IFI's relationships

There is an important but missing green line between IFI (and/or its 3 sub-companies) and the RECF.

In the RECF 2018-2019 Annual Report (now removed from the RECF Website), all 4 organizations are listed at the top of the Sponsors: Wayback Machine

Further, the RECF receives millions of dollars in funding each year to support its efforts, but has not yet disclosed how much of their funding comes from these companies. The RECF tax forms are available here: https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/detailsPage?ein=352212630&name=Robotics%20Education%20and%20Competition%20Foundation%20Inc.&city=Greenville&state=TX&countryAbbr=US&type=returnsSearch

I believe it should be a red line between IFI, Hexbug, and Rack Solutions, as they are no longer listed as sponsors on the RECF website, but are in that archived annual report. Right? And a green line to the VEX Robotics brand, which is still listed as a sponsor.

Edit: I’ll probably hold off on making an update until I see something more definitive, showing the change in status. If someone wants to do some more wayback machine sleuthing, you’re more than welcome.


Fair point. Thank you for pointing out the updated list on their website.


I understand that. I was just in full persuasive rhetoric mode. I tend to use a lot of rhetorical questions when going through my debate process. That’s not inherently wrong is it : )

Is there a set of links back to FIRST? IFI was involved with FIRST with early control systems and then more and more parts. For years there was a IFI something in the KoP, and it was my understanding that KoP is donated items. They are shown as a supplier, but not for the free items.

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Starting with the 2022 season, VEX/IFI was no longer a supplier for the KOP/FC. FIRST has stated that they will maintain this as a “policy” going forward, but will not be banning VEX components.

Based on the wording of that statement, I assume FIRST is also not interested in accepting further VEX/IFI motors onto the whitelist, though they haven’t stated this publicly.

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IFI manufactured the FCR robot controllers from almost the beginning until the RoboRio in 2009. The victor motor controllers and spike relays were among the first motor controllers. IFI was both a supplier and sponsor of First since the beginning of IFI. (early 90s). I don’t know why IFI stopped being a sponsor in 22. I suspect those that know are not talking.

Not sure of the details but before FTC there was a collaboration with VEX for the predecessor of FTC.

FIRST’s language seems pretty clear that IFI has offered support and FIRST has chosen not to take it (for whatever reason):


There was a falling out between IFI and First in '08. Everything was rather rushed, and it’s my understanding that’s why the 2009 control system was less than optimal.

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I would not speculate on that. It might be First sees VEX as a competitor in the robot competition market place. The First statement came from a requested response to the thread on CD. The decision was made long before. The response’s wording seems to be crafted to keep them out of the current controversy. The response was obviously crafted not to reveal the reason for the decision.

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There’s the reason that people give for (not) doing something. Then there’s the real reason.


Yeah, the 2009 Blue Box makes the cRIO (and the Digital sidecar) look amazing in comparison

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That seems like a bit of a stretch, no? They said specifically they would not be banning VEXpro products, so I would assume that would cover any new products down the line, so long as this policy is in place.

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Getting a motor approved by FIRST isn’t as simple as just coming up with a new motor. If it was, there’d be a lot more approved motors. Even for VEX/REV/etc, it’s a long process for FIRST to allow a new motor. It’s longer if you also need to get a controller approved, so VEX’s “integrated controller” paradigm slows down the process even more.

The only way to get quick approval is to donate a truckload of e-waste motors to the KOP and also have “Bosch”, “Fisher Price”, etc in your company name.

That isn’t to say that FIRST couldn’t approve a new motor from VEX, but the statement make it clear that FIRST doesn’t have an interest in a continued business relationship with VEX. I count adding motors to the approved motors list as a continued business relationship.


So off topic for this thread…but source?


As far as I’m aware, any info surrounding the motor approval process is hearsay. There was a thread recently with a lot of seemingly well-informed hearsay: Curious what is the approval process for an allowed motor or other COTs items that require FIRST approval

My own hearsay predates that thread, but they do align. Generally, it’s possible for anyone to get a motor approved (controller is a higher barrier) as long as they are willing to front the money for every team to get one in the KOP (or a large number in FC). You have to make it worth FIRST’s time.

Just look at all of the “wonderful” motors we’ve seen in the kit over the years.

Historically some of those oddball items have been more useful, but if there are throttle motors in the KOP, it definitely isn’t because they make life easier for low-resource teams. Just look at the forward facing electrical contacts:


“It’s all speculation”
continues to draw conclusions

You don’t have proof that FIRST automatically approves motors when there’s a large donation. I don’t know how to make motors or anything about safety, but you’re suggesting if I can gather the funds and donate a few thousand of my homebrewed motors to FIRST that they’ll just take them.

Back to the context of Vex, I’d say that we shouldn’t assume that a willingness to donate equates to motor legality, for the scenario I just described.

Actually First just approved a bunch of motors under the COTs linear actuator banner. My assumption is most of those will be the brushed variety. They are limited in other ways. Part of a cots assembly, on a 20 amp breaker…
Hopefully First sees the need for another source for brush-less motors.
I would not read anything into the First statement about IFI than they are not currently a sponsor of First.

What can I say :man_shrugging:. Drawing conclusions from speculation is like shooting fish in a barrel… or something…

Not automatic approval, just… “expedited”. Also, the “big name” aspect is important there. At least some credibility comes from being a well-known company that produces motors for non-FRC applications.

This is a big shift from previous history for FIRST, but doesn’t really change the motor paradigm yet as far as I can tell. The motors from the actuators aren’t legal on their own. They have to remain as part of the COTS actuator.

I’m hoping FIRST starts to allow any COTS motor in the near future (or at least any COTS brushed motor), and just limits motor controllers.

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This side discussion on COTS motor approvals should really get moved to the other thread linked above. I don’t know exactly what FIRST’s process is, but I know that if I was making the decision on whether or not to add a particular motor (or really any other component) to the legal list of components, it would involve a cost/benefit analysis.

Some costs/risks to consider:

  • Safety, safety, safety! This is a big risk to FIRST, both legal and in the court of public opinion–the whole program could get shaded if they approve a new thing and someone gets hurt (especially at an event, but even at home)
  • Would this negatively affect FIRST in any way? E.g. would a relationship with this supplier reflect negatively on FIRST? Would it impact relationships with other suppliers/donors?
  • Would this negatively affect teams in any way? E.g. does the item cost $1000 and provide a significant competitive advantage? Does adding this to the list of options just increase potential confusion, especially for less experienced teams–more options is not always better? Is the vendor capable of meeting team demand, or are they only going to supply a fraction of team needs so there will be haves and have-nots?

Some benefits to consider:

  • Does this offer a compelling benefit to teams? Is it lower cost, higher performance? Support/complement the existing ecosystem of parts teams use? Making an item free to teams (via donation) is clearly a benefit.
  • Does it benefit FIRST? E.g. a relationship with a well-known brand.

Getting back to motors, brushed vs brushless have significantly different challenges here. As long as a brushed motor fits within the power envelope that existing motor controllers support (40A @ 12V), there’s not really much question in terms of safety. The same is not true of brushless motors, which generally have to be paired with a particular controller for guaranteed-safe operation, and testing a controller to meet the safety requirements is a much higher bar (takes time and money from both the vendor and FIRST).

So looking at some scenarios. What of these would you accept to add to the KOP if you were FIRST, considering some of the above criteria?
Scenario 1: No-name vendor comes in with a brushed DC motor similar in power to a RS-550, but it has a 3/8" hex output shaft for easier interfacing. They aren’t going to donate any, and they can’t show they have a history of supplying large quantities.
Scenario 2: Major name brand comes to you with a brushed DC motor. It only has 10W of output power and difficult mechanical interfaces. They’re going to donate 10,000 each year for the next 5 years for you to include in the KOP.
Scenario 3: Medium-size vendor comes in with a brushless DC motor. They’re willing to donate enough for the KOP, but don’t have a motor controller for it… they’re thinking they can just donate some cheap ESC controllers for teams to use.