I’m considering buying pneumatics for my team because my mentor won’t. If I buy the pneumatics can they be hacked to work outside of vex after my vex years are over?
Except for the control cable, the VEX pneumatics are industry-standard components. The only thing a little strange is that most industrial controls run on 24VDC. If you keep the stuff in good shape, you could probably easily sell it for 50-75% to a future VEX team, though.
SMC (the supplier of most of the VEX pneumatics kit) also makes solenoids that run on 24V DC. At worst, you would have to purchase new solenoids to change the operating voltage. The suggestion to resell them is probably an even better return on investment.
One reason that VEX uses 5V DC is because the first VEX control systems used servomotors from the radio control industry, which run on roughly 5V DC. They have maintained that voltage for pneumatics to retain backwards compatibility with their existing base of users.
If you think you need pneumatics to win, I would recommend spending resources elsewhere.
If you think pneumatics look cool and want to learn about something new, they are a good introduction to pneumatics (and share a lot of concepts with hydraulic systems).