Vex Robotics Design System

I have always been interested in electronics, but I didn't learn of my true passion until I was exposed to the Vex Robotics Design System.

Since its release in April 2005, Vex has revolutionized the Amateur Robotics industry by allowing common amateurs to build robots from scratch.

Soon after launch Vex began showing up in various publications including Popular Science and Robot Magazine. I got my first glimpse of the Vex system while reading Popular Science in a doctors office. (A digital copy of the PopSci article I read can be found here). I was so stunned and excited about the product that I almost left my appointment without seeing the doctor. I knew I had to have a kit, no matter what the cost. I even had the receptionist take a photocopy of the article so I could take it with me.

The kits were sold through RadioShack for around $300 and included all the parts to build some pretty robust RC robots. I was impressed by the sheer number of parts and pieces that came with the kit. On the downside, the metal components were made of steel and heavy, the servos, motors, and sensors were made of plastic but seemed fairly durable. In fact, I never had a plastic component break. I have heard of stripped gears and gear shafts, but under normal use plastic seemed to work just fine for me.

One initial limitation of the kit was the fact that Vex had not released their programming package yet, so I was a bit disappointed by the lack of autonomous control. To control your creation you had to use the Remote Control (RC) components that came with the kit. Programming kits, omni-directional wheels, and chain and sprocket sets were just a few of the add-ons that Vex released soon thereafter.

Sadly, RadioShack stopped carrying the kits in late 2006. For a time, you could pick up Vex components for 50% off, which was great until supply was exhausted.

However, Vex has been reborn in a new kit by Revelle Monogram. You can purchase the Vexplorer Robotics System directly from the Amateur Robotics Resources Online Store. New features and components (including parts for a gripper/claw), wireless video, and backwards compatibility with first generation Vex parts are just a few of the reasons I'm excited about this new kit. For me, Vex was my first true experience with amateur robotics and I would highly recommend the system to anyone interested in getting their feet wet with robotics.

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