The Vexmen of Brandywine Robotics

Who are the VEXMEN?

The Vexmen are roboteers! We are Vex Robotics division of Brandywine Robotics, a group of students, mentors and sponsors who know it’s important to get kids interested in S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) based careers. Using competition robotics we learn valuable life skills such as communications, planning, cooperation and negotiations. We also bring to life S.T.E.M. skills in areas of electronics, mechanics, pneumatics, programming, designing, building (and sometimes rebuilding), testing and driving robots.

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Brandywine Robotics is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
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We compete against each other as well as other clubs’ robots. We are Brandywine Robotics, but have have students from five different schools in the Downingtown area as well as home schooled students building robots. We build individually as 34 different teams – each designing and building their own robots. We share space for building and share ideas teaching younger Vexmen how to build and program, but we compete against each other fiercely.

Middle School teams are under the Vexmen Team 80 banner, and the High School teams under the Vexmen Team 81 banner. Each robot has its own letter for identification corresponding to its character. Team Nightcrawler is Team 80N, team 81J is Juggernaut and so on. There are some of the same letters used in teams 80 and 81 so make sure you get the age group correct when picking an alliance partner. Our 90 and 91 series teams are affiliated with the Vexmen but build primarily at home, but they are still 100% Vexmen! Team 90 is middle school while 91 is high school. We now have Vex IQ as well. Team 92 designation is for our IQ teams.
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In the VEX Robotics Competition Middle School students ages 10 to 14 compete in a Middle School division of teams while students ages 15 to 18 compete in a High School division. Vex allows students to design, build, program and compete with VEX kit robots against kids their own age. Working in teams of 3 to 6, learning basic construction and programming skills, teamwork and problem solving.

The Vex IQ competition is another platform offering from Vex where snap together pieces are used to create your robots faster. The problem solving is just as intense as VRC, it’s just a smaller package. The same great STEM learning happens with design, programming, and building. You just don’t have to cut any metal and the game play is slightly different. Unlike other smaller robot competitions, IQ allows kids to do what they want to do most – drive! IQ robots work cooperatively together on the field to score as many points in that year’s game. Teams are generally smaller in IQ from 2 to 4 roboteers.

Why are we called VEXMEN?

We are one club made up of many teams. Each team builds a robot. Like the X-Men each have their own unique powers. Each of our robots plays the game with it’s own unique capabilities. We play the game against each other but we never forget that we are one team. We support and help each other to victory as a club.

Joining the Vexmen

If you are in the greater Downingtown area and interested in participating as a student, mentor or sponsor feel free to contact us. Build nights are usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6:30-8:30pm starting in August and finishing in early March. This year we will be building at the new Marsh Creek 6th Grade Center school.

The Vexmen operate primarily from the start of the school year at the end of August through February with additional opportunities in the spring. The goal is to build and program a robot to do well in the current year’s Vex Robotics game challenge. Due to demand we must limit club membership to those living within the Downingtown School area. We can assist you in starting a club at your school and several neighboring school districts have teams (Great Valley, Conestoga, Twin Valley)

The main opportunity to join the Vexmen is typically at the beginning of the school year or by participating in one of our spring educational classes. Beyond the first initial weeks of design, new roboteers have a much steeper learning curve and will not feel as invested in the design process working on a half built robot that was not their idea to begin with. Entering the Vexmen in the spring is a second available opportunity to learn about robotics and how to properly build a robot. However,some concepts may seem foreign at first as the class is aimed at roboteers who have completed at least one season.

We start right around the beginning of the school year to form new teams and get kids started on building a robot until the competitions beginning in January. It takes at least that long to have a well built robot. The benefits however, are great. In addition to being exposed to a great STEM based activity, student roboteers learn competition, grit, perseverance, teamwork, and determination. It is a long hard process to create a competitive robot, and we’ll help you learn. The effort you put into it will pay dividends not only with robotics but with your love of STEM based learning in the future.

Getting Started in Vex Robotics

Many people ask how can they can get their child involved in robotics. Here at Brandywine Robotics, we have two programs serving young roboteers from grade 4 through 12. In grades 4 through 6 we go through our FLL program. Grades 6 through 12 participate in the Vex Robotics competition as the Vexmen. Students in grades 6 through 8 are in the Middle school division while grades 9 through 12 are in the high school division. Some competitions are mixed where a 6th grader will be competing against high school seniors. Students in sixth grade have the choice of staying in FLL or moving on to the Vex program. Until sixth grade, the level of building with tools and programming in C is typically a bit advanced for maturity level of the roboteer and ask you participate in FLL until that time.

The Vexmen is a parent run organization and each team of 4-5 roboteers needs at least two parent mentors per team. This means you! The Vexmen is not a drop your kid off kind of activity. Two mentors per team means a minimum 20% parent involvement per team. The base requirement to becoming a mentor is being able to tell your kids what to do. Only through your parental guidance will the kids be successful; no prior technical experience is required. If you can turn a screwdriver and measure with a tape measure, you can build a Vex robot; we will teach you the rest. Having an engineering or programming background is a plus, but not required by any means. The main job of the parent mentor is project management and guiding the students to stay on track to meet their goals of building a functional robot, gathering the needs for parts for the upcoming weeks, and keeping the kids motivated. We want a minimum of two mentors per team to help with child safety, ensuring no one wanders off, hurts themselves, or sits with nothing to do.

What Does This Cost?

Fees for 2014-2015 were $375 per roboteer, plus cost of Vexmen shirt (~$25), and one team member should purchase a robot C license ($30-40). You will have to pack or buy lunch at the competitions as well as provide transportation. We use the same Vexmen shirt from year to year so it is a one time expense – until you grow that is.

The registration fee covers all robot parts the club buys, event registration fees, tools, and club overhead expenses such as insurance and facilities usage costs. We are a part of Brandywine Robotics, a registered 501c3 non profit. The club is completely volunteer based and no one receives any income from the club. We all do it for free to keep our costs at a minimum.

Spring classes are offered as an extra fee and is typically attended by about 1/3 of the Vexmen. These have cost $100 for the past three years and helps cover the cost of extra equipment, hand outs, and space.