Does anyone here from the Chief Delphi FRC crowd have any direct experience with the VEX IQ kits? For what you get for the price, it certainly looks more attractive than the LEGO EV3 offering. If you were looking to start a new elementary school robotics program at a campus that never had one before, which would you choose and why?
I personally would choose LEGOs. As an FLL team coach and an older brother, I’ve found younger students are more engaged with the NXT/EV3 because it’s very relatable, I’m sure many of them will have messed with the pieces at some point. It’s also compatible with anything they may have in their personal collections.
VEX IQ doesn’t really have a solid IDE. You’ve got two options: RobotC, which is the usual IDE used for programming the VEX Cortex and PIC microcontrollers, and ModKit for VEX IQ, a web-based graphical IDE, which resembles Scratch. The problem is that Modkit is extremely buggy, and resembles an alpha product more than a finished software. So if you’re looking for a no hassle solution for children and teachers with no previous experience, I’d definitely go for the EV3.
I am not an unbiased opinion here. I started in FLL and mentored 8 FLL teams after that.
There are some pretty clear advantages for VEX IQ though-- I really like the physical elements, and RobotC doesn’t bother me as much as it used to (OK, maybe for elementary schoolers).
I also like FLL because it has a good beginner software option (NXT-G is, in my opinion, pretty great), a huge amount of parts available (literally anything Lego), and a very mature competition system (though this varies to some extent by state-- I’m from Minnesota, one of the FLL pilot states, and we have 600-700 teams and are still growing).
I would weigh your options-- I’m not familiar with the VEXIQ competition structure or FLL competition structure in California (or for that matter much outside my state), but that would probably be the critical factor for me-- if VEXIQ is more likely to get the kids a better experience, that’s how I’d go. For now though, FLL is the more mature and stable option in what I’d guess is the majority of areas (after all, it has a 15 year head start…)
In my area, I wouldn’t dream of starting a VEXIQ team with such an excellent and established FLL community and competition structure (High Tech Kids, a local nonprofit, has been running our FLL for years, and do a truly excellent job making sure the tournaments are an excellent experience for everyone involved, and doing a good job of hooking up teams with help if they need it).
What you’ve described about the software issues is pretty accurate to what our program has experienced, in addition to issues with some of the hardware.
We offer both Lego and VEX iQ.
However, given the choice of which platform, I’d take VEX iQ over Lego anyday. There are just too many advantages that iQ offers that Lego doesnt…and it starts with driving the robot.
We use Lego as an Exploratory 7th grade STEM course. We implemented VEX iQ for those kids in the Exploratory course, that further choose to be part of a competition team.
Agreed, I’ve started both programs and the competition element is very important. FLL has not really updated their competition format in a long time.
Driving is important ! I’m surprised the EV3 and FLL have not focused on this.
A simple set of game rules for spectators and kids also is very important.
VEXiq is a new American company (IFI) platform, I have faith that the IFI engineers and the support staff will get the bugs worked out.
EV3 is on the 3rd generation and has more stability, however I don’t know who is on the Lego staff and I’m not certain if they will support me at a competition when my kit breaks?
I’ve been using the IQ since it came out. In our area (South East Pennsylvania) there was a very strong VEX metal program at the middle school. Since RECF is pushing IQ for middle school, IQ has become more popular.
It’s lower cost has made it a viable program with home school / small charter schools.
RobotC is very solid, so I’m not sure what the poster means about not having a good IDE. RobotC works well with the IQ platform. It also works well with the Lego and VEX metal platforms so you have some baseline learning that can go across platforms.
Modkit has been less than a polished product, but it has gotten better in the last release. Having it look like Scratch has been a bonus, since I’ve run into programmers that already know Scratch, it’s an easy transition.
I find that roboteers like to drive and that is the #1 point for VEX IQ, the way that the joysticks are a key component and are integrated well into the platform.
The integrated motor/controllers are very nice. The ability to get good positioning information at the motor is great. This lets roboteers use the motors as rotational devices and / or servos (or switch back and forth in the software).
The IQ design team took a lot from VEX Metal learnings. Large number of IO ports for motors and sensors, a good lineup of sensors that work well. Multiline display panel on the “brain” makes it a good place to put debug information. I also use the RGB LED displays as debug outputs / driver displays. (We’ve seen recent CD posts about using LED’s to tell the driver when things are in position, same concept on the Button/RGB display. )
Mechanical parts are good. Everything is held together with friction pins that are easy to assemble and to take apart. While IQ contests are to be cooperative matches, there is still some banging and bumping. Most robots hold up well and don’t come apart.
