Building with VEX IQ - Get Started with VEX IQ

The VEX IQ system has been designed from its conception for an easy, entry level, and there are many resources that will help you get started with your new system.

For more information on VEX IQ Kits refer to the Select a Robot Kit - Get Started with VEX IQ article.

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This article will provide you with some resources which will help you with assembling your first robot.

This article will cover:

  • Getting organized
  • Powering up
  • Help with instructions
  • Assembly tips

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


Getting organized

As you start to unpack your VEX IQ Kit, the first thing that becomes obvious there are a lot of parts. The first steps to success are to identify and organize the parts.

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Identifying the parts

VEX Robotics separates its VEX IQ parts into three categories:

  1. IQ Electronics
  2. Structure
  3. Motion

The IQ Electronics include things such as the Robot Brain, Controller, Smart Motors, Batteries, Smart Radios, Sensors, and cabling. The Structure parts include all of the plastic parts which are used for assembly such as beams, pins, and connectors. The Motion parts include all of the things which move, such as wheels, gears, sprockets, pulleys, and other accessories.

A very useful tool to identify all these parts is the Super Kit Contents Poster that is included in the Super Kit. The Super Kit Content Poster contains many helpful pieces of information, such as:

  • A life-size 1:1 illustration of each part. Parts from the kit can be laid directly atop the poster for identification and to reference their size.
  • The name of the part. The part’s name is used throughout all of VEX’s documentation, instructions, and activities.
  • The part number. Each part has a unique part number which identifies the part.

The Super Kit Content Posters are also available for purchase to provide more copies for a classroom.

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How to use the Storage Bin

The Super Kit comes with a storage bin that has a storage tray which nests conveniently within the top of the bin and a top cover molded to allow storage bins to be safely stacked on one another. The compartments within the storage tray work well for the smaller parts from the kit. Whereas, the larger parts can fit conveniently under the tray.

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Multiple kits

If you have multiple kits, such as within a classroom environment, additional organization can be helpful. Once you have established an organizational system for each kit, it may be helpful to create labels or labels with pictures to help students return the parts in the kit to their assigned location.

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Labeling each of the kits with a unique name is also helpful, such as Kit A, Kit B, Kit C, etc. Labeling the Robot Brain, Controller, Battery, and Battery charger with the unique kit name will help establish which device belongs to which kit. View the Storage and Organization - Get Started with VEX IQ article for more information on storage and organization.

The Pin Tool

The Pin Tool is a valuable aid when assembling a VEX IQ robot. It will assist in many different functions as you build your robot. Within the Plastic Construction System - Construction - VEX IQ article you will find many additional tips to assist you with the tool-less assembly of your robot and also explain how to use the Pin tool.

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Powering up

After you become familiar with your kit’s parts and organize your kit, the next step is to prepare your Robot Brain and Controller for use. This will involve installing the Smart Radios into the Robot Brain and the Controller, installing the Controller Battery into the Controller, charging the Controller and charging the Robot Brain Battery.

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

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To assist you with this the Super Kit includes the VEX IQ Control System User Guide and there are also Knowledge Base articles providing details on how to accomplish each of these tasks. The articles are listed below.

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Installing Brain and Controller Smart Radios

The Robot Brain and its Controller communicate wirelessly by using Smart Radios. These Smart Radios need to be installed in the devices before the communication can take place.

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The following two articles can assist with installing the Smart Radios

Installing the Controller Battery

The Controller is shipped without its Battery installed. It is a simple procedure to install the Battery and only requires a Phillips screwdriver.

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For more information on how to install the Controller Battery refer to the Battery Installation - Controller for VEX IQ article.

Charging the Controller Battery

Once you have your Controller Battery installed it will need to be charged. Charging your Controller can be done in two easy ways, charging with a USB connection or charging by tethering the Controller to the Robot Brain.

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For more information on how to charge your Controller refer to the Charge - Controller for VEX IQ article.

Charging the IQ Brain Battery

The next step in powering up your VEX IQ system is to charge the Robot Brain Battery. The Robot Brain Battery has its own stand-alone charger.

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The Robot Brain Battery can be inserted into a powered charger and the charger has a convenient LED indicator to provide information about the status of the Battery.

