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The Mythbusters Construct a Kit Bot

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the i-am-your-robo-friend-please-remove-packaging dept.

148

A reader wrote in to mention a writeup of a really great Mythbusters project. Hyneman, Savage, and Imahara went out and purchased a 'Vex' robot kit from RadioShack, and constructed the bot to see what it was like. They were pleasantly surprised. From the article: "Jamie Hyneman: I must admit I was expecting to turn up my nose at a do-it yourself robotics kit from Radio Shack. But guess what? The VEX System kicks butt. In a total of about 12 person-hours, Adam Savage and Grant Imahara (my cohosts on MythBusters) and I were able to build a functional, if somewhat basic, prototype equivalent of an iRobot's PackBot."

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that mythbusters chick is hot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951520)

see naked pics here [goatse.ca]

Kari Byron rulez (0, Troll)

Fuck_Firefox (850266) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951946)

Kari is fucking smoking hot. I'd watch the bitch pee just to see where it came from. Check her out [hai2u.com] !

still no comments? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951543)

wow slashdot really is dying. Digg [digg.com] is where it's at.

Re:still no comments? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14953223)

every thought most slashdot readers takes 10 minutes to read the artical before commenting....haha ya right.

Vex Robot stuff is 50%off at Radio Shack (5, Informative)

jasonw61 (185955) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951547)

Re:Vex Robot stuff is 50%off at Radio Shack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951657)

It looks very nice, but why does a robot need safety glasses?

Re:Vex Robot stuff is 50%off at Radio Shack (1)

MPHellwig (847067) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953078)

for the friggin' lasers on their heads?

Wow, a Mythbusters article (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951551)

Maybe if Slashdot keeps trying really hard, someday it can be just like digg

Re:Wow, a Mythbusters article (1)

JAppi (853260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952986)

I think the average intellegence of everyone would have to go down 40% for that to happen.

Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of them (5, Insightful)

cavalierlwt (764097) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951552)

Good break for Radio Shack, you can't pay for that kind of advertising.

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (1)

scooter.higher (874622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951572)

I hope they don't discontinue the discount as a result of the Slashdotting...

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (2, Insightful)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951616)

Or else they actually did pay for them to do just that.

You have to understand that Radio Shack is teetering on the edge of self-destruction due to piss poor management tactics and poor product placement.
They are shuttering between 400-700 corporate stores (I don't think this will affect franchise owners, but who knows) and reevaulating where they stand on what products they need to be pushing.

The robotics kit was a safe bet to do a little advertising without getting wrecked because of shoddy materials or lousy manuals.

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (1)

birder (61402) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951745)

In Canada, Circuit City had to rename all the Radio Shack stores to The Source. Some sort of convoluted legal thingy where they owned InterTAN which was the NoN US parts of Radio Shack for 20 years and then Radio Shack Prime decided to cut them off.

Personally, the new name gives them a fight chance at respectability albeit slim.

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (0)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951768)

Yeah, Ft. Worthless tends to do crap like that.

For more amusement and if you need to get your blood pressure raised you can see what they are up at at http://www.radioshacksucks.com/ [radioshacksucks.com]

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952914)

actually what happened was when CC bought InterTan RS Went to court to be able to buy the
  RS.ca stores to prevent CC from diluting the RS name

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (2, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952036)

and reevaulating where they stand on what products they need to be pushing.

That's good. My local Radio Shack only sells 40-conductor IDE ribbon cables, not the 80-conductor kind that's been required for like the last 5 years.

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952908)

They are shuttering between 400-700 corporate stores
the big thing is most of the stores that are closing are
1 not performing
2 being moved (may have a shortish period between)
and anyway with 5000 stores thats only 10% (this number does not include dealer/franchise stores)
although i will give you that some of our PHBs are pointier than normal (and are now asking "would you likes fries with that?")
psst btw the stores that are closing will have some "THIS STORE ONLY specials"
i would think that if Vex lights up then ....

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (2, Informative)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951665)

Erm, yes they can. It's called product placement. If you see a person drinking Pepsi in a movie, do you think that's a coincidence? No, it's someone only job to contact companies and ask for money. Favorite targets are cars, beverages, guns (USA), fast food restaurants, ....

