New Vex Microcontroller announced

Here is the latest press release from Innovation First / Vex Robotics:

New Qwerk Controller Technology Enhances VEX Robotics Platform for Universities and
Robot Enthusiasts[/LEFT]

**GREENVILLE, TX- April 17, 2008-
**[LEFT]In an ongoing effort to promote greater interest in science,
[LEFT]technology, engineering and math (STEM) in schools across the globe, Innovation First, Inc. (IFI), a
leader in educational and competition robotics products, will team with Charmed Labs to be the exclusive
licensee and producer of the Qwerk Robot Controller. Further, Innovation First will enhance the Qwerk
controller to be fully compatible with the company’s popular VEX Educational Robotics platform. The
newly branded Qwerk-based VEX controller will complement the current VEX microcontroller and offer
enhanced features desired by post-secondary schools and educators.
“We are excited about our partnership with Charmed Labs to bring the new VEX controller with Qwerk
technology to university labs and hard-core robot enthusiasts around the world,” said Joel Carter, vice
president of marketing for Innovation First. “This new venture solidifies Innovation First’s lead in STEM
robotics education by extending the VEX product line upward into the university and robotics research
markets. It’s the ideal step up from the current VEX microcontroller found in thousands of high schools
and middle schools around the globe and accelerates us toward making VEX the robotics platform of
choice for all schools.”
The Qwerk uses a powerful ARM9 processor running Linux to greatly extend robotic sensor capabilities
beyond the current VEX controller. VEX robots can achieve a new level of sophistication with features
like onboard “sensorless” motor feedback, Ethernet, serial ports, USB ports and support for WiFi and
Webcams. The Qwerk can run 4 direct motors with feedback in addition to sixteen PWM devices like
VEX motors, VEX servos and Victor speed controllers. The controller also has eight 12-bit analog inputs,
sixteen digital I/O, and audio output capability with text-to-speech.
Qwerk is already popular among universities and is supported by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics
Institute and their CREATE lab (Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment). The
Carnegie Mellon Telepresence Robot Kit (TeRK) project provides a powerful feature to the Qwerk-based
VEX hardware allowing robot control and video feedback across the internet. The controller can be
operated from almost any computer including Mac, PC, and Linux machines. The CREATE Lab
( will also develop and publish plans for new and unique VEX robots along
with curricula for teachers, all of which will be available for free download at and [/LEFT]
[LEFT]later this year.
[LEFT]“Qwerk’s advanced capabilities have been successful in the university market as part of the Telepresence
Robotics Kit (TeRK), but our customers also wanted a complete and integrated educational robot
solution. IFI has a rich set of products that are fully integrated, including sensors, actuators, mechanical
infrastructure – all of which complement Qwerk very nicely,” said Rich LeGrand, president of Charmed
Labs. “Our existing customers will really like the expanded choices and capabilities. Future customers[/LEFT]
will enjoy an incredibly rich palette from which to create their next robot or mechatronic system.”


Whoa. There is a whole lot of change going on for 2009. Funny all this is happening at once. Maybe a little bit of competition is a good thing. Now IFI, how do we program this thing. Since Carnegie- Mellon is involved I suspect robot C is one answer. First is committed to NI and Lab view. I doubt NI will be able to play both sides by contract. The only thing I see for a VPL answer to Labview is MSRS. They do mention that a driver is available. Personally I may lean toward Labview. Hardware wise this is a step up from the NXT.
Which way to go? First or IFI. From no choice to a hard choice.

I can’t afford this stuff. I wanted a Terk controller before but it was too expensive. Now I can’t help myself. :frowning:

Now IFI, how do we program this thing.

That’s actually a good question. Im guessing you compile your programs on the embedded Linux which is part of the reason why I hesitated to buy one. Though another way would to be to control the robot through Linux’s sever.

Qwerk Overview

* Powerful robotics solution for university and high school educational and hobbyist markets
* High-performance CPU with an excellent I/O feature-set for robotics and mechatronics applications
* Low-cost


* 200 MHz ARM9 RISC processor with MMU and hardware floating point unit
* 32 Mbytes SDRAM, 16 Mbytes flash memory
* Latest generation Xilinx Spartan 3E FPGA for custom I/O peripherals
* Linux 2.6 installed
* WiFi wireless networking support
* WebCam video input support
* 4 Amp switching power supply, 90% efficient, 7 to 30 Volt input range
* Rugged aluminum enclosure
* 5.1” x 5.8” x 1.3", 11.8 ozs


* 4 closed-loop 2.0 Amp motor controllers (supports both quadrature encoder and back-EMF “sensorless” feedback)
* 16 RC-servo controllers
* 16 programmable digital I/Os
* 8 12-bit analog inputs
* 2 RS-232 ports
* USB 2.0 host ports for connecting standard USB PC peripherals
* 10/100BT Ethernet port
* Built-in audio amp for playing MP3 and WAV files

From Charmed Labs Website

For $350, this looks like a more affordable option for the 2009 Control System , You can actually buy them on a normal robotics budget and Charmed Labs has been providing Robot Parts for BotBall for almost as many years as IFI Robotics has been for FIRST.

I’m ok with the Compact Rio, I just think the cost on the Rio is way too high and hopefully it will come down to a few hundred dollars.

