Necessary Additions to "Starter Kit"?

This RadioShack deal on VEX kits is just too good for Team #857 to pass up! We’ve been toying with the idea of buying a kit all season and now it’s going to happen. As a VEX “newbie” I have a few questions:

  1. Is there any other component that is necessry to buy, seperate from the kit (such as the programming kit)?

  2. Are there any additional components you would recommend getting (from or Radioshack)? Why?

I would say the programming kit and the battery kit would be required for the vex kit.

I would recommend getting the metal kit since there never seems to be enough peices in the starter kit.

Also look at the sensors and think about how you would use them for the FRC game. They are great for prototyping.

If you plan on getting more than one kit you will probably want a crystal set so you can run more than one robot at a time.

In addition to buying a single kit I would also recommend getting the programming kit and metal kit now. It is the biggest monetary savings( $50+$40 =$90!). I would then get as many sensors you can find. They are what make it a robot kit and not an R/C car. The problem is they are tough to find. I would then snag up the motors, you can use up to 8 on one controller.

In my opinion, a very good start would be

2 Full Vex kits (extra receiver, motors, metal etc.) This is really worth the value

The programming kit (you definatly need the cable, and easyC is great, even for the experienced programmer)

1 Ultrasonic Sensor

1 Line tracking sensor kit (not the light sensor, which is somewhat useless)

2 sets of optical shaft encoders (4 encoders total)

An extra reciever, and the battery pack are essential.

Although this may cost quite a bit ($400-$500 total), if you think of what you are getting, it is quite a deal, not to mention that any serious competitor in the FVC will need most of these things.

Two other kits are definitely required if you’re trying to do any semi-complex mechanical systems.

  1. Gear Kit
  2. Chain and Sprocket Kit

You’ll find that the gearing is quite limited with the basic kit, and the chain and sprocket setup is very nice to work with. Well worth the $25!

On a side note, the rechargeable battery packs are not on sale. However, I believe that ANY 7.2 volt and 9.6 volt battery packs are compatible with the VEX system. So, all you ex-RC car racers should have plenty of 6-cell battery packs lying around. If you do a quick search online, you’ll find some cheaper alternatives for the 9.6 volt packs as well (it’s used in the transmitter.)

VEXperts, Team 59

Generally and online the battery packs are not on sale, however, I’ve located two local RadioShack stores that do have them on sale, so check around.

It’s a pretty good deal for two rechargables and a charger, RadioShack charges the same price for a single regular RC 7.2v battery.

I also noticed that the battery packs were not on sale, and even enquired if that was a mistake, and was told that it was not. Maybe I’ll check around further since you found a store that had them marked down.

What I have done instead was purchase from Loew’s some AA 2500maH (yeah, 2500) Li-lon - 8 pack for 19$. Just going to solder some more together for the robot pack. The connector looks like an easy part to find.

Since the sale, I’ve grabbed a bunch of stuff, some just because I wanted it :stuck_out_tongue: and some because of the shortcomings found in the kit purchased for my son. What I got was this:
Extra metal (two boxes, as it’s an expendable item)
Programming kit!
Extra motors/servos (can always make a servo a motor)
Gear kit
Sprocket/chain kits (2)
Omni wheels (2)
tank tread kit
shaft encoders (2 sets- good for more that just wheels, ie angular positioning)
I passed on the other sensors, as I can make them if necessary.

We bought the originial Vex Kit and the Programming Kit months ago, but stocked up on these items recently;
2 ultrasonic sensors
1 shaft encoder set
1 limit switch set
4 motors
2 servos
2 gear kits
2 chain and sprocket kits
1 metal kit
1 wheel kit
2 tank tread kits
1 omni-wheel kit

If you plan on using anything other than the smallest wheels for moving, buy another wheel kit, otherwise your big wheels are completely worthless. Get at least 1 tank tread kit as they can be used for conveyor belts as well as tank treads, we grabbed 2 just in case we needed alot of conveyor belting on a robot (the current small one we’re building for this year’s game is going to use 3 seperate belts). Metal is good to inevst in unless you’ll be cutting your own material to build with, and the gear kit is essential if you plan on doing much more than driving.

All of the sensors are optional, it really depends on how much programming you plan on doing. We purposely only got a few things to test with, once we’ve gotten the ultrasonic and whatnot to work we will invest in better ones that can be used for the FRC robot and test them on the VEX kit.

Well I think its necessary that you have the programming kit if you wish to do any programming.

Recommended Items:
Hardware/metal kit
Extra Motors and Servos
Tread kit
Gear kit
Extra sensors, all of them

Also, stock up on pieces like shafts and such, you never know when you might need them. Its a hefty price, but sure makes life simpler.

im pretty sure that the vex shaft is almost, if not, 1/8" key. so being on a robotics team it probably wouldn’t be that hard to get ahold of.

also a good word of advice never use a 2 wheel drive system on a course that requires you to go up ramps that was a dumb mistake

all i saw for the additions would be another motor. maybe batteries.

Does anyone have more to add on this subject?

From the discussion, it would seem the consensous is to “buy it all” in relation to what to buy from Radio Shack’s sale.

That would seem to be a “buy it because it is on sale” reaction…and not a “buy it because we can really use it” approach.

We are trying to spend our money according to a plan of what is useful…perhaps one should ask what Vex components are NOT useful?

I also wonder…how useful are the omniwheels?

Thanks for any further advice you can offer.


We are trying to spend our money according to a plan of what is useful…perhaps one should ask what Vex components are NOT useful?

I also wonder…how useful are the omniwheels?