Anyway, mythbusters has gone infomercial it seems.. Not that it was such a great show, they repeat the same thing over and over again (next we're going to do this .... now we're going to do this .... we're really going to do this .... we're doing this .... we've finished doing this .... we have done this ....). Like if we're idiots with the memory span of a goldfish.

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951674)

> ...the memory span of a goldfish.

yes, that was a cool episode.

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (4, Funny)

Hercynium (237328) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952101)

Like if we're idiots with the memory span of a goldfish.
Now, now... they busted that one, remember? (the goldfish memory - the jury's still out on the idiots part ;p )

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951711)

Just goes to show that good ideas can pay off.
I'm considering getting one to play with. I haven't read more than a little bit of what I call a good experience the mythbusters had with it.

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (1)

Mostly Harmless (48610) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951858)

The problem with Vex is that it's primarily intended for highschool-aged people - or at least that's RadioShack's stand on it - and how many highschoolers are going to shell out > $300 for a robot kit?

Re:Radio Shack is going to be selling a ton of the (2)

SStrungis (629260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952357)

They won't. Their Mommies and Daddies will.


I work as a schoolteacher in an affluent NJ district. The MIDDLE SCHOOLERS walk about with iPods, Razors, and Louis Vuitton bags.

Trust me, $300 for a neat robotic toy is nothing.

But what myth will it bust/confirm? (1)

wesley96 (934306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951556)

That government is overspending on military hardware? ;) On a more serious note, Grant had his BattleBot robot and Jamie had that soda can shooting vending machine. No wonder these guys were all over that robot kit. I might need to get ahold of one of those things myself.

Re:But what myth will it bust/confirm? (1)

slo_learner (729232) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951886)

The government is seriously overspending. I got to see the packbot in development. Some very creative, very cheap methods were used, at least in the mechanical design.

BSD is Dead (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951558)

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It is official; Netcraft now confirms: *BSD is dying

One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *BSD community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last [samag.com] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

You don't need to be a Kreskin [amazingkreskin.com] to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *BSD because *BSD is dying. Things are looking very bad for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

FreeBSD is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeBSD developers Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is dying.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

OpenBSD leader Theo states that there are 7000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Let's see. The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeBSD users. This is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.

Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD went out of business and was taken over by BSDI who sell another troubled OS. Now BSDI is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.

All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily declined in market share. *BSD is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among OS dilettante dabblers. *BSD continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.

Fact: *BSD is dying

Re:BSD is Dead (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951598)

Fact: *BSD is dying

Meh. What's the point? The BSD trolls have won. Slashdot removed the BSD section links from the front page, the BSD story posts have steadily decreased, and Linux has completely taken over the buzz of free *nix. There's just no point to posting these trolls anymore. You won. Move on with your life already.

Person Hours? (2, Funny)

Salo2112 (628590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951562)

They actually said "person hours?"

Re:Person Hours? (3, Informative)

Secrity (742221) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951603)

In TFA, Jamie Hyneman is said to have used the words "person-hours" in a sentence. The term is totally appropriate and it is not out of character for him from what I have seen on his television program.

A person hour is a measurement of effort. One person who works for one hour will have performed one person hour worth of work. This measure is often abbreviated as PH. http://www.spc.ca/resources/metrics/glossary.htm [www.spc.ca]

This information was obtained by reading TFA (I searched for "hours" in the page) and by googling for "define person hours".

Re:Person Hours? (4, Funny)

Salo2112 (628590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951626)

Sounds very similar to what we normally refer to as "man hours" when we are not trying to bend over backwards to appease the goddesses of political correctness. ;-)

man hour [wikipedia.org]

Re:Person Hours? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951849)

Similar, but not identical.

You gotta figure one man-hour is about equal to two woman-hours. So that means 1 man-hour is approximately 1.5 person-hours. Of course these figures are a very rough sort of average. The actual time it takes to complete a project varies widely depending on which individuals are involved, and it often will not scale in a linear way with number of participants.

Re:Person Hours? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952540)

Similar, but not identical.

