Radio Shack VEX

I did a search on Google Groups but didn't find much on this group about Radio Shack's new VEX system, so sorry if this has been brought up before.
Info on the net seems sparse right now.
I picked up a kit and a bunch of extra parts today and so far think its a pretty nice system for the money. The real power though will come when I can connect it to a PC and program it.
From what I have found so far, it seems that the programming interface will come at a later date. The manual has a section for programming but the pages were not included (the manual is a 3 ring binder and contains dividers for different topics, one of which is programming, but no content pages included). The divider tab for programming shows a drawing of the interface and it looks like it has a standard PC serial port on it. The microcontroller has a port on it labeled serial (ethernet type connector).
Anyone have any info about when the interface will come out and/or what the software will be like? The controller has several motor/servo ports, 12 Analog/Digital IO and several ports labeled interupts that the manual says are for advanced use and are not used in the starter kit.
Also, anyone have any idea of what expansion items they are wokring on? Like sensors, motors, etc.
TIA! Hoss hossweb.com
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can you give us some more information, what is VEX supposed to be?
RIch
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VEX is a new robotics invention system Radio Shack just started selling. Couple of URLs below. It was developed with FIRST and now FIRST will be having a 3rd competition based on the VEX system (to go along with their other two, the original FIRST competition and the Lego Mindstorms one). The kit seems pretty good so far. Metal portion is like a strong erector set. Comes with motors and servos (they are pretty much standard servos but with clutches and special mounting posts). Came with bump and switch sensors, lots screws, wheels, gears, etc. It has a microcontroller with analog and digital I/O, controls like 8 motors/servos, etc. It also comes with a 6 channel radio control, much like for an RC plane or helicopter. The radio controller has an LCD display and you can make adjustments and select various modes from it.
I will try to take some photos and post some info on my site. Until then, these links can provide some basic info:
http://radioshack.com / http://www.vexrobotics.com /
-Hoss hossweb.com
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That looks pretty sweet, but it says nothing about the size. How big approximately are the plates? The official vex web site says they're not going to be released for 8 days yet. Anyone know if they're releasing something different/better?
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Also, it looks like its a lot cheaper if you buy all the parts seperate and forget about the transmitter / receiver. Does it look like it would be difficult to run the motors without the transmitter / receiver?
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You could, but without the programming module, you would be extremly limited. The module is preprogrammed for some basic usage, although most of it is for interacting with the remote. But it does have a couple sensor ports programmed for "autonomous use". Basically, a sensor plugged into one of these will trigger a default action (reverse motor on motor port x). From looking at the manual, it seems you can make a simple bot with two bump switches on the front (left and right) and have it back up and turn when it hits something.
-Hoss hossweb.com
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Hoss wrote:

[...]
Cool! It seems they've finally brought back Mechano sets and added robotics kit to it. Nice combination, in my mind.
--
Marc D.
(reply-to is black hole. Contact: list at ryuu in Canada)
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I found a poster in the kit that I ignored at first (looked like it was just promotional stuff) and when I looked on the back, it showed all the accessories they are coming out with it. This was the only documentation in the kit about this stuff. When I bought the kit, the guy at radio shack had no idea what other items would be coming out, he didn't even know about the programming module.
So anyways, heres a list of everything you can get for the kit eventually (* next to ones available now):
MOTION ~ SERVO KIT* extra servo motor. has extra set of internal gear too. ~ GEAR KIT* bunch of gears, some not included in starter kit ~ WHEEL KIT* extra wheels ~ OMNI-DIRECTIONAL WHEEL KIT 2 omni-directional wheels ~ MOTOR KIT* extra motor kit. has extra set of internal gear too. ~ TANK TREAD KIT tank tread and hubs ~ SPROCKET AND CHAIN KIT 4 feet of chain and a bunch of various sprockets
CONTROL ~ CRYSTAL UPGRADE KIT* lets you use multiple radios at same time ~ TRANSMITTER ADDON KIT* extra tx and rx
LOGIC ~ PROGRAMMING KIT connects PC to micro. includes USB cable and programming guide
STRUCTURE ~ HARDWARE METAL KIT* extra metal. doubles # of parts and screws in the starter kit
SENSORS ~ ULTRASONIC RANGE FINDER ~ BUMPER SWITCH KIT* ~ OPTICAL SHAFT ENCODER KIT ~ LINE TRACKER KIT ~ LIMIT SWITCH KIT* ~ LIGHT SENSOR KIT
POWER ~ VEX POWER PACK* 2 rechargable packs (one for bot, one for radio)
EQUIPMENT ~ SAFTEY GLASSES* ~ CUTTING TOOL lets you bend and cut the metal parts ~ CARRYING CASE
-Hoss hossweb.com
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wrote:

As I think was mentioned in the thread, it's brand new.
Here's a link to lots of pics from last week's competition and apparently other sources, shamelessly stolen from the mailing list:
http://www.vexlabs.com/vex-robot-photos.shtml ----- http://mindspring.com/~benbradley
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My set should be ariving tomorow!
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I've been playing with it for a couple of weeks now and so far think its really a nice setup. But until I can get the programming module so I can program the MCU from my PC, it quite limited. But, it gives me plenty of time experimenting with making various chassis, sensor arrays, etc so that when I getthe programming module, I'll have a nice bot built and ready to program.
-Hoss
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Wow, its awesome. That does kinda suck about the programming. I'm going to see what I can do to get around having to use the remote control.
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wrote:

Oh, yeah, more stuff on VEX, I submitted a slashdot story Thursday, it showed up this morning:
http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid /05/01/0258239
----- http://mindspring.com/~benbradley
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The poster that comes with says it comes with ultrasonic range finders and light sensors. But then it says that these require the programming kit. Think this is something that's going to be comming out later? I'd think it'd come standard, but they may not have it worked out yet.
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Ben Bradley wrote:

I've noticed that for the past year or so robotics-based articles on /. have generated a lot less buzz than they used to. You prbably post and read there more than I do, but have you seen the same thing? In the "old days" a LEGO story might generated 200-300 replies, easy. (Comments in reply to the recent Hitachi robot article weren't too bad, though...)
-- Gordon
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On Mon, 02 May 2005 18:11:07 -0700, Gordon McComb

I've only been regularly active there about a year (though I've read it sporadically for several years), and I haven't been there long enough to notice that. But if true it's certainly dissapointing. I did notice the above story only has 74 comments, just above Sunday's last-place article "Deep Impact Catches First Glimpse of Target Comet" with 67 comments, whereas the others each have hundreds of comments.

I didn't remember this so I had to find it: http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid /03/16/2314240
NOW I remember, the "Segway" robot.

----- http://mindspring.com/~benbradley
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If so, it might not necessarily be that there is less interest, but perhaps instead that robotics and robotic projects are much more common now vs then and it takes more "wow factor" these days to turn heads.
-Brian
--
Brian Dean
BDMICRO - ATmega128 Based MAVRIC Controllers
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