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A patented hardware product for VEX robotics competitors, 3d printed on a Form 2.

Discovering a Problem

A team uses 1 - 4 batteries between per round, resulting in a ton of batteries lying around. When you go to grab another battery though, determining the charge state becomes a problem.

Most teams use a multimeter, which runs around $50, and is difficult to use—there's extra settings you don't need, and the leads aren't designed to work well with VEX batteries. It's a cumbersome, ineffective, expensive tool for the job.

As a VEX robotics competitor, I ran into a problem many teams shared: dealing with batteries was a pain in the ass.

From left: high school, electronics, render.

Stumbling into a solution

My senior year, I took an experimental course at my high school called "entrepreneurship." The school's engineering program had some incredible resources: 3d printers, laser cutters, cnc machines, and great mentors. The course had us come up with ideas, and build businesses around them, with regular visits to local startups and tech companies sprinkled in.

The class gave me time and a focused atmosphere, and my robotics experience gave me the tools and technical ability to make it happen. I sketched a handheld solution, and went through several revisions in Solidworks. Having access to the program's 3d printer gave me the ability to very quickly test assumptions I'd made in the design process in real-world situations.

After designing a proper housing, I ordered the "guts" of the voltmeter off Alibaba and Molex, and assembled individual units myself. From there, I created a simple landing page for the product, and let leads roll in. I made some sales, and implemented customer feedback as I collected it. There's a polarizing film on each of the displays, to increase visibility of the reading—this was added based on feedback I received of difficulty taking readings in high-light situations.

It was around this time I pursued a patent on the product, and began work with an Austin attorney to draft the necessary papers and technical drawings to file an application. The patent process is still ongoing, and you can check it out on Google Patents.

Shots from the patent application.

After I graduated, I moved to Santa Cruz, CA, and lost access to the 3d printer, which cut my production. I had some leftover units, which I sold out of, but failed to find a cost-effective way to continue production. With school kicking off, time was a limited resource.


My last day at Evaline, Inc. was December 1st, which marked the end of my hiatus on the VEXvolt. Still without regular access to an affordable way to print the housings, I purchased a Formlabs Form 2, a resin-based SLA printer. This gave me not only a viable method of manufacturing, but a much higher level of print quality and build strength.

Unfortunately, the mechanism I'd previously used to mate the two sections of the housing no longer worked with the new printer. The printer at my HS's robotics program had a lower resolution, and printed "lines" of material, whereas the Form 2 extracted the part from a pool of resin, hardening layer by layer as the part is produced. The benefit of the old method was that static friction was enough to hold the pieces together.

This prompted a redesign of the assembly, with improvements to assembly time and resilience rolled in.

From left: high school, electronics, render.

That's where I'm at right now. You can follow the project on Twitter. I'm running a limited beta of the new assembly to collect some feedback, so if you're in Austin, shoot me an email. I'm launching a Kickstarter in February. Till then!

Reach out if you want to chat about transportation tech, EVs, or if you just want to talk design.

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