You gotta figure one man-hour is about equal to two woman-hours. So that means 1 man-hour is approximately 1.5 person-hours. Of course these figures are a very rough sort of average. The actual time it takes to complete a project varies widely depending on which individuals are involved, and it often will not scale in a linear way with number of participants.


It's true. Which just means that we women have to work twice as efficiently and twice as smart as men, to get the same amount of work done in the same amount of time.

Fortunately, that's real easy to do.

Re:Person Hours? (1)

Literaphile (927079) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953117)

It's true. Which just means that we women have to work twice as efficiently and twice as smart as men, to get the same amount of work done in the same amount of time.

Fortunately, that's real easy to do.

Not so easy that you were able to figure out how to create an account!

Re:Person Hours? (1)

springbox (853816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951908)

Funny how you complain that a term which refers to time needs to be assigned a sex. I would prefer person-* to man-everything when refering to something totally generic like.. I dunno.. Time?

Re:Person Hours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952269)

When I went to school, we were taught that since the english language had no neuter, in cases where sex wasn't an issue, man was the default. salesMAN, postMAN, fireMAN, policeMAN. I never think of them as being "man" oriented, an more than when I hear an archaeologist refer to "early man" do I think he is only talking about men and not women. I guess if you really are a closet sexist, you feel the need to use "person" because "man" in that context means too much to you.

mnb Re:Person Hours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952943)

When I was a kid, I thought my younger sisters were so lucky.
They didn't need to fear man-eating sharks.

Re:Person Hours? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951954)

Sounds very similar to what we normally refer to as "man hours" when we are not trying to bend over backwards to appease the goddesses of political correctness. ;-)

Yeah, except in this case Kari and Scottie are just way too hot in a tank-girl kinda way to be classed under the category of "man-hours".

But anything which makes me think of those two in the same sentence as bending over backwards, I've gotta thank you for.

I, for one welcome our new politically correct tank-girl goddess overlords. =)

Re:Person Hours? (2, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952063)

I love mythbusters too, but if you really think Kari and Scotti are hot, you gotta get out more. They're not ugly, average sure, but far from a "hottie" classification.

Re:Person Hours? (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952278)

I love mythbusters too, but if you really think Kari and Scotti are hot, you gotta get out more. They're not ugly, average sure, but far from a "hottie" classification.

Are you kidding me? Kari has that whole Earth-mother, freaky San Fran chick action going on, and Scottie is a tatooed hippy chick who can weld and build stuff.

Hell, in some of her outfits, Kari looks like a friggin' Anime character, and in a bikini she's amazing -- she's hot like Willow was hot.

We're talking two protypical geek-girls if I've ever seen 'em. Except they're artists and techicians.

Are they the protypical fashion hottie? Nope. Does the total package of coolness transcend all of that? Absolutely. They're hot in a counter-culture way that's way better than what Vogue tells us is hot. Like I said, tank girl not fashion model.

But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So your mileage may vary.

Re:Person Hours? (1)

wkitchen (581276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953482)

Hell, in some of her outfits, Kari looks like a friggin' Anime character, and in a bikini she's amazing -- she's hot like Willow was hot.
That strikes me as not the best analogy [imdb.com]

Re:Person Hours? (4, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953662)

"she's hot like Willow was hot."

Erm, I'm into midget porn as much as the next guy, but Willow...?

Re:Person Hours? (2, Insightful)

rob_squared (821479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952601)

Political correctness is bad enough, political correctness without thinking about it is downright scary. George Carlin said it best:

"I think mankind ought to be human kind, but they take it too far, they take themselves too seriously, they exaggerate. They want me to call that thing in the street a personhole cover. I think that's taking it a little bit too far. What would you call a lady's man, a person's person? That would make a He-man an It-person. Little kids would be afraid of the boogieperson. They'd look up in the sky and see the person in the moon. Guys would say come back here and fight like a person. And we'd all sing "for it's a jolly good person." That's the kind of thing you would hear on late-night with David Letterperson. You know what I mean? So...so I think it's an exaggeration and I like to piss off any group that take's itself a little bit too seriously."

Where is the canned mayo? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951618)

I hate you all for being shitcocky bastards with ballnugget gringo forts. I hope you all impale yourselves on peckers. Cheesey factory grapefruit lego captains will be the end of all of you. SHIT COCK ASS PECKER FART! I like to walk on baby faces with pockets full of sand with an umbrella covered in jello. POOP SHIT ASS TITS! Slashdot has a post lameness filter! WOOT SHIT FART GODDAMN SHIT SHIT POOP! Jingle bells on the horizon of giraffe toaster muffins. Jamaican people all smell bad because they all smoke reefer. Potheads. Reeferheads. Potheads. German people have accents und stuff. Spanish people eat burritos.
IN CHINA THEY HAVE SOY SAUCE FOR THE RICE BITCH!

Re:Person Hours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951624)

That is what politically correct people call what the rest of humanity calls a man-hour. These people will also use the word herstory instead of history. I probably pissed the wankers off by using the word humanity in the previous sentance. Well, sod-off if I did.

Re:Person Hours? (0, Flamebait)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951793)

the wanker is you

btw. sentence

Re:Person Hours? (2, Funny)

nick1000 (914998) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951642)

What else did you expect. They are the Mythbusters...

After all, we all know that man months are mythical.

Re:Person Hours? (1)

jolshefsky (560014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951650)

They actually said "person hours?"
Of course: it's a more specific term to differentiate from something like "robot-hours" or "woman-hours."

Re:Person Hours? (1)

Incadenza (560402) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951670)

I just had to do the accounting of an EC project in PM. That's person month - of course, there's no clear definition anywhere of how many PH there are in one PM.

Science fair projects? (5, Interesting)

scooter.higher (874622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951565)

I know my son will love this (OK, me too). He has been asking me to get him a robot kit. But I'll probably have to get two kits so I don't take over his project :-)

Then robot wars!

Oh, yeah: I for one welcome our robotic overlords...

Re:Science fair projects? (4, Funny)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952008)

I know my son will love this (OK, me too). He has been asking me to get him a robot kit. But I'll probably have to get two kits so I don't take over his project :-)

Of course, once you've got two, then you'll need a third so you cannibilize more parts without taking apart his science-fair project. But then he's gonna want another one so he can get a better grade 'cuase little Billy is making a robot too. Then it'll get totally out of hand.

Then, soon you'll have a houseful of robots doing all manner of silly things. Stop yourself before it's too late, you're playing into their hands and creating our own overlords!

Run. Run for your lives ... must resist shiny robot mind-control technology ... must resist temptation to go to Radio Shack ...

Re:Science fair projects? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952878)

a better suggestion would be to get 2 kits 1 programming kit 2 goggles 1 metal/parts kit 1 crystal set and what ever motors and wheels you need

Stairs (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951637)

Adam Savage: Our goal was to see if we could get it to climb stairs. As far as I know, there are few (if any) toys that will climb stairs; and only a few high-end robots like the PackBot and the humanoid Honda robots that can perform this task.

I guess climbing downstairs doesn't count? [wikipedia.org] :-)

Re:Stairs (1)

chivo243 (808298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951669)

my slinky would walk down stairs, get caught in my brother hair, become unusable with in a week. There was a truck with star shaped wheels that did ok going up stairs, can't remember the name, the rich kid down the street had one... it was hard to see through the breath fogged window.

Re:Stairs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952464)

The English word for this is descending.

Vex is NOT a robot (2, Insightful)

Porchroof (726270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951646)

The Vex System is no more a robot than a remote controlled model airplane or my car is.

A remote controlled device is NOT a robot.

A robot is a mechanical and electronic device that performs a function(s) under its own control. It is capable of making its own decisions.

An android (NOT "droid") is a robot with the appearance of a human or animal.

For further enlightment read "I, Robot" by Isaac Asimov.

Re:Vex is NOT a robot (1)

theraptor05 (908452) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951658)

From the American Heritage Dictionary
robot n. A mechanical device that sometimes resembles a human and is capable of performing a variety of often complex human tasks on command or by being programmed in advance.

Remote control falls under performing a task on command. You are thinking of an autonomous robot, which is a much more advanced thing and not something I'd expect from Radioshack.

