The High Pro Glow

Welcome! The topics introduced in this blog will vary wildly. Here, you will find a lot of topics that might help some of those in need. I post off-beat information, hard to find history, & stuff that is otherwise seldom regurgitaited in our modern place. Sit back & find something interesting. Comment if you have a need or suggestion.

Thank you for crossing paths!

Christopher R. Smith (aka. Littlehorn)

I've got it on! Have you got it on?

Friday, April 04, 2014

VEX IQ - Spare the Fingers, Spoil the Builders

   When I received the new VEX IQ Robotics kit I enjoyed building with the new system so much my fingers got sore after about 3 solid hours of constant snapping and dismantling parts. This has been somewhat of a problem also expressed by many other VEX IQ builders. The reasons are plenty and I will explain. First, this system is still being tweaked and the great folks at VEX are adjusting the clutch power and plastic material strengths of the elements. I do like the current clutch power and it is a delicate thing to balance so robots do not fall apart. VEX wanted feedback and asked a group of Super Users familiar with other robotics kits to place VEX IQ under our microscopes. We did. In my case, the enjoyment experiencing this fantastic new building system drove explosive experimention with the new parts which lead to a lot of dismantling and some struggling with tight connections. The elements in the VEX IQ system have similarities to other robotic kits but are still much different in appearance and connectivity. The best attribute is how quickly the elements can become a large creation. The ability to build fast is a rather great feeling and a relief compared to other kits which use many smaller elements to create something of similar size.

So, on to the reason of this posting...difficulties of dismantling VEX IQ elements.

    The VEX folks designed the VEX IQ system with several key aspects in mind. One important endeavour was to provide a kit of snap-together elements useable in groups of young children learning about aspects of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathmatics) to quickly develop projects and creations without the use of tools other than a PC. The VEX IQ kit is meeting their design requirements even though the parts are a little difficult to disconnect from each other. In a valiant effort to remain "tool-less"...VEX has created a few videos (look for "VEX IQ Tip" videos) providing techniques for separating the tougher connections and are developing handling techniques for the kit documentation to ease difficulties and spare some fatigue. They recommend using your fingers and even other elements as tools.

    In all fairness...over the last few months I have learned how to handle dismantling better and the parts did break-in or maybe I just became more familiar with the tight spots. I do not use tools as much but there is a clear need to use tools, other parts, fingers, or whatever...especially for young builders. This fact has driven many of the Super Users to make suggestions and requests for tools. VEX officially released their full library of VEX IQ CAD part models and encouraged us to alter them and use 3D Printing to experiment with new part designs (example: VEX's Mobile Phone Mounting Brackets). Below are examples of our tool designs with some explainations of features and uses. We are constantly changing these designs and using 3D Printing to test them for improvements. While our tool designs are explorations towards relief...we want VEX to consider creating a tool even if it isn't one we developed rather than to leave young users with sore fingers or to use improper tools such as pocket knives (which are part of my toolkit) or possibly losing interest in the VEX IQ System because of difficulties unsnapping robots.

Click or Tap on images to Enlarge.
The top sketch at the left barely details my first idea to move rubber shaft collars and other parts along an axle while deep within a robot. Pushing the wedge fork between two parts will wedge things over and add space as needed. This would also be used as a pry bar, pin poker, and wedge-in to remove stubborn black corner connectors. My next sketch here was created to better show the fork and wedge shape shortly after Michael Brandl revealed his CAD rendering of the version 1 tool. There are several usage feature notes in this sketch that were compiled from the VEX IQ Super Users Group during the tool development. 
This next set of images were created by Damien Kee during his 3D Printing of the version 2 tool. It is awesome to see something go from mental to virtual to physical. This was the first 3D Print and it is a little rough but these machines utilize printing materials usually developed for prototyping designs and not meant to be exposed to the stress and forces of actual use. The final tool should be molded of a very strong material similar to the plastic of the VEX IQ gear elements. The tool needs to handle some prying without bending or fracturing and without scarring or damaging other parts. Again, a delicate balance.
In this last image created by Michael Brandl the collaborative evolution of the tool is shown in his 3D CAD renderings from AutoDesk Inventor. Many different features are represented here. Several key areas have very specific intended uses. The pin, smooth surface areas, cupped holes, through holes, rounded edges, wedge fork, fork tips, fork slot..all help with dismantling and connecting VEX IQ elements. Many of the uses have been noted above and some others can be seen in VEX's IQ Tip Videos. Intended positions include in-hand motions and laying the tool flat on a table-top. A fully detailed list of usage techniques will be explained when we close-in on the final tool design. Until then, we would like to hear some experiences other user's have while building with this new system. The VEX IQ Robotics System is a fantastic toolkit for exploring STEM..even if no "tools" are included..yet!

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