There is a VEX IQ Forum that you should check out. There are some videos and there is a entire section on robots that people have built. Online Tech Support is also there.
You might want to post some of your more detailed questions on the forum
One of the forum members has moved ALL of the IQ parts into LDRAW - Lego CAD program format to make it easy to do drawings of the robots.
So for me, good parts, RobotC, intelligent motors, intelligent sensors, CAD capability with the much lower cost makes IQ my choice for new robotics teams.
I agree with the “if you already have X stick with X” but the OP said there was not a program at the school.
Which brings the last point, VEX has done a lot with classroom materials. I’d check that out to see if it meets their needs.
Good luck! See you on the VEX IQ forums.
I run both programs/platforms, but if I had to choose one I’d go with VEX IQ.
Registration Fees - FLL team registration is $225 per team, VEX IQ is $100 for the first team and $50 for each additional team from the same organization. I can register four IQ teams for less than the cost of one FLL team. Recurring expenses are my biggest concern, so lower registration fees is a big deal.
of Tournaments - FLL teams can only compete at one qualifying event, whereas VEX IQ teams face no particular limit. It’s easy enough to run IQ events that tournaments can be scheduled to meet demand and allow kids to compete multiple times over the course of a season. (This may not be the case everywhere though? It’s true of every area that I’ve checked, but you’ll have to research your area specifically). Edited to add: Also, an IQ team will have 6+ matches plus robot and programming skills opportunities at each competition, whereas an FLL Team will only have the 3-4 matches. Couple that with the additional event opportunities and it’s hard to turn down.
Base Kits - The VEX IQ brain has 12 smart ports (either motor or sensor) vs the EV3 brain with 8 ports total (4 motor, 4 sensor) making the IQ system more adaptable. The IQ kits also just in general are more parts for your money. The base LEGO kits I buy (core + expansion) cost $440 and include 3 motors, 5 sensors, and about 1500 structural parts. The base IQ kits that I buy cost $480 (super kit + foundation + competition) but include 6 motors, 7 sensors, 2000+ structural parts, and a tank tread kit.
Qualifying Structure - This is just personal opinion, but I like the VEX IQ tournament qualifying structure better. Having the best robot in FLL doesn’t ensure moving on to states, as project and core values judging are equally weighted with robot. The VEX IQ qualifying structure is more weighted towards the robot and technical achievements.
Playing Field - The VEX IQ playing field is a set of snap together plastic pieces that can be broken down for storage. As as added bonus, the field doubles as a play table, with holes to use as a building base when it’s not being used as a game field.
Personally, I find VEX IQ coaching to be less exhausting. The season isn’t as tightly packed, and the opportunity for multiple events means that there’s less pressure to have one perfect event. The kids enjoy the ability to drive their robots, and the programming skills challenge still gives them the opportunity to delve more into programming. The Autodesk VEX IQ software presents some exciting possibilities that I’m looking forward to.
The key advantage of LEGO (and reason that I still run FLL teams) is that it sells itself. Parents seek me out because they hear that I coach FLL teams. Hundreds of thousands of little LEGO fanatics run around with ears fine tuned to pick out any mention of the system.
I can’t comment much on the game challenge because I’m pretty in love with both the FLL theme and the IQ game this year.
Just FYI but the number events you can attend and the type of qualifying structure is based upon the Partner running FLL in your area. Make sure you do the research in your area to see what your partner is running.
I really like the project portion of FIRST Lego League, it really shows the inventiveness of kids and the ideas they can come up with. After judging a couple FLL events, I am simply blown away by the ideas and presentations these kids come up with. FLL also has the FIRST Global Innovation Award, which allows kids to basically apply for patents for the ideas they come up with.
With VEX IQ, I feel the project portion isn’t as innovative as the one in FLL. This year the theme for VEX IQ is “Engineering” (a very broad topic) whereas the FLL theme is “World Class” or education based.
Overall, I would go with FIRST Lego League just for the benefits of the project portion.
It looks like I’ve started quite the debate here, and I think until I get an IQ kit in my hands, I may not truly find the answer I’m after. I do appreciate all the good information from both sides though. Let me mention the current state of things in our district.