Re:Vex is NOT a robot (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951808)

You just can't trust somethign that calls itself "American Heritage"

Try The Oxford English Dictionary :

robot /robot/

      noun a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer.

    -- DERIVATIVES robotize (also robotise) verb.

    -- ORIGIN from Czech robota 'forced labour'; the term was coined in K. apek's play R.U.R. 'Rossum's Universal Robots' (1920).

Perform another search of the Compact Oxford English Dictionary [askoxford.com]

Re:Vex is NOT a robot (1)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951871)

Sept going by this definition many of the things that the term "robot" was given in the 1920's-1930's or even before the term was even coined would not infact be considered robots, when most scholars do indeed consider them that.

Thus this definition is far too narrow, especially when even today many of our robots are still human controlled for various reasons. The American Heritage one wins I have to say.

Vex IS a robot (from TFA) (3, Informative)

Derivin (635919) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951822)

From TFA 'Also available is a programming module that will allow you to hook your robot up to a computer and download a program for adding autonomous capabilities.'

Sure it is. For further enlightenment, read TFA. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951767)

The Vex System is no more a robot than a remote controlled model airplane or my car is.

A remote controlled device is NOT a robot.

A robot is a mechanical and electronic device that performs a function(s) under its own control. It is capable of making its own decisions.

An android (NOT "droid") is a robot with the appearance of a human or animal.

For further enlightment read "I, Robot" by Isaac Asimov.

Did you read TFA? "Also available is a programming module that will allow you to hook your robot up to a computer and download a program for adding autonomous capabilities . You can use the remote control only, let it operate autonomously , or have some combination of the two," and "When an object is sensed, the robot takes over and initiates an automated climbing sequence... " That qualifies as "performs a function(s) under its own control". It has sensors and a controller on board, and you can program it. It doesn't say how much programming you can fit in there (I doubt it will be opening the fridge and bringing you a beer), but it DOES qualify as being capable of performing some functions under its own control. It can decide which climbing algorithm is appropriate for the sensor inputs it has, and it can respond appropriately.

And finally, the whole thing sounds like it fits very well into both the American Heritage [bartleby.com] and Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] definitions, which (by the way) do appear to allow remote control devices.

Re:Sure it is. For further enlightenment, read TFA (0, Flamebait)

Porchroof (726270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951853)

But, of course, today's dictionaries reflect the currently corrupted usage of the word "robot". That's why I object to the corruption of the word "android" into "droid" and "web log" into "blog" (yuck).

And, yes, now we have to append "autonomous" to the word "robot" in order to convey the original meaning of the word alone. "Boy" once meant "girl", "nice" once had a negative connotation. When we mistreat and corrupt the languge we create confusion in our attempts to communicate.

No, I failed to read about the add-on module for the Vex. It appears that the add-on truly makes the Vex a robot.

Re:Vex is NOT a robot (2, Informative)

dhiebert (962182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952196)

If you find out more about the VEX kit and don't dismiss it simply as a Radio Shack product, you will see that it is based on a programmable microcontroller. While I think that RS is probably trying get some of the RC market with their product decription, VEX is capable of running autonomously, and thus would fit the definition of a robot.

Re:Vex is NOT a robot (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952944)

umm you do know about the PROGRAMMING KIT (btw required for the for fun sensors)
heck with the stuff 50% off you could get the base and programming kit for less than the original price of the base alone.

it's FIRST, Radio Shack is the front... (4, Informative)

jpellino (202698) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951652)

There was a mini-FIRST made of VEX robots this year. We saw the demo at FRC Hartford last week. Very impressive, makes it more accessible to middle schoolers and they "play" with it less than Mindstorms. The electronics comes from Innovation FIRST, the folks who make the brains for the FIRST robotics teams, and they're also VEXLabs. We're using it for the Trinity College Firefighting Robotics Contest, and we've gotten a chassis built and running under program control and effectors prototyped in record time.

One thing better than Mindstorms is that you can more easily add other materials, parts etc., and make it more bombproof without resorting to toxic adhesives or plastic-eating tools...

