An excellent discussion on #firstrobotics regarding Vex and the future of the US

I just concluded a very good discussion with a few other FIRSTers on Vex and the future of the United States in general. We face a very real threat here, and it is not terrorism. Please read the linked file and post your comments.

EDIT: And here’s where you can access this chat channel from most any java enabled web browser

I believe you are completely incorrect in saying that FIRST went about it all wrong. You have to remember that FIRST is a Non-profit organiztion, they cannot take a big risk like starting 30 VEX regionals (or even 15) and run the risk of loosing money. YOu have to look at the big picture , Would you rather risk losing VEX or risk having to pay an extra 500 dollars a regional next year to eat the losses vex caused?

Maybe this is just me, but I’d rather run the risk of the 500 dollars. And I’m not from one those teams that has a lot of money. Vex is just that important.

which is why they got RadioShack to back it. And it backfired, because RS is discontinuing it, because it’s not selling well, because (just like FIRST) it takes time to catch on.

I would really like to invite everyone there. While your opinion of chat rooms may be low, I think you will find #firstrobotics to be a lot like CD… lots of mature conversations going on.

What’s sad is that VEX was a perfect program for predominantly lower to middle income populations and their associated school districts. I hate to say it but FIRST Robotics Competition is really a competition for the wealthy. Granted, there are quite a few teams out there that have pushed themselves from difficult situations but the cheapness of VEX made for the possibility of any school joining, not just those that could fork over $6000 in one check.

If what everyone is saying is correct and VEX is being discontinued, the work I had been doing with a few other university professors at my university will just have been wasted. We had between 12-14 teams in our local area signing up (with plenty more schools in the city) and authorization from the university to host an unofficial VEX regional. The city where we are located is not predominantly wealthy nor would it have the financial resources to sustain 12-14 FRC teams and that was the reason why VEX made sense. The resources of the school (large endowment) made it possible for the university to donate a VEX kit to every single elementary and high school in the area, allowing for many more students to participate compared to participation of students in entire states in FRC.

FIRST should reconsider any cancellation of VEX and their partnership with Radioshack. Like when FRC first started, VEX should be given the same chance to grow. All elementary, middle and high schoolers should be allowed the chance to participate in this program.

I still want to know: Is Vex really cancelled, or is this still hearsay?

Until I see a press release, the removal of all mentions of Vex from RadioShack’s stores and website, or JVN at my front door telling me otherwise, I’m still not sold on this being any more than just RadioShack trying to move inventory out during the summer.

I’m seriously hoping that it’s not discontinuing. If it is nothing more than inventory processing, that would be excellent. There are a lot of teams in this area that are getting geared up for VEX and wanting mentors from our university.

It’s funny to watch speculation grow. From VEX going on sale and being a great deal to todays statements that VEX is dead. He said she said and on and on.

I would like to remind everyone that NO ONE to my knowledge, has said that the VEX challenge is being discontinued. What HAS been said is that RadioShack will no longer be carrying VEX products, and even that has not been confirmed. VEXLABS (a subsection of IFI), while it is not offering a discount, DOES still carry VEX products.

Looks like its continuing (whew what a relief), but not at RS. And this is regular priced.

Blame should not be placed entirely on FIRST or Radioshack for this. While both could have done better jobs at marketing VEX, niether did a bad job. FRC did not explode at first either. For a second year competition to have over 200 teams is a HUGE acheivment. FRC took several years to get anywhere close to that mark.
Do you honestly think FRC could have grown to anything near its current size without the advertisement and outreach done by the teams themselves? With the relatively small number of FVC teams, it is impossible to think that those FVC teams could advertise as well at the 5x as many FRC teams. But even with that numerical disadvantage, FVC’s growth has been much much higher than FRC’s during it’s baby years.

