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  #16   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 03-23-2006, 05:38 AM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Yes, I was a little disappointed to hear from so many FRC people in Hartford that they had wanted to stop by the Vex fields but never found the time. We were 15 feet from the FRC pits and playing field! So, please, make it part of your Atlanta To-Do List:
  • Visit Hall of Fame displays
  • Visit Colleges and Universities tables
  • Attend a Conference workshop
  • Visit and talk with a member of a JFLL team
  • Visit and talk with a member of an FLL team
  • Visit and talk with a member of an FVC team
  • Go back to your team and spread the word that there ARE other programs in FIRST other than FRC and how can you get involved in them?
  • Go to ChiefDelphi Group Hug
  • Have a great time while in Atlanta!
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Note: I am employed as a Senior Mentor by FIRST. The opinions expressed in my posts are wholly mine and not representative of the FIRST organization.
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Unread 03-23-2006, 07:52 AM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Kevin...
We have done BEST for three years here in Indianapolis and find it a great way to compete. We have been doing FIRST for 4 years. I, too, have been interested in using the VEX controller on a BEST robot.. I have talked to the powers that be about this also. The issue right now for BEST is that the motors that come with VEX are not strong enough (they are just servos after all..) to command a BEST robot. When we are able to interface BEST speed controllers with the VEX controller and utilize DC motors with the VEX system I think we will have a winner... after all the VEX controller and radio (even if you throw EVERYTHING else away from a kit...) costs less than the present radio and potential controller (DSP) for the BEST system...
I hope we can make it happen...

thanks


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Sevcik
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 03-23-2006, 08:11 AM
bill mc gowan bill mc gowan is offline
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Hey everyone...I want to focus why I posted. First of all we are a VEX team going to the Nationals and I have 14 kits in my second level course.
Having said that, I believe what FIRST needs to do is to integrate into high schools more of the processes so more of the planning, building and competing is housed to a greater degree.
My team has won, but gauge our success by alumni capabilities and not just being an alumni in engineering schools.
A miniFRC would work only if it run by schools for schools and through schools. It is not a selfish move but, I believe, would be the best way to support teams and create relevant spaces in schools that can support FIRST.
I believe, also, that if all teams made each day in class a FIRST day, the schools would be able to budget to support the teams that exist. So, please view this opportunity to compete in a MiniFRC as grass roots and in the end fully supportive. If you don't understand this you will always be tied to sponsorships that are not in business for your classroom
I also believe it could be an opportunity for IFI to create mini controllers and we could grow this and create MORE teams

bill
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Unread 03-23-2006, 08:55 AM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Steele
Kevin...
We have done BEST for three years here in Indianapolis and find it a great way to compete. We have been doing FIRST for 4 years. I, too, have been interested in using the VEX controller on a BEST robot.. I have talked to the powers that be about this also. The issue right now for BEST is that the motors that come with VEX are not strong enough (they are just servos after all..) to command a BEST robot. When we are able to interface BEST speed controllers with the VEX controller and utilize DC motors with the VEX system I think we will have a winner... after all the VEX controller and radio (even if you throw EVERYTHING else away from a kit...) costs less than the present radio and potential controller (DSP) for the BEST system...
I hope we can make it happen...

thanks
I have good news then, Bob. Vex should already be 100% compatible with RC/Hobby speed controllers. Since kits are so blasted cheap at the moment, I'm planning on grabbing one and whipping together a VEX/BEST bot for the upcoming season. I'm unsure if I want to wait for the game and design one in parallel with the students, or if I just want to whip up some random ankle-biter robot with a CMUCam on it to show off at kickoff, though.
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Unread 03-23-2006, 09:41 AM
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

While I actively support this idea for teams who have access to all the tools needed to machine and build miniFRC robots such as this, not everyone has this opportunity. The great thing about Vex is that you can inspire students about engineering from just about anywhere. You do not need all the resources of a FRC team to run a Vex team. This is one of the main reasons why the growth of FRC has been slowing down - because people do not have the resources (money, facilities, tools, and/or mentors) to continue to fund and expand the program. The great thing about Vex is that it eliminates many of these problems, and expands FIRST to reach a greater audience.

Although I appreciate your enthusiasm for teaching students about the whole engineering process, an attitude of "let's replace Vex with our program" is not the right one. Maybe a "we've developed an advanced curriculum for teaching the engineering process to students to complement the FRC build season" attitude would fair better.

Just because the FRC was the initial competition does not mean that it is the best FIRST Competition, and all the others are inferior. The FIRST Lego League has grown to six times the size of FRC in half the time. Why? Because FLL is much cheaper, does not need the intense engineering; and because of this it appeals to a wider audience. Although teaching the engineering process is important, for many students, getting them to think creatively on their own and use their imagination is just as, if not more important. And both the Vex and the FLL programs can inspire students doing just that.

Just because Vex may not involve big huge robots does not mean that it is incapable of inspiring students. In fact, I think Vex can inspire a much wider percantage of the population to appreciate science and engineering than FRC does.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bill mc gowan
I also believe it could be an opportunity for IFI to create mini controllers and we could grow this and create MORE teams.
You mean like the EDU / Robovation controllers?

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Last edited by artdutra04 : 03-23-2006 at 09:43 AM.
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Unread 03-23-2006, 10:12 AM
bill mc gowan bill mc gowan is offline
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Re: REPLACE VEX with us

Art:
This is not a request for a national MiniFRC program, but creating something that was eliminated from most schools. To be inspired by VEX is more colloquial to Radio Shack that a program that supports hands on construction that mirrors all or part of the process. I am not inspired by VEX but use it to teach.
Lastly, for a budget under $2,000, I can you enough machines and tools to support this idea. I am paying $1,000 for VEX Nationals. The 2K will last longer and greater impact. This is my point. Its like having the Houston school systems run by Enron. Where would they be now.

bill
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