The Vex Platform
The Vex Robotics systems offers students an exciting platform for learning about science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).
The small scale of the robots allows for flexibility within robot construction and easy maintenance, putting emphasis on design choices. The relatively cheap and reusable parts of the already fabricated and standardized parts reinforces that level of versatility.
In a classroom setting, Vex (and it's smaller scale Vex IQ sibling) are the perfect tool for introducing students to robotics concepts.
This Past Vex Season: Nothing But Net
We participated in the St. Joseph Vex Tournament (pictured above) and the Kealakehe Vex Tournament. We were one of the three teams in each tournament's champion alliance, qualifying two of our teams to the state level competition on Oahu. While we did not take home any awards, we gained lots of valuable experience.
Vex robots can be made with aluminum pieces, up to ten motors (in some cases 12), pneumatic systems, and can include a plethora of different sensors. Robots typically compete 2 vs 2, chosen randomly for each match, on a 12 ft by 12 ft field. Robots are typically limited to being 18 in by 18 in initially but may sometimes expand during the 2 minute matches. A game will usually have a main scoring method, with different levels of scoring based on the robot's capabilities, and a final objective to obtain additional points. Last year, teams were tasked with sinking balls into a net in the 2015 Vex Game Nothing but Net. This season, robots must get star shaped scoring objects over a 2 foot wall in the 2016 game Starstruck.
Designing and Building
With the introduction of each season comes the need for a new design. The various limitations, such as size and motor capacity, really test the capabilities of the builder as they create the various systems to achieve scoring.
These systems are simplified into a drive train for mobility, an intake for game piece manipulation, and a lift or other scoring mechanism to allow the piece to reach its goal.
In order to make a robot function, a program is required. We use software called RobotC, a variant of the C programming language, to accomplish this. While programming basics for a system can be easy, the potential for high end algorithms, such as PID, is there to challenge teams to accomplish more.