[FVC]: Washington FVC

The inagural FIRST Washington FVC was held yesterday, March 17, at Highland Middle School in Bellevue – the site of an FRC test event for several years. A team from Monroe, Washington, won the tournament and the Inspire award. Since the field was small and two teams no-showed, two teams that had brought a second robot were allowed to enter their backup bot in place of a no-show team. I wish I’d paid more attention to team numbers, but it was a fast and furious day, and – frankly – I was exhausted!

Winners
(FORGOTTEN TEAM #), Sky Valley Education Center (their competition bot and their second bot were allied), and the Inspire Award

Finalists
3632 (“The Goat” – our scraps robot, filling in for 3367) and 3167 (I hope!)

I competed in FRC the last two years, and I wanted to share some VEX observations from a fairly experienced FRC mentor.

  1. VEX provides the same intense build season and competition as FRC. I was concerned that the Erector-set-style construction and lower power available would make VEX seem wimpy. Not true. You can get just as much excitement out of these little guys as the big ones. The only disadvantage is that they lend themselves to smaller venues where people can get up close and personal. If you were 100 feet away, you couldn’t see a thing. Definitely a participant’s sport, not a spectator sport.

  2. It sure is cheaper. As you all know, it’s hard to do a quality FRC bot for less than $10k. We spent $1,500 on VEX, which is probably the most you’d need to spend for a first-year team. The greatest thing is that next year we can probably get by for half that since we can dissassemble bots from this year and reuse the parts. Our plan is to seek an increase in funding next year and use that money to support two other new VEX teams in the area.

  3. If you get a lot of students, add more teams. For a $275 registration fee (IIRC), you divide into multiple work teams and compete more than one bot. FIRST limits VEX teams to 10 students, but I think 5-6 makes more sense.

  4. The fact that VEX components are easy to change leads to endless tinkering. No one wants to cut up an FRC chassis and reweld it twice a week. No one thinks twice about tearing a VEX bot apart and rebuilding it.

  5. We had NO trouble with nuts and screws coming out during competition. The Kepps nuts worked for us. This cannot be said of a couple of other robots, which were admittedly built at the last minute. One BLT at our tournament was built the day before the tournament and left quite a few body parts scattered around the arena (I think that was the robot involved).

  6. Our team is not associated with a school, and all of the mentors work in the software development group of LexisNexis. This weekend was our annual 3-day training retreat, and all four of us mentors were supposed to go. I cancelled out of the trip to take the robotics team to the competition, but the other three went. I was the only mentor at the competition, and we ended up with both our competition and testbed robot competing. Of course, it was the testbed robot that made into the finals. We had one or the other of our robots competing nearly all the time. I nearly died – but it was fun! I was especially stressed when our robots were competing against each other. I found myself yelling at the driver of “Otis” not to damage the arm on “The Goat.” It was especially weird since my sons were the lead drivers of our competing bots, both knew all the weaknesses of both bots, and both would rather smack the other down than win (almost).

  7. VEX is a blast. We had been planning to try to “upgrade” to FRC for next year, but now we are not sure. There a lot of advantages to VEX.

  8. Anecdote: Our second robot was a square, 4WD platform that pushed softballs into the low goal, could drive across the platform like it wasn’t there, and hung like a bat. It made it to the finals. The sophisticated robot had three dominating matches early in Quals, and then started having problems with clutches and a balky gate mechanism. It went 1-2 in the semis. Oh, well. We only built the Goat as a project to occupy some time when others were working on Otis. Simple is good in robotics.

I appreciate your comments. We took a slightly different approach, and I think it may be useful to share.

Our FRC team (SPAM - 180) has been going for 10 years now. With the increased interest shown by students we had a problem. Our FRC team was getting too big for all students to become engaged. Our rookies especially spent most of their time watching and being intimidated by veterans, the bot, and the whole experience.

We decided that we would start a Vex program as a “JV” version of SPAM. Beginning this year, rookies are required to spend 2 years on our Vex team. At least 2 years of FLL experience can allow them to skip 1 year of Vex.

Needless to say, the expeiment was a huge success. The Vex students learned more this year then they ever would have as FRC rookies. As they move up to FRC, they should know enough to really contribute to the team.

As an annecdote demonstrating the success, we had all the Vex students get together with the FRC students for the FRC kickoff and the 3 brainstorming sessions following. The Vex students (remember all rookies) presented concepts and drawings of potential mechanisms and systems that were on par with any of the veterans.

I agree with you that FVC is a great program, but it doesn’t have to be an alternative to FRC.

Make that the central tenet of your robot designs and you’ll go far. At the PA tournament almost all of the simple low goal robots beat out the rushed and not well designed high goal robots. Seems that was the case at your competition as well.

Rick,

Could repeat those team numbers again? I’m confused by the way you worded that sentence…

Game Winners = ??? and ???
Inspire Winner = ???

Afew other guys and I are trying to create a list of the teams headed for Atlanta.

Thanks (and Congrats!)!

[Forgotten team number] entered two robots, which allied in the finals and won 2-1. They, therefore, were the only team winning the regional. They also won the Inspire award.

(I got that team number wrong. I have an email into the event coordinator to verify it.)