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Message from Foster of STEM robotics

From: Roy B
Sent on: Sunday, January 10, 2010 5:50 PM
Foster sent me this a while ago. Sorry I have been so slow to get this out:
- Roy

It was nice to meet you all last night and to see the projects at Hive 76.

I talked about a few things last night that people asked for more
information about.

First - VEX Robots -
We do a lot with the VEX robotics platform.
This is a full product line of metal, gears, sensors, etc. The current
control system is 6 channel RC controls connected with a Wi-Fi variant
called VEX net. The microcontroller is a Microchip PICmicro
PIC18F8520. There are two in the controller one is the master running
firmware that does all of the control managment, sensor polling, etc.
The second PIC18F8520 can be programmed in C. Our roboteers program
this processor.

For those of you that want bigger processing power, there are ARM based
systems that are in the pipe line. See this link for more deails:

The teams compete each year in the VEX game, this year it's called Clean
Our most recent event was at Penn State Abington, we took the slot that
used to be Robo-hoops. There are lots of events within an hour drive
of Philadelphia. The next one is on 23 January at Christopher Dock High
School in Abington, PA. A list of nearby events can be found here:

Downingtown Area Robotics is currently fielding 8 VEX teams, one is an
all girl team. The cost of the VEX competion is much lower than FIRST
Robotics, you can field a new team for between $1000 and $1200. A good
number is 4-5 roboteers per robot. So for the average cost of a FIRST
Team which is about $30,000 per year you could have 25-30 VEX teams and
reach[masked] students. After the first year it costs about $500 to
run a team. So if you took 5 years of money, at the same $30,000 a year
at the end of 5 years you would have over 55 teams in place with ~200
student roboteers. This is why we are so passionate about the VEX
program, it's very cost effective, you can start small and grow.

I run a 503(c) non-profit called STEMRobotics (see that has the goal of creating 1500 VEX teams in
the Philadelphia area. We are always looking for sponsors but more
importantly people that want to be mentors. As I said last night there
are minimal skills needed, we can teach you the rest. We are looking to
start Mentor classes (7 nights, 2 hours a night) in Downingtown in
January, contact me if you are interested in coming. If there is
enough interest (8-10 people) I'd consider coming to Philly to do it.
An alternative is to do a Saturday / Sunday cycle and cram the workshop
into two days.

STEMRobotics is also a reseller of the VEX parts. While I can't offer
you a discount, I can offer you free shipping and to tell you that our
"profit" goes back to all of the teams that we start. I'll try to come
to the next meeting and bring some VEX robots for you to see.

Second - Robotic events
Other events in the area that Steve and I try to go to are:

PSU Mini Grand Challenge - Robots drive a course around the Penn State
Abington Campus
PSU Fire Fight
Both of these events will on Saturday April 24th. They are great
events, lots of creative robots. My goal is to get a number of VEX
robots to compete in the firefight event.

This will be the first year to try the under water challenge
There will be a contest held at The Westtown School in West Chester PA.

Another water challenge is the same day as the Abington event, the Sea
Perch event.

The Drexel air challeng can be found here:
I don't see a date for a 2010 competition, I'd suggest emailing them.

Third - FIRST Robotics
I'm also on a FIRST team. A few of you asked about the robots, the
Downingtown Area Robotics Team website is
If you look at last years build at
you can see the huge amount of effort that goes into building an FRC robot.

If you have any questions please send me an email.

I look forward to the next meetup session.

Foster Schucker

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