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Innovation FIRST, Inc. and Charmed Labs Collaborate to Create New VEX Microcontroller Based on Qwerk
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Jun 02, 2008
More Consumer and Education stories
New Qwerk controller technology enhances VEX Robotics Platform for universities and robot enthusiasts.

In an ongoing effort to promote greater interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in schools across the globe, Innovation First, Inc. (IFI), a leader in educational and competition robotics products, will team with Charmed Labs to be the exclusive licensee and producer of the Qwerk Robot Controller. Further, Innovation First will enhance the Qwerk controller to be fully compatible with the company’s popular VEX Educational Robotics platform. The newly branded Qwerk-based VEX controller will complement the current VEX microcontroller and offer enhanced features desired by post-secondary schools and educators.

“We are excited about our partnership with Charmed Labs to bring the new VEX controller with Qwerk technology to university labs and hard-core robot enthusiasts around the world,” said Joel Carter, vice president of marketing for Innovation First. “This new venture solidifies Innovation First’s lead in STEM robotics education by extending the VEX product line upward into the university and robotics research markets. It’s the ideal step up from the current VEX microcontroller found in thousands of high schools and middle schools around the globe and accelerates us toward making VEX the robotics platform of choice for all schools.”

The Qwerk uses a powerful ARM9 processor running Linux to greatly extend robotic sensor capabilities beyond the current VEX controller. VEX robots can achieve a new level of sophistication with features like onboard “sensorless” motor feedback, Ethernet, serial ports, USB ports and support for WiFi and Webcams. The Qwerk can run 4 direct motors with feedback in addition to sixteen PWM devices like VEX motors, VEX servos and Victor speed controllers. The controller also has eight 12-bit analog inputs, sixteen digital I/O, and audio output capability with text-to-speech.

Qwerk is already popular among universities and is supported by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute and their CREATE lab (Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment). The Carnegie Mellon Telepresence Robot Kit (TeRK) project provides a powerful feature to the Qwerk-based VEX hardware allowing robot control and video feedback across the internet. The controller can be operated from almost any computer including Mac, PC, and Linux machines. The CREATE Lab (http://www.communityrobotics.org) will also develop and publish plans for new and unique VEX robots along with curricula for teachers, all of which will be available for free download at http://www.vexrobotics.com and http://www.terk.ri.cmu.edu later this year.

“Qwerk’s advanced capabilities have been successful in the university market as part of the Telepresence Robotics Kit (TeRK), but our customers also wanted a complete and integrated educational robot solution. IFI has a rich set of products that are fully integrated, including sensors, actuators, mechanical infrastructure – all of which complement Qwerk very nicely,” said Rich LeGrand, president of Charmed Labs. “Our existing customers will really like the expanded choices and capabilities. Future customers will enjoy an incredibly rich palette from which to create their next robot or mechatronic system.”

About Innovation First, Inc.
Innovation First, Inc., a privately held corporation, was founded on the belief that innovation very early in the design process is necessary to produce simple and elegant product designs. Innovation First, Inc. began producing electronics for unmanned mobile ground robots, and is now an industry leader in the hobby, competition, education and toy markets. The company’s award-winning VEX Robotics Design System, VEXplorer, HEXBUG Micro Robotic Creatures, and IFI Robotics span the education, consumer and business-to-business markets. Innovation First’s staff are unmatched in their experience in supporting and running educational and competitive robotics competitions. The company operates http://www.robotevents.com offering the most comprehensive listing of educational robotics competitions, events and workshops on the web. Leveraging the company’s core competency in electrical and mechanical engineering, the RackSolutions division works closely with all major computer OEMs to provide custom mounting solutions and industry-wide rack compatibility for data installations of all sizes.

With an advanced in-house metal fabrication plant, distribution center, and offices located together in a 13 acre complex in Greenville, Texas, the company is poised to continue on a rapid growth path. Please visit http://www.innovationfirst.com for additional information.

About Charmed Labs
Charmed Labs LLC (CL) is a small company in Austin, Texas, which focuses on providing advanced embedded solutions for educational use. CL’s products have been used by thousands of students in universities, high schools, middle schools, and by hobbyists worldwide. CL’s engineers come from the consumer electronics industry and apply the same low-cost/high-volume design techniques toward advanced educational solutions, so they may become available to larger audiences. For additional information about Charmed Labs, visit http://www.charmedlabs.com.

Contact
Claire Church
GCI Group for Innovation First, Inc.
P:  310-526-5530
E: 


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