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For more information about charging the Robot Brain battery refer to the Charge - Battery - VEX IQ article.

Inserting in the Robot Brain Battery

After the Robot Brain Battery has been charged, it will need to be inserted into the Robot Brain. This is a very easy step and once complete the Battery is fully integrated with the Robot Brain.

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For more information about inserting the Battery into the Robot Brain refer to the Installation and Removal - Battery - VEX IQ article.

Note: when assembling a custom-designed robot, be sure to leave adequate room for access to the Battery.

Pairing the Robot Brain and Controller

After the Robot Brain and the Controller both have charged batteries and installed Smart Radios, you will need to pair the two in order to establish communication. This is accomplished by tethering the two together and powering up the Robot Brain.

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Once a Controller and a Robot Brain are successfully paired this will not need to be done again.
For more information regarding pairing a Controller with a Robot Brain refer to the Wireless Connection (Pairing) - Controller for VEX IQ article.

Updating the Firmware

All of the VEX IQ Smart Devices (Robot Brain, Controller, Smart Motor, and Sensors) contain their own internal processors and run special software. This software is the VEX IQ Firmware and is called VEXos. It is important to update your new equipment’s firmware in order for it to function correctly.

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


Help with Instructions

There are a number of options for building your first robot. Whether it will be the Clawbot whose instructions came with the Super Kit, 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 IQ system before assembling your first custom-designed robot.

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Overview of Build instructions

One of the types of instructions to build a robot are called Builds. Some are referred to as ‘Hero’ builds. These are starter robots for the VEX IQ Challenge.

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Builds are either a printed document such as the Clawbot IQ Build Instructions that comes in the Super Kit or a .pdf which can be downloaded from the VEX Robotics site.

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Each of these builds includes a set of helpful hints, a complete inventory of all the parts needed, and detailed steps which will guide you throughout the build process.

Overview STEM Lab build instructions

STEM Lab build instructions are part of the IQ STEM Labs fun and educational activities. These instructions include all of the information found in the other builds.

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Some of the Web versions of the STEM Lab builds have additional navigational aids.

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A. Slide show index- navigate by selecting slide.
B. Slide show menu bar - navigate by selecting the circle which is linked to the slide.
C. Advance/Back arrows - advances or backs up the slide show one slide.
D. STEM Lab navigation - provides navigation for the STEM Lab

Helpful hints for using the 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.
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  • Assembly notes and Green lines - Many of the illustrations for assembly will have assembly notes and green lines to indicate where parts should go.

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  • Orientation of parts - Pay close attention to the orientation of parts within the illustrations. For example, a wheel put on backwards may rub against the robot's chassis.
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  • Special watch areas - Certain steps require extra attention when assembling. These steps will have a ‘special watch’ icon.
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  • Notations for connecting cables - When connecting Smart Cables between a device and the Robot Brain the number notation indicates the Smart Port number on the Robot Brain the cable needs to be plugged into.
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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.

Sizing system for parts

The VEX IQ system uses different sizing systems for different types of parts. Substituting the wrong size part for an instruction set is very easy. However, most times the substitution does not work as you continue through the assembly. An understanding of the sizing systems can be very helpful.

  • Structural parts - Structural parts such as Beams and Plates are sized by a pitch system, this is the number of notches on the side of the plastic structure. For more information refer to the Beams and Plates - Construction - VEX IQ article.
  • Pins and connectors - The connectors used for the IQ system are sized by the number thicknesses of plastic they can be inserted through. For more information refer to the Connectors and Standoffs - Construction - VEX IQ article.
  • Wheels - The wheels used on IQ robots are sized by the distance they will travel with one rotation. For more information refer to the Wheels - Construction - VEX IQ article.
  • Gears, sprockets, and pulleys - The gears, sprockets, and pulleys which are used on the IQ robot to transfer power from the Smart Motors are sized by either their number of teeth or their diameter. For more information refer to the How to use VEX Plastic Gears, Sprockets, and Pulleys article.

Assembling chain and tank treads

The VEX IQ 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.

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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.

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What is next?

Once you have assembled your first robot, you can now program it! The Coding with VEXcode IQ - Get Started with VEX IQ article will help you get started with programming your robot.

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: