Building with VEX EXP

The VEX EXP system has been designed with the latest technology, sensors, and metal construction pieces to teach STEM concepts. There are many resources in this article that will help you get started and begin building with your new system.

VEX EXP Classroom

Note: Throughout this article, you will find links to other VEX Library articles and resources that will provide more detailed information about each of the subjects.

Getting organized

As you start to unpack your VEX EXP Kit, the first thing that becomes obvious is there are a lot of parts. The first steps to success are to identify the parts. You may have just one Kit, or an entire bundle. For more information on Getting Started with an EXP Classroom Bundle, view this article from the VEX Library.

Identifying the Parts

VEX Robotics separates its VEX EXP parts into three categories:

  1. Electronics
  2. Structure & Hardware
  3. Motion
  4. Tools & Accessories

The EXP Electronics include devices such as the EXP Brain, EXP Controller, Smart Motors (5.5W), EXP Battery, sensors, and cabling. The Structure & Hardware parts include things like metal C Channels, U Channels, Angles, Plates, gussets and fasteners. The Motion parts include all of the things which move, such as wheels, gears, sprockets, and other accessories. Lastly, Tools and Accessories include the tools in order to assemble, maintain, and optimize your EXP Robot!

You will notice that your EXP Storage Bins do the hard work for you. Structure Components and Tools (right) are all contained within the Structure Bin, while Motion Components will be bundled together in the remaining bin alongside Electronics (left).


One way to identify all these parts is the EXP Parts Poster found at


Another method of identifying parts is to search on the part name/part number from your kit’s part list and match them to the images of the parts found on the VEX website.

Powering Up

After you become familiar with your kit’s parts and organize your kit, the next step is to prepare your EXP Robot Brain and EXP Controller for use. This will include:

  • Charging the EXP Controller.
  • Charging the EXP Battery.
  • Connecting the EXP Robot Brain with the EXP Robot Battery.

In addition, your EXP Controller will need to be paired with the EXP Robot Brain and your EXP Robot Brain will need to have its firmware updated.


To assist you there are VEX Library articles providing details on how to accomplish each of these tasks. The articles are listed below.

Charging the EXP Controller

Charging your Controller is accomplished with the USB-C connection.


For more information on your Controller refer to:

Charging the EXP Battery


The next step in powering up your VEX EXP System is to charge the EXP Battery. This is accomplished with another USB-C connection.

The EXP Battery has LED indicators to report the status of the battery.View this animation to see how to check the Battery level using the Battery's indicator lights.

  • 1 light = 0-25% charge
  • 2 lights = 25-50% charge
  • 3 lights = 50-75% charge
  • 4 lights = 75-100% charge

For more information about charging the EXP Robot Battery refer to:

Connecting the EXP Brain to the EXP Battery


After the EXP Battery has been charged, it will need to be connected to the EXP Brain. This is accomplished inserting the EXP Battery into the slot underneath the EXP Brain. The EXP Cable has a locking tab and can only be inserted in one orientation. The battery needs to be firmly inserted into the EXP Brain until it locks in place.

For more information about connecting the EXP Battery to the EXP Brain refer to:

Pairing the EXP Brain and EXP Controller


After the EXP Brain and the EXP Controller both have charged batteries, you will need to pair the two in order to establish communication. This is accomplished by navigating to the Link option in the EXP Brain's Settings, and quickly double pressing the EXP Controller's Power Button while simultaneously holding both of the Left Bumpers.

Once a EXP Controller and a EXP Brain are successfully paired this will not need to be done again. For more information regarding pairing a EXP Controller with a EXP Brain refer to Wirelessly Pairing an EXP Controller to an EXP Brain.

Updating the Firmware

Many VEX EXP products contain their own internal processors and run on a special Operating System. This software is the VEX EXP Firmware and is called VEXos. It is important to update your new equipment’s firmware in order for it to function correctly.


For more information on updating your firmware refer to these articles:

Help with Instructions

There are a number of options for building your first robot. Whether it will be the EXP BaseBot, one of the many builds found on the VEX Robotics site, or one of the builds found in the STEM Labs; it is recommended to start with a set of instructions in order to familiarize yourself with the VEX EXP system before assembling your first custom-designed robot.


Overview of Build Instructions

Build Instructions are either a .pdf such as the Clawbot EXP Build Instructions or 3D Build Instructions, as found with the Speed Build.

Each of these Build Instructions includes a set of helpful hints and detailed steps which will guide you throughout the build process.

Helpful Hints for Using Build Instructions

A crucial part of the design and the educational process is making mistakes. As you build your first robot you will be experiencing this process.

Here are a few hints to help limit some of mistakes that can be made:

Inventory of parts - Be sure to collect all the correct parts prior to starting each step.

Green lines - Many of the illustrations for assembly will have green lines to indicate where parts should go.

Orientation of parts - Pay close attention to the orientation of parts within the illustrations. For example, a gear placed on the wrong side of a C channel will not work because it will not line up with the driving gear on the Smart Motor that will move the gear.

Notations for connecting cables - When connecting Smart Cables between a device and the EXP Brain the number notation indicates the Smart Port number on the EXP Brain the cable needs to be plugged into.

Assembly Tips

In addition to the many tips which are provided in the build instructions, here are some additional general assembly tips which will assist you with your first robot. For a walkthrough guide to build your first EXP Robot, view this article from the VEX Library.

Information on Parts

The VEX EXP system has many different types of parts. Substituting the wrong part for an instruction set in most cases does not work. An understanding of the EXP parts can be very helpful.

  • Structural - Structural metal parts include C-channels, Flat Beams, Gussets, and Plates. The instruction sets within the Builds should require no modifications to the structural pieces.  For more information refer to, Building with EXP Motor Groups
  • Fasteners - Earlier versions of the VEX Educational Robot system utilized screws with a hex socket heads for tightening. The EXP system uses star sockets on the heads of the screws. Star sockets are less prone to stripping and allows you to firmly tighten screw and nut systems. For a walkthrough guide to using EXP tools and fasteners, view this article from the VEX Library. For more information on fasteners refer to:
  • Wheels - There are many different options for wheels to use on a EXP Robot. The wheels come in several different sizes and are available in traction versions or wheels designed for omni-directional motion. For more information about wheels refer to, Understanding EXP Wheels.
  • Gears and sprockets - The gears and sprockets which are used on the EXP robot to transfer power from the Smart Motors are sized by their number of teeth. For more information refer to:

Assembling Chain and Tank Treads

The VEX EXP system has chains and tank treads which can be used with sprockets. These parts are assembled by connecting individual links together and this allows for custom lengths to be used between sprockets. The links can be assembled by bringing two together at a slight angle, aligning the hole on one link with the boss on the next. Then twist the two links until they snap together as a unit.

Example of assembling Chain Links.

Example of assembling Tank Treads.

To disassemble to chain/tank tread links, reverse the procedure.


One technique which may help when connecting the two ends of an assembled chain/tank tread is to lay the chain/tank tread on a sprocket while connecting the two ends.

What is Next?

Once you have assembled your first robot, you can now program it! The Get Started with VEX EXP article will help you get started with programming your robot under the section of coding.

The next adventure will be designing your own robot. When you are ready to start building your first custom-designed robot, the following articles will assist you:

For more information, help, and tips, check out the many resources at VEX Professional Development Plus

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