We're still wondering why RS is having a fire sale - two local stores were cleaned out as of Friday night - we just loaded up the last ultrasound and light sensors we could find. Some have said they're just dropping the retail line at RS, some have said it's just a sale, an eMail to the edu & gov rep at RS Fort Worth is yet unanswered. VEXLabs is still selling at full price. Hope they're just switching horses, but with RS no longer selling electronic parts, this was the sweetest thing they'd had in a while.

Two heads-ups: the pushbutton inputs use negative logic (thanks, VEX - that was a half hour of "stump the chumps"...) - and there is no "run" switch on the bot - programs (and the wheels they control) run once they complete the download - so either mold some tiny cinder blocks or grab an extra bumper button (or other sensor) and create a latch as the first step in the program...

Re:it's FIRST, Radio Shack is the front... (2, Informative)

Emeye (871203) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952039)

In our rookie year in the FIRST Robotics Competition usfirst.org [usfirst.org] we got a set of this VEX stuff, but it was labeled a llittle differently, as this was before the stuff was released at retail.

Basically, it's some really useful stuff for fun little project bots, with a lot of components that are very similar to RC parts. It shares a lot of similar traits to the base chassis and components that we use for FIRST, the only differences being that VEX stuff is smaller and less powerful (The main battery we got with our kit is the same as the backup battery we have on our FIRST bot, which prvides just enough power to keep the controller running.) And whereas our FIRST robot uses motors pulled from a Fisher-Price minibike, the VEX bot we have uses servos and motors from Hitec.

From the kit we have, they improved the wheels and made the pieces a little more colorful. It didn't help us much with our bot construction, but it's a fun little thing to play around with, or to build smaller robots with.

Radio Shack in trouble, closing 400 to 700 stores (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952696)

We're still wondering why RS is having a fire sale - two local stores were cleaned out as of Friday night.

Probably because the store is closing. Radio Shack is having big problems [allheadlinenews.com] . Profit is down 62% for the quarter, the CEO lied on his resume and was fired, and they're closing 400 to 700 stores.

Apparently most of Radio Shack's profits come from selling cell phone contracts.

Call me when they add Kari (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951656)

and some sort of probe to the robot. Then I'll be interested.....

Open Source Robotics? (2, Interesting)

Narphorium (667794) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951661)

Could this be the start of mainstream Open Source robotics? I know this isn't the first DIY robot kit, nor will it be the last but if this really catches on I could see an open source community developing around it.

Also, I can definately see people developing their own components for these things. Paying $9.99 for a phototransistor is a little ridiculous if you know how to set one up on your own.

Re:Open Source Robotics? (1)

phaggood (690955) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951663)

In a total of about 12 person-hours, Adam Savage and Grant Imahara (my cohosts on MythBusters) and I were able to build a functional, if somewhat basic, prototype equivalent of an iRobot's PackBot."

Because Imahara's an electrical engineer with years of experience building remote controlled logic boxes?

Re:Open Source Robotics? (1)

Southpaw018 (793465) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952099)

No, one up from that. He built R2D2.

No, really. I'm serious. ;)

Re:Open Source Robotics? (1)

njh (24312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953720)

Amazing, he was born in 1970 and made props for a movie release in 1977! (WP says he updated the R2D2s for the new movies)

Re:Open Source Robotics? (1)

despisethesun (880261) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952138)

Because Imahara's an electrical engineer with years of experience building remote controlled logic boxes?

That may have sped things up a bit, but I don't doubt that this kit would allow the average geek to achieve a similar result in a longer timeframe. They're kind of limiting, but kits like this are designed to be fairly easy to set up and program (no assembly language here!). A friend of mine bought a robot kit (admittedly it was mechanically simpler than this) and quickly had a robot capable of navigating a maze on its own, and while he's a pretty intelligent guy he's not a seasoned electrical engineer. Something like this might be beyond the capabilities of Bubba Ray, but if the kit is fairly complete I'm sure most of the people here could build a rudimentary machine capable of wandering around a room without bumping into things in a day or two, with more complex functionality coming as they get more comfortable with the system.

