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Which Robotics Kit Should I Use? VEX Edition

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VEXiq-109Now more than ever, robotics educators are faced with the important question of which kit they should purchase and use. This key question has been made even more intricate in the 2013-2014 school year due to the addition of the new robotics kits, VEX IQ kits. This article will help break down each VEX kit, their capabilities and target audiences, and allow you, the educator, to make an informed decision on which kit is best for your particular classroom.

The VEX IQ system is the brand-new robotics system from Innovation First International (IFI for short, makers of the VEX Robotics Design System). The VEX IQ can be used with any of the all-new hardware and sensors, including a unique plastic snap-fit structural system.

  • Sensors include a gyroscope, color sensor, potentiometer, touch LED, and ultrasonic sensor.
  • The base kits (either Sensor or Controller kits) are provided with over 650 structural components, 4 plug-and-play ‘smart motors’, at least 2 touch sensors (or more, depending on kit), and the VEX IQ microcontroller (more information on all available kits can be found here).
  • The IQ contains 12 smart ports that can be used to control either analog sensors, digital sensors, or servos/motors; the ports are non-typed and can be used to control any piece of VEX IQ compatible hardware that is plugged into it.
  • It also includes a micro-USB port for IQ-to-computer communication and a ‘tether’ port for direct connections to an VEX IQ Controller.
  • Debugging and programming information can be displayed on the backlit LCD information to increase ease-of-use in real time.
  • Wireless communication between the VEX IQ microcontroller and a VEX IQ controller is provided via a set of 900 MHz radio adapters.
  • The VEX IQ system will be fully legal in the new VEX IQ Challenge (designed specifically for the VEX IQ system), for students ages 8-14.
  • Recommended use: Middle School.

cortex-robotOne of the mainstays of the educational robotics world is the VEX Cortex platform. Originally released in 2010 by IFI, the Cortex can be used with the VEX Robotics Design System’s hardware and sensors.

  • Includes over 300 metal structural parts, 4 powerful DC motors, the VEX Cortex microcontroller, and a wide variety of fasteners, gears, and other miscellaneous hardware.
  • Sensors include touch sensors, an ultrasonic sensor, integrated motor encoders, line following sensors, and a potentiometer; additional sensors are available outside of the base kits.
  • Wireless communication between a VEX Cortex and a VEXNet Joystick Controller is possible by using the 802.11b/g VEXNet USB Adapter Keys.
  • The VEX Cortex system can be used in the VEX Robotics Challenge (Middle, High School, and College divisions).
  • Recommended use: advanced Middle School, High School or College.

We understand that choosing a robotics kit is a tough decision. The number one factor in determining which kit is right for you is the students; depending on the skill level of the students, it may be better to challenge them with a more advanced kit (VEX Cortex) or they may prefer to learn with a beginner kit to get them started (VEX IQ.) No matter which kit you decide to use, though, you can rest easy knowing ROBOTC will fully support all of these platforms.

 

Written by John Watson

August 27th, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Controlling Pneumatic Actuators in ROBOTC

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Pneumatic Actuators translate the force of compressed air into fast and powerful motion. In the VEX Robotics System, all pneumatic actuators create linear (in-and-out) motion, although rotary actuators do exist. The compressed air that powers the actuators is stored in a reservoir tank; differences in air pressure between the actuators and tank cause the actuators to move in and out.

The flow of air between the tank and the actuators (directly related to the differences in air pressure)  is controlled by a small switch, called an electromagnetic solenoid, which connects to the VEX PIC or Cortex using a standard 3-pin wire. It’s a common misconception that, since the solenoid enables motion, its 3-pin wire should plug into one of the MOTOR ports on the microcontroller. Actually, a solenoid is what’s considered a “Digital Output”, and should be plugged into one of the DIGITAL ports on the Cortex, or ANALOG/DIGITAL ports on the PIC.

To configure the solenoid in ROBOTC, go to the Motors and Sensors Setup menu, and select “Digital Out” as the sensor type.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, in ROBOTC, when you want to activate the pneumatic actuator controlled by the solenoid, you set its value equal to “1″. To deactivate it, set its value equal to “0″. In the sample code below, the remote control buttons are used to activate and deactivate the pneumatic actuator.

#pragma config(Sensor, dgtl7,  solenoid,            sensorDigitalOut)
//*!!Code automatically generated by ‘ROBOTC’ configuration wizard               !!*//

task main()
{
while(true)                   // Loop Forever
{
if(vexRT[Btn6U] == 1)           // If button 6U (upper right shoulder button) is pressed:
{
SensorValue[solenoid] = 1;  // …activate the solenoid.
}
else // If button 6U (upper right shoulder button) is  NOT pressed:
{
SensorValue[solenoid] = 0;  // ..deactivate the solenoid.
}
}
}

For more information on using pneumatic actuators, check out our Pneumatics lesson from the VEX 2.0 Curriculum.

Written by Jesse Flot

November 11th, 2010 at 4:12 pm

FREE ROBOTC Webinar available for viewing!

