The Trouble with My Brain

What? Like you don’t build robots in your kitchen?

Things were going smoothly, too smoothly, with our VEX robot, so fate intervened. The boys built the Clawbot and only needed to make a few minor adjustments to their design. Granted, it was the basic design laid out in the instructions from VEX, but we’re newbies.

While they built, I synched up the joystick and the cortex, or microprocessor. The cortex is the robot’s “brain” and the boys have taken to referring to it as such.Then we attached the cortex and the joystick to make the clawbot go and…


We brainstormed, we tweaked, we tried again (and again) and still, not a single movement.

I assumed, that the robot would work once we connected the cortex and the joystick, but decided that perhaps we needed to program even the basic joystick motions.

So I decided maybe it was time to watch a few tutorials on the programming language, RobotC. We gathered round the Inspiron to watch a number of videos and get programming.

For better or worse, we were able to program a few autonomous movements, but that was it. The joystick still didn’t work.

Commence freak out.

One of the boys frantically insisted we need someone from the high school to help us out, I frantically tried to get in touch with Kelly, whose husband is an experienced VEX coach, but it was bedtime in her house. The next day I emailed the coordinator of our local high school’s engineering program (haven’t heard back yet), scoured the Vex online help forums, and had a helpful exchange with my VEX Regional Rep, Marc Couture, which led to a call to Vex tech support.

I wound up calling about 30 seconds before tech support closed for the day and received helpful advice. It was a quick call, so the kind man only had end his work day a few minutes late. He told me how to reinstall the default code on our robot’s brain, which I did. Then I “re-mated” the cortex and the joystick and then…more problems.

I am seriously non-techy (really), but I think I’ve done a good job of staying calm and carrying on. I had my son uninstall the cortex from the clawbot in order to test out one more thing (on my troubleshooting journey I learned we should have tested the motors and brain out before putting it into the bot–a newbie mistake).

As it stands now, I think the problem lies not with MY brain, but the robot’s cortex. 

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