Precautions and Safety Guidelines When Working with VEX EXP Robots

When assembling, programming, and operating with robots there are certain precautions which need to be observed. There are safety guidelines which will help you safely work with your robot.

This article will cover some precautions and safety guidelines.

Pinch Points

Pinch points occur whenever a moving object comes in contact with another object. This could be a wheel which is close to a chassis, an arm with a tower, two gears intermeshing, two surfaces of a tool, or any number of things involved with robotics.

Personal safety guidelines regarding pinch points:


Turn off your robot before handling it.

Tie back long hair.

Remove dangling jewelry, scarves, neckties, or other clothing and/or accessories which may fall into a pinch point.

Be cautious when assembling/disassembling Field Tiles and Perimeter Walls of the field for pinch points.

Keep fingers away from any moving parts on your robot.

Seek immediate medical attention for any pinched areas.

Pinch point safety guidelines for working with your robot:

  • Secure arms and other manipulatives when working around them by placing a shaft/screw, jam gear, or trig near the pivot point to stop them from moving (be sure to remove them before you operate your robot.)
    • Shaft/screw: Often there is a hole aligned on the robot’s tower which will allow a shaft or screw to be inserted through the hole and into a hole on the arm or the arm’s gear which will lock the arm in place.
    • Jam gear: Sometimes it is possible to place a small gear between two gears where they intermesh, such as with a double reverse four bar lift system. The small gear prevents either of the lift’s gears from rotating because the jam gear is jammed between the two lift gears.
      Note: This method depends on the downward weight of the lift to keep the jam gear in place.
    • Trig: Often it is possible to connect a piece of structural metal between your robot's arm and its tower forming a rigid triangle locking the arm in place.
  • Slowly move all pivot points, wheels, sprockets, and gears to ensure there are no cables, tubing, elastic materials, or hardware which will be caught by the motion, before powering up your robot.

Pinch point safety guidelines for working with tools:


Keep the pinch points of builds away from your skin and the skin of others.

Use care when tightening or loosening connectors. It is possible to pinch skin between a tool and a hard surface.

Whenever possible use a tool to place a connector in a tight location rather than placing your fingers into the area.

Sharp Edges

Sharp edges occur whenever a part breaks or cracks. These materials could be metal or plastic. If a part breaks or cracks it will usually have a sharp edge.

Personal safety guidelines regarding sharp edges:


File or sand all edges of a material which has been broken or cracked to remove sharp edges.

Be cautious for any sharp surfaces on the playing field and game elements. Be sure to report these immediately.

Seek immediate medical attention for any cut or scratch.

Sharp edges safety guidelines for working with your robot:


Check pieces of metal, plastic, and connectors for points, burs, or cracks which may have occurred when manufacturing or shipping.

Inspect your robot frequently to make sure there are no broken or sharp parts.

Image is from step 32 of the CatapultBot Instructions, where a flat bar is needed to be bent.

Flying Debris

Flying debris can occur when a robot is in motion, elastic materials are released, or as a result from a collision accident.

Personal safety guidelines regarding flying debris. Always wear eye protection such as safety glasses when:


Competing in a robotics competition.

Seek immediate medical attention if flying debris enters your eyes or skin.

Flying debris safety guidelines for working with your robot. Always wear eye protection such as safety glasses when:

  • Elastic materials (rubber bands, rubber tubing) are energized.
  • Devices on your robot cans spin at very high RPM’s.

Falling Objects

Falling objects occur when an object’s support is removed. This could be things like a robot driving off a table, or a tool being dropped.

Personal safety guidelines regarding falling objects:

  • Wear closed-toe shoes when working around or operating robots.
  • Walk. Do not run.
  • Seek immediate medical attention for injuries caused by falls or falling objects.

Falling objects safety guidelines for working with your robot:


Position your robot in the lowest possible state when working on it. If the robot needs to be an extended position to work on it, lay it down in a position which is least hazardous.

Operate your robot on the floor or playing field not on a table or counter.

Falling objects safety guidelines for working with tools:

  • Keep your work area neat and organized.
  • Return tools and extra parts to their storage area as soon as they are no longer needed.

Extreme Temperature

Extreme temperature on the high end can occur from heat guns, soldering, flames, friction, mechanical stress, or electrical shorts and on the low end from a rapid release of pressure.

Personal safety guidelines regarding extreme temperature:


Point canned air dusters and other aerosols away from your skin and the skin of others.

Keep metal which has been recently stressed quickly and repeatedly (such as bending a piece of metal back and forth) away from your skin and the skin of others.

Seek immediate medical attention for any burned or frosted skin.

Extreme temperature safety guidelines for working with your robot:

  • Inspect your robot for any cracked or frayed cables before powering up and replace immediately if they are found.
  • Place electrical tape over the terminals of batteries when they are in storage.
  • Use the appropriate battery chargers.
  • Inspect all batteries for defects and damage before using, if any are found, store in a safe location and recycle as soon as possible.

Extreme temperature safety guidelines for working with tools:


Be sure multimeters, battery testers, and battery breaks are set up appropriately before using.

Keep probes from touching each other when testing for voltage.

This list of precautions and associated guidelines are not all inclusive of the safety issues associated with working on and competing with robots. They are intended to point out some of the more common safety concerns. Common sense and proper training are your best safeguards. Overall, have fun with your robot and be safe!

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

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