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Unread 03-22-2006, 11:45 AM
bill mc gowan bill mc gowan is offline
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REPLACE VEX with us

Rumors of VEX demise?....Well, maybe so, maybe not but, for the last four years my robotics program (team 11) has been building scaled down FIRST robots (about 1/4 size) and competing in an arena similar to each years game. I will have pictures of robots on www.nac.net/morobot on 3/22 (enter, important links, scaled robots). I believe that this is betterthan VEX as it mirrors process better and is an enormous teaching tool. All phases of the build session are mirrored in Advanced Robotics class. I will have curriculum and sample robots at Palmetto and Nationals. So, stop in at Team 11 and I will gladly talk. Maybe...we can get all high schools to do same and have competition to take VEX' place started by teams themselves. At least schools will have something to bite into.
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Unread 03-22-2006, 11:54 AM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Your website is sadly lacking in the link you're pointing to. I'm still curious as to what you're using for a control system and what you're using as parts, etc.
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Unread 03-22-2006, 12:46 PM
bill mc gowan bill mc gowan is offline
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Kevin
As stated in message, will be up tomorrow with pictures. As far as parts, we are a 10 year team with loads of parts and control systems, however, all are interchangeable (Vantec.com for example). I think we can do this and make it a better intermediate competition based in schools and not labs. As a matter of fact is should be mandatory for being school based. Will send you stuff on parts later or tomorrow
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Unread 03-22-2006, 12:47 PM
bill mc gowan bill mc gowan is offline
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Waiting for web master to post pictures and links...bill
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Unread 03-22-2006, 01:06 PM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

I like the idea of having the lower competitions more closely mirror the FIRST experience. This was always one of my bigger problems with FLL and VEX. They were often advertised as stepping stones to FRC but they never really panned out that way. I judged a FLL event one that was fairly autonomous from FIRST and the only time they mentioned FRC was "oh by the way there is a high school competition similar to this, blah, blah" and this was at the very end of the event. Don't get me wrong I think that both FLL and VEX have merits on their own for sure. It would be cool however to see more direct tie-ins and I suspect this would help teams quite a bit with recruiting. The only place I would differ from you concept is that it become a class while I think that the "FIRST Class" model does work in many instances it is not always as accessible as a FIRST team especially if there is no one to teach it, it gets caught up in red-tape (at a High School never! ), etc. I've seen lots of teams go to the sports model which has worked well for us and use their VEX teams as essentially Freshman/JV FIRST teams this works well from what I have seen and it gives the underclassmen something to be the stars of and to own.

My 2 cents,

Justin
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Unread 03-22-2006, 01:17 PM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

I think several FRC teams have noted the advantages of using smaller scale robots to use for fall training purposes and prototyping (see http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...d.php?t=45531). There will be a conference session in Atlanta called, "Using Vex to Supercharge Your FRC Team" by Dan Larochelle & Donn Griffith. These are wonderful uses for the Vex kit (or other smaller robots). But that is only half the story of the FIRST Vex Challenge program. Vex is being utilized in geographical areas that cannot financially support an FRC team. And in schools and by groups that don't want to commit to the FRC program. And by others as a bridge between the FLL and FRC programs. And to borrow from the famous Mark Twain, "The rumors of Vex' death are greatly exaggerated." Let's wait and see what happens before deciding to "replace Vex".
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Unread 03-22-2006, 04:08 PM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Quote:
Originally Posted by KathieK
Vex is being utilized in geographical areas that cannot financially support an FRC team. And in schools and by groups that don't want to commit to the FRC program. And by others as a bridge between the FLL and FRC programs. .
Let me be clear that I don't question the positive impact of VEX on its own. I also think it is great what Team 40 was able to do with their Mini-FRC efforts I checked that out in Hartford and it looked great.

I think that the issue of regions/etc/not being able to support FRC teams is something that needs to be looked at very closely from the FRC side. I have felt for some time that FIRST/Dean/etc. are not putting as much focus/resources/effort into creating teams that can go the long haul. For example this year we have a Boston regional for the first time, okay good. If one starts to look at the make up of this regional we see a roughly 50/50 mix of rookies and veterans. I know that there was a foundation that gave a bunch of money to start several rookie teams in the Boston area. Now some might say any new teams are a good thing but that doesn't tell the whole story. It seems that each year we witness some new grant from some new foundation/organization/company/agency that has recently discovered FIRST I can think of 3 different ones and I'm sure there are many more. Too often the cycle here is 20 new teams pop up as a result of a new regional or grants from a new sponsor however often these grants are limited to 1 maybe 2 years. Frequently when the grant money goes away so do the teams this is a shame in my opinion. I think it would be good for the FIRST community to think about how we to get the focus back on creating teams that can go the long haul.

Justin
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Unread 03-22-2006, 08:09 PM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

http://team11.us/MORT_2005-2006/Documents/
A direct link to the pictures just incase anyone missed it. Check that site within the next day or so and there will be more posted.
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Unread 03-22-2006, 08:19 PM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Quote:
Originally Posted by bill mc gowan
All phases of the build session are mirrored in Advanced Robotics class. I will have curriculum and sample robots at Palmetto and Nationals.
...but where do you get those itty bitty IFI robot controllers? ;-)

Seriously, one of the advantages of VEX over, say, mini FRC bots, is that teams can focus on the aspects of robotics without worrying much about fabrication. Taking that one step further, the LEGO league has even less to worry about, sharpening the focus on innovation and programming.

