Building with the V5 Workcell - Part 1: Electronics

Assembling the VEX V5 Workcell is a fun and educational activity.



The Build Instructions found in the Seek section of the V5 Workcell STEM Labs provide parts lists and detailed illustrations to guide the learner with the assembly.

However, there are some tips and tricks which can make building and using the V5 Workcell even easier.

What are V5 Electronics?

The V5 Electronic products include the V5 Robot Brain, the V5 Robot Battery, the V5 Electromagnet, and Sensors.

V5 Robot Brain


The V5 Robot Brain and V5 Robot Battery serve as the controller and the power source for the V5 Workcell.

The V5 Robot Brain and the V5 Robot Battery are introduced in Lab 1: Industrial Robotics. There are a wealth of V5 Robot Brain articles and V5 Robot Battery articles provided on the VEX Library to provide more information on the devices and their functionality.

V5 Electromagnet


The V5 Electromagnet is the manipulator used in the V5 Workcell to pick up the colored disks. It is added in the build of Lab 7.

The V5 Electromagnet functions by having an electrical current flow through a coil of wire called a solenoid. When an electrical current is flowing through the solenoid, a magnetic field will be produced. If the direction of the electric current is changed then the polarity of the magnetic field will also switch.


There are two different types of sensors used in the V5 Workcell, the 3-Wire Sensors and the V5 Sensors.

  • 3-Wire Sensors: The 3-Wire Sensors include the Potentiometers used to control the arm joints which are added in Lab 1, the V5 Bumper Switch v2 added in Lab 2 to mimic the E-stop of a workcell, and the Line Trackers added in Lab 10 which are used to detect the disks on the conveyor systems.
  • V5 Sensors: The V5 Sensors have been designed to work specifically with the V5 Robot Brain and utilizes the Brain's Smart Ports. The V5 Optical Sensor is one of the V5 Sensors and is used to detect the color of the disks.

Tips and Tricks when working with V5 Electronics

V5 Robot Brain and the V5 Robot Battery tips and tricks:

  • If your motors and sensors are not functioning, they may not be connected properly. Be sure the V5 Smart Cables are fully inserted and snap-locked into their ports.
  • None of the electronic parts of the V5 Workcell can function without power. Be sure the V5 Robot Battery is charged prior to using the system.

V5 Electromagnet tips and tricks:


If you are not having success when picking up a disk with the robotic arm, be sure the [Energize electromagnet] block is set to ‘boost.’ This will turn the V5 Electromagnet on and add its force to the permanent magnet found in the manipulator.


In order to pick up a disk, the V5 Electromagnet needs to be very close or touching the disk.


To drop a disk be sure the [Energize electromagnet] block is set to ‘drop.’ This will cause the electromagnetic field and the magnetic field of the permanent magnet in the manipulator of the V5 Electromagnet to be balanced.

3-Wire Sensors tips and tricks:


The pin connectors for 3-Wire Sensors can be bent and/or misaligned. Care needs to be taken when plugging them into the 3-Wire ports on the V5 Robot Brain. Ensure the connectors are fully inserted into the 3-Wire port.


Ensure the 3-Wire pin connectors are plugged in to the 3-Wire Port in the correct orientation by using the plastic tab on them. The ports are keyed so you can only plug the cable in one way.


If a 3-Wire Extension cable is being used the key-orientation safeguard is no longer present for the connection between the two cables. Care needs to be used to ensure that the colors of the 3-Wire Cables match when they are plugged into one another.

Potentiometers tips and tricks:


The 3-Wire Potentiometers on the robotic arm attached to the V5 Workcell at each joint may slip or need adjustment. If this occurs, follow the procedure in the Play section of Lab 1 to adjust and retest the Potentiometers.

Line Tracker tips and tricks:


If your Line Tracker is not detecting disks as expected, the threshold value may need to be changed.


For information on how to measure the Line Tracker’s threshold see Lab 10’s Play section. More information about the Line Trackers can be found in this Using the V5 3-Wire Line Tracker VEX Library article.

V5 Optical Sensor tips and tricks:


If your Optical Sensor is not reading values correctly, the sensor window may be blocked. Ensure the Optical Sensor’s window is unobstructed.


More information about the V5 Optical Sensor can be found in this Using the V5 Optical Sensor VEX Library article.

V5 Smart cables tips and tricks:


If you are finding that the V5 Smart Cables that come in the V5 Workcell Kit are not the length you desire, you can make your own. To make your own customized V5 Smart Cables, follow the instructions in the Crimping Tool VEX Library Article. More information about cables can be found in the Connecting and Managing V5 Cables VEX Library Article.

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

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