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Exploring path options post FLL (NXT) for neighborhood team 
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Post Exploring path options post FLL (NXT) for neighborhood team
New forum member, non programmer, FLL coach for three years, we leverage NXT-G about 60%. No doubt it is more robust than this coach and team can exploit. But, when you age out you have to go to VEX or FTC. Not sure what direction to go, not sure what the kids want to do.

So, coach here with some questions.

Given I have a fair amount of $$$ tied up in NXT/Mindstorms it appeals to me to explore RobotC to enable us to utilize our existing NXT investment. Further, should we want to blow the dust off some old PIC/VEX equipment that I am aware of, we could port our knowledge of RobotC we develop using our NXT controller over to the VEX hardware should there be the interest. I suspect the driver control option might ignite some renewed interest. I am an unemployed mentor and I don't have the means to invest in the kids the way I used to with NXT/Mindstorms.

BUT:

From what I read, RobotC for NXT is not "compatible" with RobotC for PIC/CORTEX. At first I thought this was chip driven. But, on further investigation, sensors are different, motors are different. Likely enough things are different that the two versions must be offered independently. That of course has $$$ implication as well. Given my current understanding, I wonder if it would not be best to start with PIC/RobotC and skip having the kids replicate their NXT-G program for Food Factor using RobotC. This was my strategy to get their/my feet wet in a C based language. Comments?

Second, the whole PIC/CORTEX issue. I guess one could say it is out of scope of this forum and is better asked on the VEX forum. But, given the above background, does anyone have any advice around starting with the less convenient PIC interface vs. the more user friendly CORTEX? Due to the cost savings, I would figure out how to make PIC work. The kids however might not be as accommodating. As coach/mentor, I am trying to figure out the best migration path to keep the flame alive post our FLL State Championship.

Thanks in advance. If there are other posts addressing this likely common quandary, my apologies. I could not find it.

JD


Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:29 pm
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Post Re: Exploring path options post FLL (NXT) for neighborhood t
I've been using the PIC for 3 years, and the Cortex ever since it came out. I honestly think that the PIC is much easier to get started with. The cortex has more processing power and memory, sure, but that's not a vital part of getting into VEX level programming. I know even very experienced cortex users who spend hours getting it to work. Getting VEXNet to set up and working is a real pain in the butt when it breaks. I not sure what you mean by friendly user interface. The PIC is very easy to set up by comparison. As for ROBOTC, you have more options with the cortex, like string support, more multitasking ability, and such things like that than with the PIC. If you want to compete in VEX competitions however, you'll need to get a cortex. The PIC isn't really supported at all anymore at tournaments.

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Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:54 pm
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Post Re: Exploring path options post FLL (NXT) for neighborhood t
Fair enough on the PIC vs CORTEX interface. I was given second hand info by our fledgling HS team who went to their first competition this weekend....and was 3rd from last. Read, HS is only just wrapping their head around VEX again after putting all their effort into getting a robust FRC team. Now, the FRC team is working on reaching the younger set to help develop the team as it were. I'm way upstream in FLL/NXT-G trying to figure out what to do.

Please however don't skip over my RobotC related question as to which flavor (NXT or PIC/CORTEX) should be explored first given my situation. Funny, more insight on the hardware than the application and I thought that was the less relevant question. Keep feeding me info. I see the FLL guys have a great opportunity to showcase their autonomous skills while the FRC types have the teleOp skills. I hope we can meld them together with VEX but RobotC is SOOOOO different than NXT-G. I fear my FLL guys if asked to change hardware and SW at the same time might bag it.


Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:21 pm
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Post Re: Exploring path options post FLL (NXT) for neighborhood t
Programming in ROBOTC for NXT and ROBOTC for Pic/Cortex is almost exactly identical, save for a few minor details. If you're saying that using ROBOTC to make the NXT robots do the same thing that they were doing with NXT-G will make the transition easier, well, I don't think that it will have too much of an effect. Building a Vex robot to mimic the same functionality as the robots that you ran with NXT-G should help ease the transition just as well.

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Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:26 pm
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Post Re: Exploring path options post FLL (NXT) for neighborhood t
Hiya John,

The only problem with the PIC is that it's becoming obsolete now. Investing in PIC is akin to buying new RCXs. The platform is kept around for legacy reasons now, much how the RCX was supported by ROBOTC until recently. Don't expect the PIC to be around for much longer.

The new ROBOTC3 has a thing called "Natural Language" which allows students to ease into the whole C programming thing. It gives you friendly commands that allow you to do a variety of things. You can find out more here: [LINK].

I have both a Cortex and (a few) NXTs and I can't say it's all that much different in terms of programming, nothing that is so earth shatteringly different that it gave me much pause for thought. Most of the code is made up of stuff the robot does to figure out what to do next. I dare say 5% is reading sensors, 5% is controlling the motors and 90% is code for figuring out what to do next. So at worst, you have 10% of your code that is *slightly* different between platform, that's all. Kids are smart and they'll have that figured out in no time.

I'd say use the NXTs for now to build cool robots, use the Natural Language mode of ROBOTC to ease them into C and when they're ready and look like they're good to move to the next level, invest in some Cortex hardware, that platform isn't going anywhere for a while.

Regards,
Xander

PS, John, I'll send you and out of band mail as well :)

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Tue Dec 06, 2011 2:52 am
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