We have 20 elementary schools, 4 middle schools, and 5 high schools. Between the 5 high schools, we have 2 FRC teams, Vex (metal) used in three engineering/robotics class sections, 20 NXT kits used in one Java programming class section, and one VRC team starting in the fall.
At the middle school level, we have in the neighborhood of 60 NXT kits used across two campuses in classes, and two campuses as extracurricular teams. Only one campus has an FLL team.
At the elementary school level, there are perhaps 40 NXT kits used across 10 campuses to run after school robotics programs, but most are not part of any competitive organization such as FLL. These programs typically are one hour once per week. I believe only two campuses have actual FLL teams, and I don’t see that number as likely to increase.
The elementary school teams compete in an annual school district competition, using the Deep Space Terra-formers game each year.
So, I’m left with two high schools without any robotics whatsoever, and about 10 elementary schools with no robotics at all. For the two high schools without robotics, Vex (metal) is a no brainer for me. It would definitely be preferred over FRC, for the reason of teacher, facilities, and cost required to run it.
For the 10 elementary schools, it would make sense to do Lego EV3 to join them into our annual DST competition, but other than that, I’m not particularly attached to Lego, and there’s no reason we couldn’t run an IQ competition side by side, in the same venue, on the same date. With exactly half of the elementary schools having “bought” into robotics, and only two FLL teams, we’re not so far invested in Lego that we can’t branch out and add Vex IQ. Now may be the time.
I like that for $300 ($291 in quantity), I get 4 motors, all the sensors, and I can drive it with a remote control. It seems like your money goes a little further with Vex IQ. For example, $100,000 would purchase enough hardware to get 670 students simultaneously involved in Vex IQ, with a ratio of 2 students per kit. With Lego, that same amount of funding would reach 560 students. Not a huge difference, but still notable.
I absolutely hate that Modkit is web-based. How are teams supposed to program at competition if they are not online? That seems like a disaster waiting to happen. They really need to release a standalone desktop version. With how much Vex has invested in their IQ hardware platform, it’s baffling as to why they have not more heavily invested in the software side of it.
Few other comments (edited and just leaving the technical aspects):
VexIQ is a great value, and I think it has great potential. The build quality on the plastic parts (tolerances and ease of assembly) isn’t quite to the level of Lego. Removing pins can be difficult, especially for elementary aged students, and the pins do wear a bit over time. Fortunately, bags of connectors are reasonably cheap. Removing the corner braces and hard rubber spaces (especially against a gear) is especially tough for the young ones.
ModKit was basically unusable when I tried it in December 2013, with very limited functionality. Robot C was quite a bit better, although it is expensive per license at ~$80. Larger programs can get extremely reasonable annual licenses at ~$250/30 seats/year, but it is still an added cost. I actually took a few minutes to revisit the forum and see a couple more options coming along with the ability to program in Python that is intriguing. I didn’t have any trouble teaching students as young as 3rd grade to program in Robot C though. I would show them working programs, let them tweak parameters to understand what the commands mean, and then turn the commands they know into a script.
I’m REALLY excited about some comments Art Dutra (IFI) made on the VexIQ I2C sensors, essentially about making the protocol open to the community so we can integrate our own own sensors back to the controllers (like the Lego community). If this comes to fruition, I’d love to play with it myself more and with our high school students as a quick and dirty platform to teach programmers. Hopefully, they take the same approach to the mechanical side and encourage custom parts development to extend the base build.
Long story short, I’d say that understand VexIQ a developing community and product, but with a large upside. I think the hardware itself is superior at this point, but the scale of the program is obviously behind FLL, and regional event availability varies. A big upside is the controller integration as noted for tele-op control, but a note of caution is that I found it difficult to focus students on the autonomous aspects after the first clawbot build. There are some students that would much prefer to just drive it around for an hour as a toy, versus iterate on the design and learn a bit more.
