Vex versus Boebot

Currently Radio Shack is discounting both the Vex Robotics line and the BoeBot that they carry.
Which has the greatest potential for expansion?
Do the software tools work for both?
Any links to where these kits and their potential are discussed in DETAIL?
If you were going to buy ONE..which would you buy and why?
If you were going to buy several for a group..which would you buy and why?
Thanks for any advice.
TMT
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I have had several Basic Stamp kits including the BoeBot, and had the Vex kit for a short while. I took the Vex kit back because although it uses servos, they are designed to work with the square Vex axles, etc. Also, once you build the rover described in the kit, you have used up all the components ! So you'd need to buy yet more Vex parts to expand the kit using just Vex & VexLabs parts. VexLabs.com however has some VERY cool pneumatic cyclinders and other neat gadgets to add on!
Now if you can get the Vex kit at a good enough discount, you will get a nice remote control transmitter, receiver, and battery pack. Which would make a nice addition to a "hacked" BoeBot if you're willing to kludge some connectors to fit the receiver to standard servos and/or the Stamp computer. You can also buy a 7.2v RC battery pack & Charger at ToysRUs that works fine with the Vex kit at about $10 cheaper than the Vex branded power pack.
The Vex platform is larger. The BoeBot is fairly small. The Vex can be reconfigured endlessly with more Vex or 3rd party parts. So can the BoeBot, but the chasis is pretty much single purpose. However, for a long time I used just the BOE and stamp in a completely different project & left the BoeBot chasis in the box.

No. But I'd bet there are some being hacked right now for the Vex. Otherwise you need to get a (formerly $99) programming kit to really do anything constructive with the Vex microcontroller.
With appropriate connectors, you could use the Vex computer on a BoeBot chasis & vice/versa.

If I wanted mostly Remote Controlled product, I'd go with the Vex kit. If I cared more about programming and adding sensors, I'd go with the BoeBot.
You might also consider getting some of the Vex sensors and hacking them to work with the stamp. The Ultrasonic sensor is pretty cheap!

It would depend on the goals of the group. If I had funds to buy several discounted add-on kits for the Vex, I would go that route. Otherwise, I would get several BoeBots because it comes with the programming cable and software, too.
The Vex has some very nice wheels, the BoeBot only has the 2. The Vex has the transmitter & receiver and 3 motors, the Boebot only has 2 servos. I could really see some of the parts from Vexlabs.com being used with a BoeBot to create something amazing!
Hope that helps some ! JCD
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pogo wrote:

But the price, man, the price! Makes playing very expensive.
For a small bot, synringes like this one work surprisingly pretty well:
http://www.allelectronics.com/cgi-bin/item/SYR-1/search/20_CC_PLASTIC_SYRINGE_.html
Not as cool looking as stainless steel, but if you need that, surplus like C&H has it for a lot less. Just gotta be patient and wait for the small stuff, which is gobbled up by the special effects folks in the LA area:
http://www.aaaim.com/u/web/aaaimc/cgi-local/shop991/shop.pl/SID72515680/page=HYCY.htm
-- Gordon
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"Gordon McComb" wrote:

I couldn't agree more! Painful!

http://www.aaaim.com/u/web/aaaimc/cgi-local/shop991/shop.pl/SID72515680/page=HYCY.htm
Awwwww man! Just when I thought I had everything I need ... dang ! Out comes the credit card ...
Which reminds me ... I once got some neato samples of some air cylinders a looooooong time ago just for the asking. I'll bet TooManyTools could swing the same kinda deal if he's willing to do some work researching gizmos and stating that it's for educational use !
JCD
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pogo wrote:

If you're ever in Pasadena you have to check out these guys in person. They have more in their store than they list on their Web site. They seem to have more of this stuff than most surplus outfits, and lots of it is new (but surplus). I always figured it was because they serviced the Hollywood film community, who -- at least in the heyday of mechanical visual effects -- used lots of pneumatics.
-- Gordon
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I sure will ! Now that I've been to the web site again it seems like I had one of their catalogs a couple of years ago.
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http://vexlabs.com/ --------------------------> great extra and neato parts ! http://eaglevex.syraweb.org/VexKit.htm ------> Detail on the Vex kit(s)
http://www.generation5.org/content/2000/boebot.asp -----> review of BoeBot
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Too_Many_Tools wrote:

Sad but true.

