Vex marketing weirdness

Just saw "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" (so so movie--the joke wore thin pretty quickly and Uma wasn't particularly in looks). Vex was all over the place
in it, suggesting that somebody dropped a bundle for product placement. With Rat Shack apparently bailing on the line it seems unlikely that it was them, does that mean that somebody else with some marketing savvy is picking it up, or was the movie just so long filming that the shots were in the can before Rat Shack decided to bail?
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--John
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Good question. I'm hoping to see some answers here. It's an interesting story because vex, mindstorm and Parallax seem to want to dominate a non-existent market.
Wayne

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Actually this for me is an interesting subject....how should Vex be marketed (or should have been marketed depending on your point of view)?
When I look at the Vex system, it is apparent that significant thought was put into its design and the overall quality is satisfactory.
TMT
Wayne Lundberg wrote:

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I think my son's business and vex are in the same boat. They both cater to an intelligent experimental biased group of people in quest of knowledge while learning about the basics of their interest. My son was www.rcsailcars.com and got a fair start, never anything as grand as, say the hula-hoop, but a start. Then the Chinese came in with a 10% priced knock off and he shut down. Shipped his last unit a week ago and lefty with tears in his eyes.
I don't see many do-it-yourself automation companies making a lot of hay. Remember the X-10 controllers? What happened to that great concept? And is Mindstorm really making any money? Parallax may be doing something right by catering to the science teachers, but I just don't see the American public as that much interested in science and technology as they are in American Idol crap.
Wayne

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You mean something that costs 10% of what he sold his for right? Yeah, it's hard to compete with that. I first though you meant something that was only 10% less than his.
Economy of scale is so important in many businesses these days. If the market is large enough, fast turnaround engineering and mass-production techniques using low cost labor on the other side of the world can make things so cheap it's almost hard to believe. There's just not a lot of room left in the world for small custom shops. We expect things to be of such high quality and low cost that it's hard to compete.

My house is full of them. I still buy new ones from time to time. Radio Shack sells them. (under there plug-n-power brand rather than X-10 but it's the same technology). You can also buy them on the internet (www.x10.com).
I don't understand why someone hasn't come along in all these years and created a version that actually works. They are extremely sensitive to power line noise and half the time, the controllers can't be heard by the receivers depending on relation to each other and relation to noise sources. And the more you house is filled with high-tech devices like computers the more problems you have.
At the moment, my wife and I have X-10 transmitters and lights on either side of the bed, but my box can't control her light and her box can't control my light. This happened when I plugged in a few new large APC UPS units in the basement 2 floors away.
By now, someone should be selling cheap 2-way units where the controller actually tells you the status of the devices it is controlling and which always works even with typical noisy power lines.

I find it interesting that Lego now has dedicated stores in shopping malls, and that the stores don't carry the Mindstorm products.

Growing up, I was always into hobbies and crafts and engineering where I got to actually build things with my own hands. These days, it doesn't seem that kids are into that type of stuff as much. There's so much more to fill their time and distract them now, such as 200 TV channels, video games, computers and the Internet. It's hard to even find toys where you get to build something these days - you have to find a speciality hobby shop which are few and far between (compared to toy stores).
We really are transforming into a world where all we do is push buttons.

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wrote: . ---snip for brevity---
Great write-up Curt. I can't agree with you more. But somehow we in the US keep coming up with innovative stuff, eventually made in China, but invented and developed here. I've read that fully 70% of our gross domestic product is inetllectual. Books, movies, software, hardware, processes, ag science, medicine... so somebody is out there getting their hands dirty with making things. ...
And just a peek at the economics of making things in China. It's only 2 or 3 percent of total company expenses and most companies pay their white collar workers very well, and most are in the US.
Wayne
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Too_Many_Tools wrote:

The big problem I think was that Rat Shack was never really clear on what it was--basically it's what 21st Century Meccano _ought_ to be and adds on top of that a very capable microcontroller. But instead of coming out and _saying_ that and making it clear that anybody from a 6 year old to an electrical engineering grad student could do interesting stuff with it, they got wrapped up in pushing it for a robotics competition and marginalized it.

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When I first saw it in the store, I was quite interested, but looking at the box, I really couldn't tell much of anything about its real ability. The part that was most important to me was the microcontroller and I couldn't tell anything from looking at the box. Could I program it? How flexible was it? Was the programming limited to some stupid flow charting for a 6 year old or could you do something real with it? How much memory did it have? How fast was it? Could I easily use it to control non Vex hardware?
And the box had no photographs of what the hardware really looked like or what you could build with it. Instead, it was just covered with those graphics that left me feeling it was hiding something. Was the transmitter just a cheap plastic toy like you get with most the cheap R/C toys at Radio Shack - I had to assume it was. I was quite surprised when I finally saw the real Vex transmitter and found out it's true quality.
At $300, these questions I couldn't answer by looking at the box made it too risky for an impulse buy - even though it is something I would probably have bought for $300 if I had only known it's full features and quality. The packaging made it look too much like a toy for 6th graders than something you could do some fun hobby engineering with.
What I also found in Radio Shack was the Boe-Bot kit. Not only was it much cheaper, but it was also clear from the box that it was a real engineering kit and not just a toy. So I bought that instead. I didn't understand what the Vex was really about until this 1/2 price sale started. And now I have a lot of the hardware.
I think Radio Shack made the mistake of trying to market the vex as a toy for kids - where it had little hope because of it's high cost (around $400 once you add even a small assortment of extra parts like the batteries and charger and a few sensors). Unless they could have gotten enough interest going in Vex competitions where the hardware was being purchased by sponsors for kids, they weren't going to sell them. Had they marketed it more like the Boe-Bot as a true engineering learning product / robot hobby product they might have sold more. They should have had a working Vex robot in each store for people to see and play with as well. The box, though it was nice, didn't do the product justice.
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"Rat Shack" was the one who did the product placement in the movie...before "it hit the fan".
Been in a "new and improved" store yet?
Kind of sad...they used to get alot of my money when they carried items that a science minded kid wanted..
Who is their replacement for those of us who have science for a hobby?
Any recommendations?
TMT
J. Clarke wrote:

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The internet. Ebay. Google. Amazon. McMaster Carr.

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I'd say for kids and science, good choices are Scientifics (who bought out Edmund Scientific), Timberdoodle, Kelvin, and most any of the outfits specializing in home school curriculum.
RadioShack was basically good for the impulse buy, but even things like the electronics experimenter's kits are cheaper/better at places like Ramsey.
I *will* be said when RS is no longer there for the quickie trip to get some resistor I desperately need (though Frys and other retailers now have this stock, and more), but other than that, they won't be much missed. I can't see they've been relevent for the last 5-7 years.
-- Gordon
Wayne Lundberg wrote:

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to get

now
much
In my recent experience here in the Atlanta area only the close-out stores even carry that stuff! The ones in the malls just seem to be continuing to change into CellPhone & Toy Shack. Rats !
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Gordon McComb wrote:

I find that they're handy for the occasional weird battery, but their stock of weird batteries has been declining.

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Yeah. Cute ending but the rest could just be cut out and replaced with the trailer. :)

The funny part is that it shows up in a scene that was a flash back from current times to their elementary school days - as if VEX was around 10 or 20 years ago!
Both my kids noticed it right away and said "Dad Look, it's your robot!".
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