It’s good to know that there are areas that do the qualifying structure for FLL differently as it gives me hope that we might change around here one day
I don’t dislike the project (and in fact even enjoy coaching the project portion sometimes), but it frustrates me as a coach sometimes. It’s so involved that I’ve found it’s almost worthy of its own program separate from the robot (similar to Destination Imagination, if you’ve heard of that competition), and it requires a significant amount of coach and mentor involvement/guidance/encouragement and investment of time by all parties to generate a tournament ready product. The level of detail is what makes it valuable though, so it’s a trade off, but I am sometimes relieved with VEX IQ that the project is less overwhelming. I don’t want to toss out the FLL style project option completely however, hence running both programs. The kids that are particularly dedicated LEGO fans, have parents/mentors that can help coach to offset the increased need for mentors, are interested in the breadth of experiences offered by the larger scope, and have the time to dedicate to more hours per week can participate in FLL. Meanwhile, VEX IQ allows me to offer programs to a greater number of kids via lower resource requirements (money, time, mentors), and appeals to the kids that want to delve more deeply into the robot & technical aspects.
Also, I forgot to mention in my earlier post that I love the engineering notebooks in VEX IQ. So much so that I’m having my FLL teams keep an engineering notebook this year as well. I’m not sure how they’ll be integrated into judging with FLL, but they are a formally recognized part of the IQ structure.
FLL Judge here. This will win you major, major brownie points in the “Strategy and Innovation” section of the rubric.
Throwing my vote in for FLL and LEGOs, for a couple of reasons.
-Much like comparing VEX vs. Tetrix when it first came out, you have to consider that LEGOs have been around for ages, whereas VEX IQ is still really in development. LEGO has a truly mind-boggling backlog of parts with which to use. It’s easy to look only at the contents of the base kits, but LEGO has put out pneumatic systems, basically every type of gear under the sun, more structure components than I can count, 3rd party sensor support, and so on. On the software side, there are tons of 3rd party options available for more advanced students such as NQC and NXC, which can really open up the platform further.
-Your average kid who is interested in joining a robotics program owns 5+ LEGO sets. This means that they are already very familiar with the construction techniques involved, and may have their own parts that they’ll want to add to their robots. Much less often the case with VEX IQ.
-If you haven’t, take a good, in-depth look at an FLL challenge sometime. The quality and depth of the table challenge design is simply incredible. From the wide range of difficulty from easy to near-impossible, solid integration of the challenge theme and connections to real world engineering challenges, mechanism inspiration provided by the mission modules, and the hefty supply of LEGO parts that come with your registration for use in future years, Scott Evans does an absolutely incredible job. I’ve been less impressed with the VEX IQ games so far, as they feel more like dumbed-down VRC games, where FLL feels designed specifically for the age group.
-I kind of like that FLL forces autonomy, as it exposes students to a very large element of robotics that they would not tend to seek out otherwise. I’ve taught summer camps for LEGOs where I used solutions to allow driver control. In these classes, students weren’t motivated to then seek out sensors and autonomy, because they knew they could do it better with the controller. When I introduced autonomous tasks first, they naturally progressed much further on the software side.
-I love the research project. The sheer creativity your kids can have will surprise you. Judging these projects blows my mind every single year.
As a scientist, and someone who hires a lot of people who are in college or fresh out of college, I really like the project portion of FLL. It really requires a lot of creativity to come up with a good one, as well as a lot of interaction with real-world experts (in different topic areas each year) to discover what the big challenges are in their field. It’s a fantastic introduction to real-world research problems. The teams who have really great FLL projects have worked hard, interviewed a lot of people, and probably even taken it past the idea stage into a physical product prototype.
In my mind, using a fully autonomous robot should require a lot more programming finesse than “driving” a remote controlled one. At least in my field, people who have scientific expertise AND can program (code up and test) scientific ideas) are golden. From a kid’s perspective, why learn how to program when you can remote control the whole thing? That’s kind of opposite of what we are trying to achieve.
That being said, I’ve not seen a Vex IQ but would love to get hold of one to try out. It sounds like each of the programs (Vex and FLL) have different strengths and weaknesses depending on what your goals are with it. We’d enter a team in each if the seasons didn’t overlap so much.
VEX IQ does integrate autonomous control in the skills challenge portions of a tournament, and as part of the consideration for the overall winner. Qualifying matches are two teams working together to score the most points in a driver control match, and then separately each team gets an equal number of attempts at both a driver skills challenge (teleoperated) and a programming skills challenge (autonomous) as the sole team on the field. The first place team in each skills challenge is awarded at each event, and in my area the programming skills challenge ranking is used to fill in state championship qualifying spots created by teams double qualifying. All three of those elements, plus the project judging and engineering notebook judging are used to determine the excellence award winner at events. The autonomous is much less of a focal point than it is in FLL however.
