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Getting Started

Getting Started

Firstly, you will need a VEX Robotics Starter Kit. We recommend that new teams purchase either a Classroom and Competition Mechatronics Kit or a Classroom and Competition Super Kit. These kits are reusable year after year so whilst you can add more parts to increase the complexity of your creations, you do not need to buy a new kit each year.

Next you will need some programming software. There are a number of pieces of software that are compatible with VEX which can be seen on the Software page of this site. For competition use, we recommend ROBOTC.

We recommend that all teams have a Competition Switch which allows them to test their Autonomous and Driver Control programs. You can buy the official switch here or if you are handy with a soldering iron, you can make your own by following the instructions here.

Finally, you need to register your team at www.robotevents.com. This can be done in two ways:

  1. Register directly on the Robot Events site. Registration costs $100 for the first team and $50 for any additional teams. Payment is in US Dollars and must be made via credit or debit card.
  2. Purchase your registration through Rapid in UK Pounds. This costs £70 for the first team and £30 for additional teams.

Once you have paid and are registered with www.robotevents.com, you will receive a Welcome Pack with a few items to help you get started. This will include some game objects to help you design your robot and for you to practice with.

Now you are registered, you can assign your teams to the events that you wish to attend - you can attend as many as you like. See the Events page for dates and venues.

If you need help registering or assigning your team to an event, contact chris.calver@rapidonline.com

Getting a team together

Getting a team together

There is no maximum or minimum number of students in a VEX team but 4 to 6 works very well. There are a number of roles that students can play in a VEX team - the obvious are designers and engineers but here are a few more ideas:

Engineers

You will need a couple of students to be focussed on robot design and build

Driver

Driver

Sometimes, the best Drivers are not same people who are good at building or programming – they are cool under pressure, don't panic and listen to strategy advice from other members of the team. They will also need to work well with students from other schools because their Alliance Partners are likely to be people they have never met before!

Programmer

A successful robot needs an excellent Autonomous program. The Programmer will also need to work closely with the Driver to ensure that the robot controls are easy to use and that any repetitive tasks are automated.

CAD and Engineering Notebook

The design, build and testing of the robot should all be thoroughly documented in an Engineering Notebook which you should take to every competition.

This can include a build diary, design iterations, tactics, program development, fundraising and more.

Your students can use Autodesk Inventor for free to build CAD models of their designs. To download the software, visit our Downloads and Links page.

CAD and Engineering Notebook

Thanks to team 5194B Volt Robotics (@VoltRobotics) for letting us use their CAD model, we hope this gives some inspiration to other teams for using CAD as part of their design process. You can download an Autodesk Inventor file for their 2014/2015 season Skyrise robot here.

Fundraising

Your engineers might want parts that you don't already have. Perhaps you need to fund an overnight stay at the VEX UK National Championships or even raise money towards a trip to the VEX World Championships in the USA! Whatever the case, fundraisers do not need to be engineers or robot enthusiasts but entrepreneurs.

Building your first robot

Before building your first ever competition robot, we suggest that you build the Clawbot that is included in all Classroom and Competition starter kits. This will allow you familiarise yourself with most of the major construction techniques used in VEX. It also gives you a nice platform to play around with some of the sensors and do a bit of programming before you head on to build your first competition robot. You might even find that for your first year, you use the Clawbot as the basis for your design.

First steps with programming

When you first build the Clawbot, you will notice that it has a program built in by default that allows you to drive the robot around with the remote control. Now you can create your own program to change the controls and do some simple autonomous programs - this will prepare you for writing your first program for your competition robot.

You'll need a VEXnet competition switch for this. Make your own using our guide here or buy the official VEXnet Competition Switch here.

You will also need to make sure that the Firmware is up to date on your Cortex, Joystick and White VEXnet keys. To learn how to update the Firmware, click here.

Our getting started guide is for using text programming in ROBOTC. If you are using any of the other programming languages and require help, contact chris.calver@rapidonline.com.

To view the getting started guide, click here.

Entering your first competition

Attending a competition is the best way to learn, don't worry if you don't have a great robot, it really doesn't matter. Students learn more about building and programming at their first competition than in many months of classroom or club time.

Make sure you are registered on Robot Events and assign yourself to the events you wish to attend. If you are not sure if you are correctly signed on to an event, contact chris.calver@rapidonline.com to check.

  1. Make a checklist of things to take to the competition and ensure you have everything ready in advance. The minimum you should be taking to a competition is:
    • Your robot
    • VEXnet wireless keys
    • Orange USB tether cable
    • Robot batteries and charger
    • Spare joystick batteries
    • Laptop for programming
    • VEXnet 9V backup battery
    • Team ID plates with you ID number on
    • VEX Tools - allen keys and spanners
    • Spare parts - you never know what spares you'll need!
    • Drinks and snacks
  2. Arrive as early as possible for the event - check the schedule on www.robotevents.com and see what time you can arrive and when check-in opens.
  3. Your robot will need to be inspected by officials before you can compete to ensure it complies with the rules. Make sure you have read the rules thoroughly and that your robot is compliant before you arrive at the competition. Go to inspection as soon as possible so that you can make changes if your robot does not pass. The staff at the event will be more than happy to help make sure your robot is compliant.
  4. Assign someone in your team to keep an eye on the match schedule - make sure you are at the Field when it is your turn to compete.
  5. Charge your robot batteries between each match and make sure your joystick batteries are charged. The vast majority of robot failures during a match are due to low batteries!
  6. Learn from the more experienced teams at the event. Watch how they organise themselves and learn from their robot deigns and game strategies. Experienced teams are always willing to help the novices and our staff will be on hand to help as well.
  7. Above all, don't panic and have fun!

Don't forget, you can attend as many events as you like over the course of the season.