEXnet System Bundle is $399.99. It contains a robot “controller” or joystick, robot “brain” or microcontroller, 2 radios to connect the controller and brain, a backup battery holder, and a USB A-A cord.

VEXnet System Bundle. Source: VEX Robotics website.

A Starter Kit costs $539.99. It contains basic parts, basic control elements, basic programming software, and instructions on how to build a basic robot and drive base.

Starter Kit. Source: VEX Robotics website.

A Classroom & Competition Kit costs $849.99. It contains a wider variety of parts, additional sensors and linkages, and either programming and mechatronics software options. This kit is perfect for individual teams.

Classroom & Competition Programming Kit. Source: VEX Robotics website.

A Classroom Bundle Kit costs $5,299.99. It contains 6 Classroom & Competition Kits, 6 Clawbot Kits, 6 VEXnet System Bundles, 6 sets of batteries and chargers, and a complete VEX EDR field, complete with all field and game elements.

Classroom Bundle Kit with Swept Away VEX EDR field. Source: VEX Robotics website.

Contact Information

 

VEX’s United States office is located in 6725 W FM 1570 in Greenville, TX 75402. Their office hours are 7am – 5pm Central Time.

They can be reached by phone (at +1-903-453-0802), by fax (at +1-214-722-1284), or by email ([email protected] for sales, [email protected] for technical support, [email protected] for marketing and branding, [email protected] for ROBOTC programming software technical support and [email protected] for Modkit programming software technical support.)

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