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Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which? 
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Post Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
Hi there, I'm new to this whole robotics stuff - since recently I've only ever heard of mindstorms and nothing else, but now I've discovered Vex too.

Thinking about getting some robotics kit, but not sure which.
Mindstorms seems well-used but on the other hand I heard it is very limited in what you can do with it, plus the Motors and parts seem to cost a lot (the ones you can buy individually).

Then there is VexIQ, very interesting to me. On the plus side it seems easy to use and is comparably cheap. Not sure about its limitations though, but I think it has less than Mindstorms from what i read?
And there is Vex, a bit pricier but seems to have less limitations than VexIQ (does it?), also allowing EasyC and gcc and stuff (not having had a huge problem with RobotC yet but it's nice to have options). On the downside, the only "starter kit" is a robot-kit which always make me feel like I can only build that one robot with it and for lots of other robots I lack parts and have to buy them extra (is that true?).
Also the parts seem to be super-expensive. 40 Euros for some pieces of metal... and I suck at screwing xD (well maybe I can learn that)

So to sum-up and make it easier for people to answer:
a) How limited is Mindstorms actually compared to VexIQ/Vex?
b) How limited is VexIQ compared to Vex?
c) The Vex Robot Starter Kit - does it give me enough parts to build a good number of robots?
d) Should I even get Vex given that I suck at screwing? (Though I bet that would get better with some practice... I almost never put any screws into anything)
e) Could I possibly get the Vex Cortex + the Vex Sensor and Motor Parts but use the Structural Parts (like beams etc) from VexIQ? Or does that not fit then..

and some bonus questions:
f) What exactly is TETRIX? It's some "extension parts" for Mindstorms from what I've seen?
g) Any other robotics kits I should look into?


Thu Dec 26, 2013 6:26 am
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
Since I have experience with all three platforms (albeit mostly with MINDSTORMS, EV3 and NXT), I will try to answer your questions

a) How limited is Mindstorms actually compared to VexIQ/Vex?
It isn't limited, it's different. If you're talking about motor ports, then yes, the NXT and EV3 have only 3 and 4 motor ports respectively. However, it is trivial to add motor multiplexers and increase that number significantly. If you're talking about sensor ports, again, you can increase them with multiplexers. Where the NXT and EV3 really excel is their very large 3rd party sensors selection. Whereas with the VEX platform (Cortex and IQ), you are limited to what IFI (the company behind VEX) has produced. Mind you, the IQ and Cortex platforms have a large variety of sensors available, but it's not nearly as expansive as the selection for the MINDSTORMS platforms. A massive pro of the MINDSTORMS platform is the easy with which you can build. The number of different building elements available to you using Technic LEGO vastly outnumbers that of both VEX IQ and Cortex.
What I like about VEX Cortex is how sturdy the constructions are. It's metal, so a lot less flexible than plastic parts. I really like the VEX Cortex motors with the I2C encoders (not a fan of the old analogue ones). Cortex is great if you have a desire to build very large robots. Keep in mind that it will take a significant amount of parts to so. Also, you may need to modify beams to make them fit and by that I mean you will need a hacksaw :)
I just received two VEX IQ Super Kits a few weeks ago and so my experience with them is a little limited. However, what I have done with it so far, I have liked. I love the 12 multifunctional ports that can be configured to be either motor or sensor ports. The back light on the screen is amazing, I really wish LEGO had added that to the EV3. I think the IQ has nice pieces but lacks the large selection that LEGO has. I think this is something that will come with time, or perhaps I just need to fork out the cash for some addon kits.

b) How limited is VexIQ compared to Vex?
VEX IQ is not made for large scale robots like VEX Cortex. The parts are plastic and way too flexible to make large scale things like with the Cortex. In terms of sensor and motor ports, the Cortex has more but I am not sure you'll use the all. It's hard to program something with a LOT of sensors.

c) The Vex Robot Starter Kit - does it give me enough parts to build a good number of robots?
Well, if I were you, spend the extra bit of cash and get the Super Kit, you get a LOT for you money and you can make quite a few things with it.

d) Should I even get Vex given that I suck at screwing? (Though I bet that would get better with some practice... I almost never put any screws into anything)
If you're uncomfortable with that then go for either MINDSTORMS or VEX IQ. Both make it easy to prototype a robot. The thing I found most frustrating when using the Cortex build system was when I would discover a mistake and having to undo a zillion bolts to fix it. It really takes the fun out of it, for me.

e) Could I possibly get the Vex Cortex + the Vex Sensor and Motor Parts but use the Structural Parts (like beams etc) from VexIQ? Or does that not fit then..
The hole pitch of the VEX Cortex and IQ system are the same but the metal screws are quite likely to damage the IQ's plastic parts, I wouldn't do it.

f) What exactly is TETRIX? It's some "extension parts" for Mindstorms from what I've seen?
TETRIX is a metal building system, much like Cortex, made by Pitsco. It is compatible with LEGO MINDSTORMS but I have never used it, so I can't really tell you much about it, other than that's it's quite pricey.