Actually I think the Boebot does, because it uses standard R/C servos with Futaba splines. The Vex uses a proprietary servo that connects only to its own wheels or sprockets (without additional work on your part).

No.
Vexlabs.com for the Vex, Parallax.com for the Boebot. Parallax has a very active user forum for both the Boebot, and the BASIC Stamp in general.

Boebot.

Both. The group can take turns playing with each one, as they each have their advantages.
-- Gordon
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Thanks for the feedback guys....it is appreciated.
A few more questions...
1) From what I have seen (I have just started looking at these kits) it would seem that the Vex is the more "closed" system. While one can modify the mechanical components, it would seem that the computer/radio system is proprietory...correct?
2) Can the Vex radio control be used with the Boebot?
3) In relation to the software tools, it sounds like that the tools are NOT exchangable..correct? Why not? I would like to get a better feeling for what compilers are used with each kit also.
4) Which robot has the most software routines available for it?
5) The track system for the Vex...how durable is it?
My first impressions is that the Vex is more of a turnkey system with greater entry cost to reach the same programming functionality as the Boebot. The Boebot seems to be less the mechanical platform and I have yet to see a remote control system for it.
I also have concerns with the long term support of Vex components. While the feeding frenzy at Radio Shack is good for now for those who wish to buy components, if Vex is being fazed out it may also mean that there will be no more Vex specific components in the future. If you don't have adequate mechanical support, designing a robot around a single source and discountined component line can be a shortsighted route to take.
Finally (and I do not want this to be taken as bashing those who have developed these systems...their work is admirable) as I review these kits I just can't shake the feeling that these kits really don't offer a lot of value for the money being spent.. Now I am known as a world class recycler of technology (read scounger ;<) ) with access to tools and material that I can use to build robotic systems. I am wondering if I should spend the money I would spend on the Vex/Boebot systems on items like a good complier or on more eleborate electronics. I would like to try to parallel any development to use preexisting software libraries of a popular system to avoid having to reinvent the wheel.
Your thoughts?
Thanks for any suggestions you might have to offer.
TMT
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Too_Many_Tools wrote:

Value is perceived. If you honestly don't see the value in either of these starter kits for $99 or $149, then I suspect neither is for you.
Have you built and/or programming any robots yet?
-- Gordon
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You are right Gordon that value is perceived.
For me the value is in the electronics/software integration that the different kits offer...the mechanical aspects of the kits is insignificant in comparsion to the time/effort that will be spent working on the software once a downselect to a kit is chosen.
Yes, I have built and programmed for many years...from scratch. While being aware of the existence of these kits I had not looked at them in depth until now. My interest in them now is because someone else has asked me of my opinion and I asking experts like yourself for your assessment. I have spent hours researching sites on these systems but again the opinions of yourself and JCD carry alot of weight with me.
Again thanks for the advice.
TMT
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See mine and Gordon's earlier comments about the servos.
Regarding the computer & radio, they use connectors that do not readily fit the standard Tower Hobbies servos I use for tinkering.
The radio, however, is a good one! So is the receiver and microprocessor. The microprocessor is Pic 18F-something-or-other. I asked Microchip if I could use any other software package to work on the Radio Shack Vex and they said no. However, I do recall somewhere on the web reading of someone who had hacked or worked out how to use non-Radio Shack s'ware to work with the Vex.

The BoeBot servo connectors are not compaitble with the Vex controller and receiver, but it is a mechanical issue. You could use some jumpers and connect everything electrically just fine. A few years ago I bought a radio/receiver kit on eBay and connected it up to my homemade Boebot ( A BOE board/stamp built on a computer CD chasis ) and it worked fine. The point is that yes you could use the Vex radio/receiver with the Boebot, but it would require maybe drilling some holes or adding hardware to mount it. And you would need to know what you were doing - how to connect the receiver wires to the correct Basic Stamp inputs, etc.

If you mean "interchangeable", then no. See earlier comments.
You need to do the research yourself for compilers, etc.
The BOE on the Boebot does not use a compiler. That's why the processor it uses is called a BASIC Stamp. You create the program with a text editor and download it to the Stamp. The Stamp then interprets the software you wrote. The text editor that comes with the Stamp is specialized to make downloading and debugging easier than if you just used a terminal program to download code you wrote with Notepad.
The Vex uses a Microchip PIC which does require a compiler that comes in the $99 programming kit.