While the possible discontinuation of VEX at RadioShack is unfortunate, I would have to say that the FVC program is looking rather bright at this point. Going from just fifty pilot teams at the championship to over two-hundred in what is essentially less than one year is really cool. While I am going out on a limb here, I am guessing that not a lot of these teams were attracted simply by the fact that they found the Vex kits at Radioshack. More than likely, teams which have an FRC team or have always wanted one, but simply couldn’t afford it found this program through FIRST.

While this may be a setback as far as bringing FIRST into the mainstream, I believe that the FVC program will continue to grow at a reasonable rate for some time.

The problem is, just like not every high school has FRC, not every school will have FVC. RadioShack had (and still has) the potential to allow tons of kids to have VEX just like they have Legos.

Here’s a thought: until now, vex products could only be sold at radio shack. Perhaps RS is discounting the products because their exclusive selling rights contract is going to expire.

Since RS is the “exclusive” retailer, and they might be towards the end of the deal, perhaps other retailers will soon be allowed to offer the vex kits.

If I’m not mistaken the original deal with RS was a two year commitment. I think that RS is just moving stock out of stores with no Vex sales, and moving it to stores with Vex sales. I went into two of my local stores and as fast as I bought out product, it was restocked. I think the idea of a Vex pullout is very premature. RS as an entire organization is having financial trouble. So product realignment is to be expected.

This big Vex sale is a perfect time to buy your Vex stuff. Based on the traffic here on CD, RS should start taking notice of Vex soon. There are quite a few large purchases going on. If you think Vex is selling slow, stop and think, when’s the last time you personally saw a LEGO Mindstorm purchase at a retail store?

Thought so.

RS may be considering moving much of the sales to online and educational divisions, and only stocking it in high volume stores.

And… If you haven’t checked out the new ROBOT Magazine here. The first two issues had several articles on Vex. Much more than other hobbyist robot systems. If RS does drop their exclusive contract with Vex I’m sure another vendor with gladly pick up the product line.

Just my 1.9999 cents worth. :smiley:

I have to say that that chat is one of the best things I’ve read in quite a while. From what I see, RS dropping Vex isn’t the major problem it’s merely indicative of bigger problems.

The thing is, people are getting all kinds of conflicted messages from RS employees so it’s really hard to analyze what may be going on behind the scenes.

All I know is that I was told that the vex components have periodically been on sale and that isn’t the first time. Secondly, I know that the system was too expensive for me to get into before, as a sole hobbyst. I saw the sale on and then most of the components were sold out and the sale appeared to be goine. I panicked and my puchase decision was expedited. I spent $330 on vex components and then 2 days later bought another $140 of components. If enough people acted so hastily and rashly (which according to the RS vex sale thread), then RS is sure to notice.

This may revitalize the product line, but it may not be enough. Personally, I think that the magazine exposure (they’re been in several magazine reviews) is simply not enough as too many adult hobbyists see it as a toy. I believe that two and a half things are necessary for the Vex system to further penetrate the market. First of all, they need to actively promote the product line. Second of all, I recognize that the system has great potential in other markets (computer modding for example). Better promoting can lead to greater market diversity. On sale, the vex components are cheap and easy to implement into a computer mod. Now, a half point - vex’s main website is a joke. There can be great potential there, but alas it’s childish in appearance and near-useless in function. Perhaps they could include a “how to build this model” section. On vexlabs’s site, they have several robot examples. The “tomahawk” looks fantastic and it would be nice if they could include instructions as to how to construct it.


fact: VEX product was moved out of some stores, back to Texas, due to lack of sales.

fact: People working behind the counter at RS stores don’t necessarily know the resons why they were asked to move product back to Texas.

Corporate decisions get made every day. This could mean many things other than discontinuation. As part of FVC Game Design, I still field emails from FRC mentors and FVC teams on a regular basis about the program. A good friend of mine and FRC Mentor walked into an RS store last week and purchased nearly $500 worth of VEX goodies. Does any of this mean I have “insider knowledge”??? NO. I’m simply reporting what I know to be fact. I leave speculation up to those with nothing better to do with their time.

If there is anything to learn from Radio Shack, we will all learn it together from official sources. Speculation and worry are needless at this point.