Last note and then I’ll stop thread cluttering for a bit. It occurs to me that much of my stress with FLL is probably a regional issue with time crunch issues. Public schools here aren’t allowed to start until after labor day (so as not to inhibit tourism, or something) and qualifying events start the second weekend of November (because they want all FLL done before FRC starts), resulting in only about 9 weeks of meeting time to get everything done before our one and only shot at a qualifying event (each team only gets one event here). Areas that don’t have that particular combination of time constraints and single event pressure probably have a much more manageable and valuable FLL option.
Edited to add: I looked it up and Minnesota’s FLL State Championship takes place in February (rather than our early December), and now I am a little bit jealous.
Also edited to add: The moral of the story is that overall quality of the competition experience appears to be highly dependent upon regional differences.
One of my pet peeves is the perceived difficulty in running the smaller robot events. I get that FRC needs mongo space, power, etc.
For a VEX IQ event you need a room big enough to hold 12-16 (depending on the number of teams) card tables and the 4*8 field. So a cafeteria is great, or a room at the local fire-hall, church, YMCA, etc works. You will need a laptop to run the scoring software. You will need 2 people with clipboards and the paper score sheets to count the scores up at the end. Since its not a 1 vs 1 event, but a 1 “Helping” 1 event there are not the fouls and stuff to watch for.
So for about $25-30 per team you are good to go. (Based on Fire Hall Rental and the VEXIQ trophy pack (http://www.vexrobotics.com/228-3053.html)
Start at 8 run a ton of matches and be done by 12 (four hours will give everyone about 8 matches)
It’s super easy to do. In our area most of the schools will run one event that’s how you quickly get 10 events in a season.
If you want to judge the projects then you will need judges for that (2 people) Projects are not hard or complex to look at.
The entire reason I stay in competition robotics is for the competitions. Let me be the first to say “I don’t like the projects that are not directly related to the robot”. I understand that they are nice, expand roboteers outlook, etc. If you want to do a project oriented event, organize a science fair. I want to see roboteers doing robot engineering on their robot that they are competing with. (If you want to start a side discussion on this, lets do it in another thread, don’t derail this one).
12 teams * 2 adults per team = 24 people you can ask to help. So an hour a person gets you more than enough help. In most of our cases there is a big brother/sister/grandparent that we can get to do scoring, etc.
Please don’t let the lack of IQ events deter you. If you are in an hour drive of Philly and want to have an event contact me.
You are in luck. VEXiq is growing rapidly and there will be many events near you soon.
And like Foster mentions in the post before, starting a VEXiq event is very simple compared to most other competitions.
I’m not familiar with the Vex IQ kit, so I can’t comment there. However, having coached both FLL and a Vex HS team, there there are some program considerations which could be important. Fundamentally, what demographic/population do you serve, and how much/what kind of involvement do they want?
The FLL Project is a big draw for teams with mentors and students with no previous background in robotics or programming. There are teams with a poorly functioning robot who win project or core values awards who are willing to stick around for multiple years (and get better at the robotics) because they have an opportunity to succeed in some way. Without that opportunity, they might be tempted to give up.
FLL season is typically 3-6 months (Sept. - Nov. and beyond, depending on whether you advance). Some teams benefit from an off-season and get burned out if they compete year-round. While theoretically, you can take an off-season any time with Vex, you feel that you’re getting behind other teams that work year-round if you do. When I coached FLL, we typically spent the spring non-competitive season meeting, building, and programming fun projects of the students’ own choosing and working on previous years’ challenges. The students reported that those times were some of the best times for our team-- a reward, after a season of hard work. We did something similar with Vex, taking an off-year, and a student reported, “I feel happy when I’m in this room”, which would have been less true in the throes of competition.
An important consideration is age. There’s a tricky trade-off between pushing too much too soon and not pushing enough.
If you want to start students on a path that ends with more intensive/hands-on involvement in higher level robotics, the Vex program is probably the way to go. But if you want to expose and involve a large number of students to STEM who use robotics and/or programming in a more peripheral way, I would go with FLL. Some of my FLL/Vex alumni (college students & grads) have designed products for people with special needs, because they became deeply immersed in the special needs community. They wouldn’t have had time to “crossover” to that community if they had focused on performing at the highest levels of Vex. One student even remembered FLL’s “No Limits” theme (designing for people with disabilities) and built an engineering project specifically with Universal Design in mind.