I don't get it (5, Funny)

carpe_noctem (457178) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951673)

What myth are they busting here, exactly? That everything from RadioShack sucks?

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951696)

It's an advertisment, unrelated to the show. People with IQ <70 get that.

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951753)

what about those of us with IQ>=70?

Re:I don't get it (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951774)

What the hell are you doing watching television, then?

Re:I don't get it (0)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951803)

I'm not watching television. I'm staring at the intarweb screen.

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951735)

No Myth Busting, they were asked by Robot Magazine to test out the kit. These guys have pretty impressive technical backgrounds with a pretty well known celebrity status, so it lends crediblity and publicity to the article.

Re:I don't get it (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951872)

What myth are they busting here, exactly?

You're right and this really doesn't make any sense. Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage were put on Earth with the sole purpose of busting myths. God is really going to be pissed when he finds out that they reviewed a product with no myth involved.

Re:I don't get it (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952657)

What myth are they busting here, exactly? That everything from RadioShack sucks?
Mythbusters (like Scrapheap Challenge/Junkyard Wars) before abandonded it's theoretical reason for existing pretty early on and replaced it with a chase after flash, dash, and glam.

Compare (1)

kurtis25 (909650) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951692)

I want to see a comparison between this and that Lego robot so I know which to buy.

What geek doesn't love Radio Shack? (1)

hnsez (803044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951755)

R.S. has had difficult financials recently so it is a good thing that as proper geeks the MythBusters gave them some well-deserved support.

Re:What geek doesn't love Radio Shack? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952735)

Radio Shit deserves bad financials. Can't hardly find a radio in the place anymore. Nor anything resembling the parts you need, as I found out when I made a fruitless search for mounting knobs one day. Ended up going to Home Depot for hex bolts. And forget about finding any employees -- excuse me -- "associates" with technical knowledge. I know former employees who advised me that if I ever applied for a job, don't put anything on the application that implies technical competence, it gets in the way of your real job -- selling junk to the stupid.

The new mottos of the store --

Radio Shack: You've got questions, we've got blank stares
Radio Shack: Wanna buy a phone?

All Your Robot Are Belong To AI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14951866)


Artificial intelligence [sourceforge.net] is now available for installation in all robots with sufficient memory space and processing power.

Radio Shack (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951867)

Back in the day RS had some awesome stuff like the 100 in 1 and 200 in 1 electronics kits. They provided all sorts of experiments that could be built upon. I had em' all.

Probably why I was able to easily diagnose and repair problems on my TRS-80 Model 1 with EI and disk system. So I'm happy to see them succesfully branch out into robotics. I know they've made some half hearted attempts, like that robotic arm they had on the shelves a number of years ago.

But I lament the fact that RS stores have slid from being geek paradise in some form, to a consumer electronics orgy. Thankfully there are plenty of online sources for parts these days but there was something about being bored on a Saturday afternoon and going to RS and getting the parts to build some gadget or another.

Re:Radio Shack (1)

yellowbkpk (890493) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951959)

RadioShack still has the 100 in 1 and 200 in 1 electronic kits. Usually they're hidden in the back-left of the store near the sound stuff.

When I worked at RadioShack for a year, I would say that 80% of our customers were those who came in and walked straight back to the electronics drawers and nabbed a few componenets and walked straight up to the cashier to buy them. Admittedly, these were the customers that RS was definitely not trying to sell to (they wouldn't buy cellphones and usually they wouldn't buy accessories for the products they originally bought -- both of which are what make RS money).

Re:Radio Shack (1)

ikea5 (608732) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953134)

I find it hard to belive that selling componenets with 1000% markup is less profitable then selling cellphones.

I used this for a robotics class at my college... (3, Informative)

yellowbkpk (890493) | more than 8 years ago | (#14951986)

My robotics class here at school used a few Vex kits and accessories to build robots. We came out with three cool robots that all were quite successful in 3 weeks. Check out pictures here:

http://flickr.com/photos/yellowbkpk/tags/vex/ [flickr.com]

Also, we spent a lot of time making custom sensors and modifying the ones that Vex gave us. They are all very easy to get in to and examine (like this one [flickr.com] ) and interface with (like the switch debouncer [flickr.com] that I made). Although the metal parts are just a little "different" then everything else, meaning you have to machine or buy new pieces, some Lego pieces will mesh with the Vex pieces quite nicely (as in this home-made shaft encoder [flickr.com] ).

