Ask a Robotics Expert

Should my son join a FTC or VRC after Lego?

My son has been participating in a LEGO Club (no official competitions), but is “aging out” of the club.  He really wanted to join an FTC, but all teams are closed.  A VEX team is just now forming and he has an opportunity to join.  He’s a bit hesitant because he LOVES LEGOs and using the NXT brain.  Can you give me any advice / info on VEX that would help him make up his mind for joining the team?  Thanks so much!
- Holly

Hello, Holly. It sounds like you have a young robotics engineer there! As your son ages out of Legos, he will naturally be ready for the greater challenge that is offered by the more advanced platforms used in both VRC and FTC. The platforms will allow him to continue to grow as he sees the expanded capabilities of the robots he is able to build.

The VEX Robotics Competition (VRC) and FTC are similar in that the robots are the same size, they play a head-to-head sports-style game, and are constructed using a standardized kit of parts. VRC uses a VEX Robotics Cortex controller that is different than the LEGO NXT used in FTC, but it won’t seem strange to someone who has programmed LEGO robots. If your son moves up to either VRC or FTC, he won’t see many LEGO parts anymore, as they are not used in VRC, and you rarely see FTC robots with many (or even any) LEGO components. What he will see is robots that are bigger, stronger, and faster than you can build with LEGO.

The VRC has thousands of teams all over the world and your son should have a great time. There are quite a few troops and Venturing crews building VRC robots and competing, too, so he could even mix robots and Scouting.

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  • Rick Tyler has been a Scouter for more than 10 years, in Tigers, Cubs, Scouts, and Venturing. As a youth he was a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and lastly a member of an engineering Explorer Post where he built lasers and learned to program computers. After a career in the software industry, Rick now works for a not-for-profit that promotes science, technology, engineering and math education for young people. He is Advisor for Venturing Crew 2036, which builds robots for the VEX Robotics Competition. He has also been a mentor for FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge teams.

    Tarek Shraibati is a lifelong Scouter who has been active at both the unit and district levels. He teaches engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at California State University, Northridge. He has also been active in the promotion of several youth robotics programs including the FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST Tech Challenge and the VEX Robotics competition.

    Dr. Kenneth Berry is the Assistant Director to the University of Texas at Dallas Science and Engineering Education Center (SEEC). He has been an educator for over 20 years and has been investigating and promoting robotics in the classroom for over 10 years, dating back to when he worked at JPL, NASA’s Lead Center for the Robotic Exploration of Space. As Assistant Director to the SEEC, Dr. Berry is promoting Project Based Instruction with robots in classroom. He was a Cub Scout and earned his Arrow of Light. He continued on to Boy Scouts and earned his Eagle and two palms. He was Order of the Arrow, and he also served as a Ranger at Philmont Scout Ranch.