Thanks for any further advice you can offer.


For smooth surfaces only,
Omniwheels are nice- they make great castors, and allow for smoother differential drive manuevering. They are also necessary for holonomic designs, which are fun to explore. However, if you are looking to save money in the wheel area, you can get a similar benefit(except perhaps for holonomic designs) by taking the tread off of any of the wheels, which gives you a smoother plastic surface that will slide reasonably well on smooth floors. Just not as well as an omniwheel.

If you are trying to put together educational kits for driving designs only, I’d put most of your money into as many starter kits as possible, the starter kit alone is the best value for parts if you have a bunch of students or teamates. You will need the crystal kits in order to run more than one robot at a time, though. You can also have one robot controlled by two people, using two radio control transmiters (the Vex controller has ports for two recievers, and the built in software supports 4 motor conrol functions per controller)

For more elaborate mechanical designs, the chain drive kit is great, I would say essential. The tank tread at $15 is a steal.

As for what is not “useful”- that depends on the level of autonomy you guys desire, and how much you’ll be programming. If none at all, then all you need are the touch sensors that come with the Starter kit. Otherwise, out of the sensors, it of course depends on what you robots need to do.

The only accesory I have not purchased is the extra radio- for a bit more money getting the whole kit is a better deal.

Also- good quality tools will help protect your investment. Get higher quality hex keys from vexlabs or good hardware stores. I swear by screwdriver-type hex drivers and socket wrenches as well. The keys that come with the kit are rather soft and lead to stripping of bolts rather easily.

If you elaborate on your needs, we can be more specific about what would and would not be useful for you. Hope this helps :slight_smile:

I’m a long time LEGO robotics coach and have been investigating the Vex product to see what will be instore for my team when they graduate from FLL.

I’ve explored several types of “mobility” beyond the simple 4wheel starter example.

The tank treads are a great buy if you need to travel over uneven/loose terrain.

The starter kit only has two of each of the larger wheels - buy more wheels if you need 4/6 large wheels for ground clearence, etc.

I’ve been tweeking a 6wheel design and I’ve found that the larger wheels have great traction, to the point of having problems turning on a smooth wood floor. I’ve gone to a two large wheels, one centered on each side with 4 omni wheels, 2 front/back on each side. This has great turning on the smooth floor, great lateral traction, and (since all 6 wheels are driven) can climb up ramps well.

I’ve also been investigating the implementation of an articulated arm.

I needed to gear down the motors to get enough torque so I quickly ran out of gears - buy more.

I wanted to place the motors as far “inward” as possible along the arm to reduce the effect of their weight. I’ve been using chain and sprockets and its worked well - buy some.

The FLL robots rely on autonomous behavior. I don’t want to lose that aspect when we move to Vex. I ended up buying rotation, ultra sonic, and light sensors so the robot can sense its surroundings - not needed if you just R/C the bot around.

No extra switches purchased. Haven’t used up the ones provided in the starter kit.

Hope that helps,
-Glenn Graham

I’ll restate my previous things; the wheel kit is essential, in my opinion, if you want to drive with anything other than the smallest wheels. Tank tread kits are good because although you may not do very many tank tread drive systems, they make excellent conveyor belts, and you’ll use a number of those if you build a robot to manipulate balls. The hardware kit is needed if you plan on adding quite a bit to the standard drive base (or any drive base), but if you prefer to buy your own metal and make what you need with your own tools that route is cheaper. Along the same lines as the metal, you will need additional motors or servos if you plan on building much more than a drive base.

Omni-wheels are only needed if you want to specifically use omni-wheels (like in a holomonic robot). Otherwise removing tread from wheels is just as easy, and cheaper (remember, the tread can be removed from both the big and little wheels).

If you’ll be doing alot of direct drive or very little gearing, gear kits and chains are unneeded. If you want to be adaptable though you’ll need at least one gear kit, and if you want to build robots that pay attention to CG and need to have a moving part high up, you’ll probably need the chain kit to transfer power.

Don’t bother buying crystals unless you know you will be operating more than one robot at a time.

You can just buy rechargable NIMH batteries and a charger rather than the power pack for a cheaper price and less weight on the robot. From my experience my charger with the battery pack also doesn’t seem to work very well.

Do not buy sensors if you will not program your robot. Plain and simple, most of them are worthless without programming.

Even if you get the programming kit, I still say don’t buy sensors unless you want to use them or will be building autonomous robots. Every robot I have built so far has had 0 sensors and has been completely functional and easily controllable.

Now that IFI owns Vex, you could save more money by figuring out exactly what you need and only buying specific parts from VexLabs rather than whole kits (if you’re dead set on using small wheels only, it will probably be cheaper to go buy some of those from VexLabs rather than buy the whole wheel kit).

Thanks for the comments so far…they do help.

Anyone else?

Thanks for any comments you can offer.


The metal kit is a must. I ran out of collars even with the metal kit… but found a way around that by reducing the number used. I do plan on buying the tank tread kit, more motor modules and one more servo module along with the shaft encoders tomorrow night. I can’t find a sprocket and gear kit anywhere online so I’ll have to wait until VexLABS gets them back in stock. The wheel kit is essential but I’ve found that I have a ton of unused wheels in the bottom of my toolbox. I also had to order the Programming kit on Ebay b/c one of my teamates snagged the last one in the entire Quad Cities. Three days left of the sale… Radio Shack website says it ends on June 3rd.

So as the Radio Shack sale enters its final weeks, what Vex accessories are you still considering buying?

Any that you are looking for and can’t find?

Any you bought and wish you hadn’t?