The idea is that young teams don't have to be able to do the whole thing; they can focus on one or two aspects, so that they understand it well, and when they get to FRC, they can now learn about the design, engineering and fabrication techniques necessary for the larger bots.

Don't get me wrong: Your idea is fantastic, and I look forward to speaking with you at Palmetto about it. But, there needs to be a progression, so that young kids don't have to learn it all at once. For a High School curriculum in robotics, though, it's perfect: Not too costly, but all of the challenges are there.

Don
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Unread 03-22-2006, 10:20 PM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

I think the one real positive about VEX is the lack of fabrication. The fabrication aspect of the FRC is what really eats in to the resources of a team. With vex the fabrication is not required and teams can spend their resources on the programming and game strategies. It's not to hard to get a teacher to sponsor an after school activity. To get mentors and teachers back at night is difficult. Also, many schools have just about dropped any vocational education and do not have much in the way of tools and equipment to fabricate a robot. I feel VEX fills a void better than a mini FRC.
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Unread 03-22-2006, 10:21 PM
Aaron D. Aaron D. is offline
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

I think one of the things that makes VEX so great is that it is easy. It is a great way to bridge from FLL to FRC because it is very easy to use. It only requires a small space, it is inexpensive (comparitivly) and it has everything you need in it. VEX is great for teams just starting out or training rookies. Vex I felel is sometimes more of a challenge because you dont have an unlimited number of parts and it is tighter restraints. But this is only an opinion. btw cool fact, our vex team 45, was in the first ever losing official vex alliance ha!
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Unread 03-22-2006, 10:29 PM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

I sort of agree with the comments above. FRC is pretty hard, and I'm not sure mini-FRC is much easier. Making things smaller doesn't always make them any simpler. At any rate, it can certainly get very pricey. Especially for control systems, if you're using a full-size IFI RC there. The good thing about Vex is that you can get most of the stuff you need in one kit for $300, which is steep... until you look at a full size RC.

I will at this point mention the BEST robotics competition. For those that haven't heard of it, it runs on a fundamentally different model than FIRST. There are literally no entry fees to teams. A team puts down a deposit to cover kit items that must be returned like motors and controllers. All fundraising is done by the equivalents of regionals. Teams can only attend one, and must win to advance to the next level. Same 6 weeks time frame. The important difference is that teams are strictly limited to the materials in the kit of parts, and the robots are 2' x 2' x 2' and 24 lbs. And not programmable (yet). So it's a smaller program than FIRST in some ways, but capable of reaching schools that are very unlikely to have a FIRST team. As for the programming bit.... BEST is working on DSP based programmable controllers... and I'm working on BEST to look at shamelessly co-opting the VEX controllers.

The key point of the above is that there is no entry fee to a BEST team, though. FRC has an entry of $6000, FVC is $500 or so plus two Vex kits. Your mini-FRC competition would be around $500 or more for a new team. BEST is free. Or free, pending a $200 deposit. So, if there's a BEST hub in your area, you might consider pointing pointential FIRST teams at it before you terrify them with a $6000 entry fee.

EDIT: Oh yeah. BEST is in the fall. No worries about it interfering with build season.
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Unread 03-22-2006, 10:35 PM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Having been on a team who utilized both the FRC and FVC aspect of the program, VEX was an important part of our process this year. When new students come into FIRST, the idea of working on the big robot with junior and senior members of the team can be very intimidating. On CHAOS, we used VEX as a building block for inspiring our more rookie students. It was amazing to watch the kids after the FVC competition in Hartford really get excited about the prospects of having a major role on the FRC portion of the team next year. For this reason alone VEX is worth its weight in gold.

I think that in Atlanta it is important that we show all the potential sponsors and important people who check out the VEX competition just how much we appreciate this program. I urge you between practice rounds, or between matches to come on over to the VEX field and make yourself heard, and show your support for this great program.

Hope to see you there,
-Andy Grady
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Unread 03-22-2006, 11:37 PM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Back when I was a senior in HS (about 5 years ago), I was a part of my school's rookie team. Our design wasn't finalized until near the absolute last minute because we encountered countless problems. Sure we had great mentors, but great guidance can not serve as a substitute for trial and error advancement. We ran into drive train problems, and actuator problems most frequently since our prototypes were often untested until they were built.

At the very least, the vex system would allow a team to scale a design down and test it for feasibility quickly. At best, every member who toys with a vex design is better equipped to participate as a team member. There's something to be said about being able to change drivetrain designs in a matter of minutes without ANY machining and without expensive and complex modular designs.
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Unread 03-23-2006, 06:02 AM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Grady
Having been on a team who utilized both the FRC and FVC aspect of the program, VEX was an important part of our process this year. When new students come into FIRST, the idea of working on the big robot with junior and senior members of the team can be very intimidating. On CHAOS, we used VEX as a building block for inspiring our more rookie students. It was amazing to watch the kids after the FVC competition in Hartford really get excited about the prospects of having a major role on the FRC portion of the team next year. For this reason alone VEX is worth its weight in gold.

I think that in Atlanta it is important that we show all the potential sponsors and important people who check out the VEX competition just how much we appreciate this program. I urge you between practice rounds, or between matches to come on over to the VEX field and make yourself heard, and show your support for this great program.

Hope to see you there,
-Andy Grady
Andy speaks the truth. If you feel FVC and the Vex product are valuable for ANY reason and you will be in Atlanta, stop by and show your support. Maybe even attend Donn and Dan's workshop and say "Thank you"...
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