This is like comparing apples and oranges. I would say the BoeBot has tons more stuff to be found on the web simply because it has been around longer.
Well, at this point, I am just tired of typing, so I will wind this down ...
Check out the Vex related posts here: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/ You should find some of the answers to many of your questions there.
I will end by saying that it sounds to me like you should invest in a BoeBot kit from Parallax. They even sell refurbished ones on eBay from time to time for a great bargain.What this typically means is that the kit has been returned and they just can't sell it as new. There are several books on programming a Basic Stamp. You can find references on the net doing everything from measuring a rain gauge to controlling home appliances using a Stamp. Parallax has some excellent "courses" that come complete with text, parts, stamps, the whole 9 yards !
If you get the full blown Boe kit, you can get exposure to a dab of everything --- robotics, a few sensors, and programming the Stamp. From there you will get a better feel for what is available in this wide wonderful world of robotics and will have a better point of reference for your future questions.
Since my first robot, I have been able to recycle my cash by reselling the kit back on eBay and recover a portion of expenditure to use on another robotic project ! To that end, I would say that the Parallax kits might hold their purchase value better than the Vex kits until the Vex kits get stabilized. On the other hand, you could build your own BoeBot by getting one of the Stamp programming packages, a couple of servos and some peanut butter jar lids. Like I said earlier I used a CD chasis for my Boebot "wannabe". I also sold the entire thing on eBay for dang near what a full Boebot kit costs !
Hope that helps ! JCD
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JCD, thanks for the details....it is appreciated.
I understand the details with the compiler versus the interpreted environment....I had assumed that both systems used compilers...I overlooked the reference to the Basic Stamp.
I too was wondering if the Vex radio link could be linked to the Boebot...I cannot find any reference to it actually having been done yet and I don't have time to reverse engineer the data stream myself...is anyone working on this?
Are there any published specs for the Vex electronics brick? Without an open architecture available I would expect little opportunity for hardware expansion from what is already available.
TMT
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I have a Boe, as well as a few other bots, but stayed clear of Vex, mainly due to cost. However, when it went on sale for 50% off, I couldn't resist and picked up a starter kit. In short, I've been impressed. I've since gone back and picked up a bunch of extras. I think the starter kit is definitely worth $150, even if you only use it for parts on all your other bots. But, it's also fun to mess with as the kit was meant to be used. I figure if I tire of it as a kit, I'll get use out of all the parts for many years. In the starter kit, the radio, microcontroller, and servos are easily worth the $150. All the other gadgets are icing on the cake.
Win
On 4/7/06 1:54 PM, in article snipped-for-privacy@i40g2000cwc.googlegroups.com, "Too_Many_Tools"

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Win Heagy wrote:

One neat thing about Vex is that the hole spacings on the structural parts are the same as for Meccano--in a sense Vex is Meccano that died and went to heaven.

--
--John
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Good point about the Meccano relationship.

mechanical expansion route if you have alternative sources of parts. At this point, I have yet to see any assurance from Vex that they will be still around to support their product once Radio Shack ends its distribution (which is the latest rumor). Hopefully they will be able to convince others to carry their product line.
Does anyone else have any opinions on the Vex versus Boebot subject..I am still looking for input.
Thanks
TMT
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    --Kewl wheels in the Vex kit, but I plan to put 'em on my BOE bot, because the system has *much* better documentation and many tutorials that will take you well beyond the basics. Not sure about the futur of Vex, but Parallax seems to be expanding its own line of kits and available processors. I like the pneumatics with the Vex, but as others have stated it's possible to get better stuff cheaper elsewhere..
--
"Steamboat Ed" Haas : I'll have the roast duck
Hacking the Trailing Edge! : with the mango salsa...
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A question for the group.
The Vex spocket and gear kit has plastic gears and chain....are these Vex specific or are they sourced from a third party?
Also, has anyone reverse engineered the sensors to be able to use them on other robot systems? In particular I am thinking of the ultrasonic, rotational and light sensors.
Finally, how good of a value are Vex wheels in comparsion to other offerings in the surplus world?
Thanks
TMT
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