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Hi everyone!

Our very own VEX expert, Jesse Flot, has just recently recorded a webinar to help those using the CORTEX platform. Starting yesterday (Sept. 8th), Jesse will be recording weekly webinars (for 6 weeks) to help those who are looking for resources when working with the CORTEX system.

Jump to the Webinars area to view it

Please note that this webinar epsiode is geared towards the BEST competition, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t help you out.

The way that the webinars will be created is Jesse will take questions from the CORTEX Competition forum, and use those topics to record a webinar.

If you wish to submit a topic to talk about, please log onto the forum and post a topic!

Written by Vu Nguyen

September 9th, 2010 at 11:05 am

Posted in General News,VEX

Tagged with , , ,

ROBOTC for Cortex and PIC 2.25 released!

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The Robotics Academy is happy to announce the release of ROBOTC for Cortex 2.25.

We’ve made lots of changes in ROBOTC from 2.20 to 2.25. We’re continuing to improve ROBOTC with the Cortex system. This new version is fully compatible with the VEX Cortex and the VEX PIC systems, along with the VEXnet upgrade system for the VEX PIC.

Click here to download the latest version

Firmware Downloader Built-In: Firmware Download for ROBOTC Firmware, Cortex Master Firmware and VEXnet Joystick Firmware built into ROBOTC now!

Download Method Chooser: Easier to choose how you want to download your program. Always defaults to VEXnet and USB, but you can manually choose to disable VEXnet and download over USB only.

Quick Preferences: This allows you to set key preferences with only the click of a button. Make ROBOTC work the way you want it to!

Other New Features and Bug Fixes:

  1. Build is able to program both PIC and Cortex platforms successfully.
  2. “Auto save” before compile was broken.
  3. “Previous Platform Type” was not being correctly saved into Windows Registry.
  4. Add code to handle “Device Removal” and “Device Acquire” without long hangs of application.
  5. Added a flag to Preferences -> Internal” to indicate whether firmware downloading should be read verified.
  6. Fix “Priority” column in “Task Status” debugger pane. It was not properly displaying.
  7. Move “Debug Stream” from Super-User to “Expert” menu.
  8. Add a 250 millisecond delay after telling Cortex to enter download mode before attempting the autobaud sequence.
  9. VEX Cortex Integrated Master Firmware Loader inside of ROBOTC.
  10. Add support for run-time strings in the VEX LCD display routines.
  11. Fix conlict between Digital pin 4 and 10. They both share the same external interrupt index and it was possible to hang the Cortex. Fix makes both pins work correctly — previously pin 10 was not working — for external interrupts. But the hardware prevents supporting sensors that require external interrupts on both pins at once.

Written by Vu Nguyen

September 2nd, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Releases,VEX

Tagged with , ,

IMPORTANT UPDATE: ROBOTC for Cortex & PIC version 2.20.1 Beta

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Important update!

We have just released another update to ROBOTC for Cortex & PIC. This release is required to use Cortex motor ports 1 or 10. In earlier versions,  you may encounter a firmware bug that can cause the motor control circuits to overheat and burn out.

Click here to go to the download page – ROBOTC for Cortex & PIC

Cortex Microprocessor

Enhancements in this release include:

  1. Support for direct wired USB cable between PC and  VEX Cortex for downloading user programs and debugging added.
  2. Support for Debugger “Debug Stream” window added. User programs can easily write (“print”) to a text window on the PC.
  3. Faster firmware downloading. It now takes just 10 to 15 seconds. User programs download in just one or two seconds.
  4. Fix control of H-bridges for motors 1 and 10 to prevent “shoot through” and the potential for internal short circuits.
  5. A few minor bugs fixed in the compiler.

Written by Vu Nguyen

July 1st, 2010 at 9:05 am

Posted in General News,VEX

Tagged with ,

Want to be in the loop? Sign up to our mailing list!

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Hello fellow ROBOTC fans!

I just created a ROBOTC Mailing list for those of you who like to be in the “in” crowd. :)

Just go to www.robotc.net and type in your Name and Email address on the right side. Subscribe by clicking the “Subscribe” button, unsubscribe by clicking the “unsubscribe” button.

I’ll update you on when a new release or beta version is out. Or if any important information regarding ROBOTC needs to be announced.

Happy programming!

Written by Vu Nguyen

June 30th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Posted in FTC,General News,NXT,VEX

Tagged with , , ,

FREE Download: ROBOTC for Cortex BETA 2.16 available

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Hi again,

ROBOTC for Cortex BETA 2.16 has just been uploaded to the servers. Click here to download it!

Here are the changes:

  • Trial extended to 9/31/2010 – Yay!
  • More accurate feedback from the Accelerometer in the game controller
  • Fixes an issue where ROBOTC was overloading the 2-wire H-Bridge motor ports when switching the from forward to reverse directions.
  • Various bug fixes

Hope you enjoy it!

