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
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
Thanks for any advice.
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 &
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
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 !
But the price, man, the price! Makes playing very expensive.
For a small bot, synringes like this one work surprisingly pretty well:
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
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
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 !
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.
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
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).
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
Both. The group can take turns playing with each one, as they each have
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.
Thanks for any suggestions you might have to offer.
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.
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
The Vex uses a Microchip PIC which does require a compiler that comes in the $99
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
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, 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.
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.
On 4/7/06 1:54 PM, in article
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.
--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...
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?
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