Oops, misread that one a bit... (2, Funny)

What'sInAName (115383) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952015)

I seriously misread that as "The Mythbusters Construct a Kill Bot." I was thinking that maybe Radio Shack was prepared to do anything to restore their former glory...

Um, cool -- but... (2, Interesting)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952267)

...aren't Jamie and Grant already quite knowledgeable about robotics? I mean, Grant has experience in competitive robotics, and Jamie built that soda-can-shooting, remote-controlled vending machine. Not exactly your typical RS customers.
That said, I am looking forward to seeing them build the kit...

Re:Um, cool -- but... Jamie also made Blendo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952312)

From Battle Bots
Heavyweight: Blendo
http://www.battlebots.com/meet_the_robots3/meet_te am_profile.asp?id=47 [battlebots.com]

Grant apparently wasn't involved in the construction according to the site.

Re:Um, cool -- but... Jamie also made Blendo (1)

Tom Rothamel (16) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953105)

Grant did, however write the book [amazon.com] on making battlebots type robots... too bad it came out after the fad had died down.

FIRST! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14952378)

This is NOT a radio shack product, it is a kit robot developed by US F.I.R.S.T. Robotics. They hold competitions every year between teams. If you are interested in the robots, check out Cheif Delphi Fourms. They are a team in pontiac who are rather loud. http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/index.php [chiefdelphi.com] ?. (Nobody really likes chief delphi because most people think they have engineers build their robot and not the students.)

They also have VEX Contests.

In related news... (2, Informative)

timothykaine (821252) | more than 8 years ago | (#14952622)

The cast of Magnum PI just built a model airplane and didnt even sniff the glue.

Laptops with Vex (1)

godavemon (931048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953119)

I bought one of these when they frist came out and it is great except for one major thing. I bought the kit to hook up to my laptop to experiment with vision and intelligence. I figured the robot would save me a few months and even some money designing my own equivalent and be super easy to modify. Unfortunately FIRST didn't come out with its Programming module for 4 months and when it did it was only windows compatible and was only to program the pic microcontroller. There is no easy way yet to send easy commands out your serial, parallel, or better usb port to communicate with the robot. This is a major feature that they need to include. Computer science laboratories and even highschools now spend tons of money on robots for vision or intelligence applications. They don't want to design the robot themselves, they want to just have something they can set their laptop on, get some physical real world data from and instruct to move it around. The vex would be an ideal tool but there is no interface for this.

You left port without a full compliment of olives? (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953218)

This is all well and good, but how am I going to afford the alcohol to fuel its power cells?

Not just the starter kit (2, Informative)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953450)

They don't just have the base model kit.
From what I can tell they have:
- starter kit
- Tank tread kit (2X)
- Ultra sonic ranging sensor
- Extra hardware kit

I just bought a vex kit about an hour ago as well, damn cool so far.

Prototype != product (1)

feelyoda (622366) | more than 8 years ago | (#14953637)

What plenty of people don't understand is that building a prototype is not the same thing as building a product.

Some issues that aren't even on MythBuster's radar:
Making something work as close to 100% of the time as possible.
Making the system robust to almost all situation.
Making the system hardened so that dropping it doesn't matter, for example.
Making it so the marginal cost of product is far lower than the prototyping cost.

There are hundreds of serious university homegrown robot that can do some great things. Hobbiests make thousands more. How many companies have robots robust enough for the military to use? A dozen or so...

Programming kit is $100 even on sale! Any hacks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14953701)

This thing has a "phone connector" on it marked "serial", but how can I program it with my own cable and (possibly) Linux? Cross compilers for PICs are all over the place for free, and I know how to solder up my own cable, so why do I need to pay $100 for some lame windows software?

Please post any links to hacks for this. Schematics?

If not, then I will have to rip out whatever chip they have in there and replace it with a AVR, PIC or even an old 68HC11 board I have laying around.

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