g) Any other robotics kits I should look into?
Yeah, the MATRIX stuff is pretty cool. It's also metal and compatible with LEGO MINDSTORMS. I have very limited experience with it, but the parts that I have are very nicely finished. It had a cool system where you can prototype with plastic pop-rivets, which you can replace with metal bolts once you're happy with it. That makes prototyping MUCH faster and less frustrating. You can find their site here: http://matrixrobotics.com/

If I didn't have as much LEGO as I did and I was starting out from scratch, I would probably go with the VEX IQ Super Kit and then later buy the Competition Add-On Kit. You can see them all here: http://www.vexrobotics.com/vexiq/products

Regards,
Xander

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Thu Dec 26, 2013 8:43 am
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
Nice answers, thanks ^^
Well I mostly wanted to get VexIQ at first but steered a bit to Cortex because someone kept bugging me about that it isn't possible to use anything but RobotC for VexIQ...

mightor wrote:
c) The Vex Robot Starter Kit - does it give me enough parts to build a good number of robots?
Well, if I were you, spend the extra bit of cash and get the Super Kit, you get a LOT for you money and you can make quite a few things with it.

That question was actually about Vex, not VexIQ - or does Vex also have a super kit? And yeah, been thinking about getting the starter kit + sensors though, as I don't plan to use a remote control.

mightor wrote:
VEX IQ is not made for large scale robots like VEX Cortex

What exactly qualifies as "large scale"?


Thu Dec 26, 2013 9:10 am
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
That question was actually about Vex, not VexIQ - or does Vex also have a super kit? And yeah, been thinking about getting the starter kit + sensors though, as I don't plan to use a remote control.
Yeah, there's the VEX Super Bundle, which is huge: http://robomatter.com/Shop-By-Robot/VEX ... 03_246_248. I have that plus a bunch of other bits and pieces.

What exactly qualifies as "large scale"?
Well, anything more than, say, 50x50x50. It's doable, but you'll need to be a good builder as these robots tend to get heavy. My VEX IQ quadruped with 8 motors is already around 1400 grams :)

= Xander

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Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:48 am
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
Heh might get Vex IQ then
$1182 is a bit outside my price-range


Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:53 am
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
I wouldn't have it if it hadn't been given to me, to be honest.

= Xander

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Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:58 am
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
The Vex Super Kit? hehe, well it sounds interesting once I have more money around and more practice in that stuff
but for now VexIQ sounds the better way to start out with


Thu Dec 26, 2013 12:00 pm
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
Hmm so the most concerning point about VexIQ for me is the amount of sensors. I can only see 5 Sensor types currently available for VexIQ, whereas mindstorms seems to have a lot
On the other hand VexIQ sensors seems vastly cheaper than mindstorms..


Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:48 pm
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
I am totally not familiar with VEX IQ but from looking at the picture, it seems to have the same I2C connectors as the NXT Mindstorms. If they are really I2C ports, then it should be able to use all the Mindstorms sensors, shouldn't it? So as long as you have drivers for these sensors, you should be able to use any of them. Even if there is no driver, as long as you have the spec for the sensors that lists the I2C commands, it is not difficult to write some.


Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:57 pm
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
Not sure how the whole driver stuff and such works ^^ Or if RobotC even allows for such


Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:58 pm
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
Pinkishu wrote:
Not sure how the whole driver stuff and such works ^^ Or if RobotC even allows for such

Xander has written a whole suite of sensor drivers for the Mindstorms. A lot of these sensors are I2C, so as long as the VEX IQ ports are I2C, there is no reason to believe they won't work. To program I2C sensors, you just need to know the I2C commands to send to them. That's what Xander's drivers do. Xander's drivers provide useful APIs to read the data from the sensor and shield you from the details of the I2C commands and protocols. Even if Xander hasn't ported his driver suite to VEX IQ, I imagine it is not too difficult to look at his drivers and port them yourself.


Thu Dec 26, 2013 4:05 pm
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
Hmm well _if_ VexIQ has I2C Ports that only leaves the RobotC limitation issue


Thu Dec 26, 2013 4:15 pm
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
Which is not a limitation at all :)

*grin*

You can also program it in Modkit, a graphical programming environment.

= Xander

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| My Blog: I'd Rather Be Building Robots
| ROBOTC 3rd Party Driver Suite: [Project Page]


Thu Dec 26, 2013 5:31 pm
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
Hmm well depends on how you see it, someone I know and who studies such stuff tells me RobotC isn't a good language (lack of function pointers and other issues), plus the IDE costs money.
I tend to agree it isn't the greatest IDE to write code in, not sure about the language


Thu Dec 26, 2013 6:33 pm
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Post Re: Mindstorms, Vex and VexIQ - which?
Pinkishu wrote:
Hmm well depends on how you see it, someone I know and who studies such stuff tells me RobotC isn't a good language (lack of function pointers and other issues), plus the IDE costs money.
I tend to agree it isn't the greatest IDE to write code in, not sure about the language

RobotC has been improved dramatically since 3.x. It now supports pointers although it still doesn't support function pointers. That is one of my wish list items. The RobotC folks do listen to user requests to implement features. Since 3.x, it is quite useable. There is still room for improvement but it is getting there. :)


Thu Dec 26, 2013 10:53 pm
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