I understand that FIRST wants more powerful processing, but I’ve seen many college robotics teams scrape together a very advanced robot at IGVC competitions with an old laptop and a simple micro-controller.

Don’t compare this to the 2009 FRC compact rio. Compare it to the FTC lego solution. This is a much cleaner hardware platform than the lego. The big difference is the software. The FTC lego platform has many software options.
I haven’t found a package that is the eqivalent to NXTG or labview student with add ins. May be Carnegie-mellon and IFI have something coming later.
Both have promise. Which way to go?

I definitely like this solution more than the hybrid NXT/Hitechnic Adapter in the new FTC kits, simply based on the fact that this has been engineered as single, more elegant solution that is competitively priced.

And at only $350, it’s only a little more than twice as expensive as the current Vex controllers (at the standalone price), but definitely provides a lot of cool features.

And I can definitely see how some of my personal robotics projects (current and planned) would be able to benefit from this, as I’ve been searching through all my issues of Robot magazine for ads/articles about a good control system in the up to $500 range for a while now. And while I am waiting until more details are released (such as programming languages, which band of Wifi they are using, why there are all those holes in the top sheet metal cover, etc) this is looking like a very attractive control system.

Seems that through all the saturday chaos this went unnoticed. While we don’t know if it’s an addon or not (my guess is that it is) this clearly (in my mind) is superior to the FTC kit for a number of reasons:
(Just my honest opinion after being exposed to both current Vex products along with the FTC Showcase)

A) Interfacing Lego with the FTC metal is possible, but causes tons of spacing problems that I won’t go into.

B) Vex already has a huge backlog of great products while FTC has the HiTechnic sensors and only standard wheels and gears currently.

C) I like the fact that Vex is one product that has everything work together whereas FTC is straight up Lego with an additional Box for motors, servos and some sensors.

D) The one big advantage that FTC had with their DC motors seem to be gone with the introduction of this new controller.

My head hurts a lot and I feel pretty crappy, but I’ll try to come up with more sometime later. Overall, this seems to be awesome and I can’t wait for more details.

Just my $0.02

D) The one big advantage that FTC had with their DC motors seem to be gone with the introduction of this new controller.

Read the press release again. The way I read it was that the new controller will be designed to specifically interface with Vex products.

I don’t understand your post. I’m agreeing with what you said.

I completly misread that sentence which is why you don’t understand the post. Sorry about that.

I am in need of a robot control system for a non-FIRST project and after looking at various options I determined the Qwerk robot controller would be ideal for my needs. Unfortunately, now that IFI has licensed the Qwerk from Charmed Labs the original Qwerk is no longer available for purchase from Charmed Labs. Does anyone know the development status of the new Qwerk based VEX controller and a possble release date? Other than the specs on the original Charmed Labs Qwerk and the IFI press release does anyone have any knowledge of what features the new Querk based VEX controller will actually have as compared to the Charmed Labs Qwerk? I need to have a controller by late May/early June and am going to have to start looking at other options if IFI doesn’t release something soon. Anyone have any scoop they care to share?

I like this A LOT.

All the more reason to go back to VRC after putting up with FTC this year.

All I know for sure is that the new Vex controller will be shown off in the new Vex college division competition at the World Championships in Dallas starting April 30. I would not be surprised if IFI used Worlds as the official launch event for the new controller system and several other new parts.

I can’t agree more. FTC parts and legos do not mix and match. There are spacing issues and other problems, not major but annoying LITTLE things. This new Vex controller seems very promising. I can’t wait to see videos and articles of this new controller. :wink:

I’m not sure is completely accurate. The College VEX competition is using the VEXnet add-on kit. Which hooks up to the current Micro controller. They may show off everything else but I don’t think it will actually be used.

The QWERK programming / development environment two years ago was very appealing but not anywhere near the level of student readiness for the likes of FTC / FRC / Botball teams. Two different working groups at CMU work on the QWERK and RobotC. I’ve not seen a release of RobotC that make the QWERK something that high school students can readily use.

Get that part done and then I am ready to jump in with both feet to replace FTC or VEX with this controller.


Only the VEX 802.11 wireless (aka VexNet) and power expander will be shown off at the college level. The Qwerk Vex controller will most likely be announced at Championship so stay tuned !

Now the the VEX World Championships are over of has anyone heard anything new on the Qwerk based VEX controller? It has been over a year since the Innovation First press release and even though I have searched and searched I can find no new information about or even a hint when the Qwerk based VEX controller may be released. I sure could use some info on what it will and won’t have compared to the old Qwerk controller.

It was shown off at the VEX Store at the World Championship last week - it’s now known as VEX Pro.

Here’s a picture (not the greatest):

I didn’t hear anything about availability and price, but after talking with the IFI guys about its capabilities and what they’re planning it should be really cool. Looking forward to getting one myself.

Thanks for the photo Dave. Can you share any tidbits about the capabilities you got from the IFI guys? I can’t make out any text on the connections near the white bar holder looking things in the photo. I assume they are header pin type connectors like on the old VEX but the white bars are similar to the nasty blue locking tabs on the digital sidecar and analog and solenoid breakout bumpers we used this year? Got anything on the number of analog, digital, etc. I/O? Does it have dedicated quadrature encoder inputs like the old Qwerk? For reference, how does it compare to the old Qwerk: