Published on November 12th, 2005 | by Greg0
One Robot to Rule Them All
The other day, I realized that we were a long way off from robots controlling the world, and became very sad. We’re still stuck on the stage where robots can barely walk, much less come after us with high-tech weaponry the likes of which we won’t be able to withstand.
Which is why we should all do our part to help make sure the robots get their chance to slide on up the evolutionary scale! Building a robot has long been a difficult, expensive, time-consuming thing to do. Thanks to the Vex Robotics Design System, robot building has hit the mainstream. At least, if you shop/work/live at Radio Shack- and who doesn’t?!
It’s still not going to clean your bedroom, or do your homework, but at least it won’t suddenly decide to start looking for Sarah Connor either. You can keep your robot on a short leash using the RC controller (which seems far larger than required, about the size and weight of two non-fiction hardcover books)- or you can try your hand at programming it using the included microcontroller.
The Vex set is more than a little intimidating at first- a nearly empty binder and hundreds of small pieces- sensors, wheels, battery pack, and plenty of pieces for the “body”. But with some help from the large website full of photos, videos, manuals, and ideas, you can pretty quickly start out building something that will roll around, sit, and play dead. Though a robot playing dead isn’t much of a trick, mind you.
Everything is crafted very well and fits together well- no shoddy construction here, everything is almost up to Lego standards. And there are plenty of additional pieces you can buy- better motors and wheels, more sensors, even a tread kit! Be aware though, that unlike Legos, it can be really hard to translate your ideas into a Vex ‘architecture’- it’s much harder to just sit down and play with the robotics kit than, say, Lego’s Mindstorms. The Vex kit is definitely aimed at high school ages or above, and even adult engineers will find something to challenge them here.
If you are willing to devote some time to a robot that can do some pretty sophisticated things (planting seeds, playing soccer, even dribbling a ball) then you will be more than satisfied with Vex. Others might find the $300 price tag too much to swallow.