By the way, Cortex hardware is now available for Pre-Order at the Robomatter Robotics Education store.
Be the first to get it!

New Cortex Hardware available for pre-order

Written by Vu Nguyen

May 24th, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Posted in General News,Releases,VEX

Tagged with , ,

ROBOTC 2.x Network Drivers have been updated (All platforms)

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Hi all,

Just letting you know that the Network Driver files have been updated for all platforms (NXT & VEX). This is  for those of you who are in charge of installing ROBOTC onto workstations that run from a centralized network location.

For single user license users who run from their personal laptops/computers, this doesn’t apply to you so don’t worry about downloading them. In fact, I’d advise you not to! :)

Thanks to all for continuing to support us

Written by Vu Nguyen

April 26th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Posted in General News,NXT,Releases,VEX

Tagged with , ,

ROBOTC 2.0.2 Released for both NXT and VEX

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ROBOTC 2.0.2 is available for both NXT and VEX versions. Go here for the links:

Download ROBOTC for NXT |   Download ROBOTC for VEX

NEW FEATURE: Deactivate Licenses! See image below on how to deactivate a license.

deactivate

Changelog for ROBOTC for Mindstorms 2.0.2:

  • ROBOTC for MINDSTORMS 2.0.2 is a maintenance release for bug fixes and small functionality changes.
  • New features in ROBOTC for MINDSTORMS 2.0.2
    • Added the Help Menu is a new option to deactivate ROBOTC. This will return your license and allow you to activate ROBOTC on another computer. This requires internet connectivity to return a license.
  • Bug Fixes in ROBOTC for MINDSTORMS 2.0.2:
    • Access to long (and float) struct elements in a call by reference struct procedure parameter would generate incorrect code.
    • Unary operator ‘-’ was incorrectly applied to following “expression” rather than following “factor”.
    • Possible Compile and Download Issues have been resolved. ROBOTC now forces a recompile at every download.

Changelog for ROBOTC for IFI 2.0.2:

  • New features in ROBOTC for IFI 2.0.2
    • Added the Help Menu is a new option to deactivate ROBOTC. This will return your license and allow you to activate ROBOTC on another computer. This requires internet connectivity to return a license.
    • Completely refreshed user interface – Dockable status and debugger windows.
    • New multi-document interface allows multiple programs to be opened at once – similar to web browsing tabs.
    • VEXnet support for VEX 0.5 systems.
    • Built-in software competition switch is available under the Debugger for testing competition code with VEXnet.
    • VRC Competition Templates are now accessable under the “File – New” menu.
    • VRC Competition Template for “Drivers Skill” challenge has been added.
    • Improved Help Documentation – Sample usage of every ROBOTC function now included!
    • Updated Sample Programs – Over 70 sample programs to show you how to do everything with your VEX controller.
    • No Uninstall Needed – ROBOTC will detect old version of ROBOTC for IFI and automatically uninstall when a new version is being installed.
  • Bug Fixes in ROBOTC for IFI 2.0.2:
    • VEXnet Competition debugger window has been fixed. You can now test all modes of competition.
    • VEX Master Firmware download issues have been solved. A failed master firmware download will no longer require IFI loader to fix.
    • Problem with motor ports behaving randomly/running at full speed after new firmware is loaded has been fixed.
    • VEX Master Firmware has ben upgraded to Version V10 – All users must upgrade to Master V10.
    • ROBOTC VEX Firmware has been upgraded to Version to 7.97 – All users must upgrade to User Firmware 7.97.

As usual, remember to uninstall previous versions before installing the newest version! Upgrades are available to customers who have already purchased ROBOTC and have  an activated version of ROBOTC on their PC. You will have to re-enter your License Information when upgrading from 1.x to 2.x.

Written by Vu Nguyen

April 2nd, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Posted in General News,Releases

Tagged with , ,

Bonjour! French forums have been added

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We have added a new category to the ROBOTC forums: “French forums”. There are two sections, the “ROBOTC pour Mindstorms” and “ROBOTC pour IFI VEX” which will compose of the appropriate questions.

Thankfully, Jerome Laplace of Generation Robots (our Distributors from France) is giving us his time to answer your questions in French. Please give him a warm welcome if you get a chance. Thanks so much Jerome!

http://www.robotc.net/forums/viewforum.php?f=48

French Translation:

Nous avons ajouté une nouvelle catégorie aux forums ROBOTC intitulée
"Forum en français". Cette catégorie est composée de deux sections "ROBOTC pour
Mindstorms" et "RobotC pour IFI VEX" destinée à recevoir les questions appropriées. 

Heureusement, Jérôme Laplace, de Génération Robots, notre revendeur basé en France,
a accepté de dédier de son temps pour répondre à vos questions en français.
Nous vous remercions de lui faire votre meilleur accueil. Merci beaucoup Jérôme !

http://www.robotc.net/forums/viewforum.php?f=48

Written by Vu Nguyen

March 29th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Posted in General News,NXT,VEX

Tagged with , ,