Cortex Should be Legal

As Mr Rogers would say, “Look for the helpers”. Sometimes there are thoughtless decisions that are made. That gives an opportunity for the community to step up.


couldn’t agree more, I see no benefits to banning the system outright, even though it’s discontinued. Especially this season where many teams can’t get v5 components even if they had the money to, which is even more of an if considering the price increase on v5 components.


I have freely offered gear as many others have - so no lack of helpers. What I am confused about is how did the middle school team end up in this situation? are they an independent team that bought VEX gear on eBay? What was the experience of their adult coach? Hard to see where the no Cortex messaging got lost?

As forgiving as we might want to be “give that team a pass”. How is that fair to all the other teams that did not present themselves with a Cortex based robot? I think what would have been a cool thing to do at that event would be to have pickup matches on the practice field - good practice for teams and positive experience for the middle school cortex teams (play 2 cortex v 1 v5 format :slight_smile: ). Not everything has to be play qualifying matches to achieve that learning opportunity. Another option is invite team members to shadow some of the other teams, be part of pit crew (yes I have see that done with teams that a number of their teammates were unable to come to event.)

This season has been rough in every way possible but I do like how teams help one another out. For my upcoming event, last chance for teams to advance to regionals - one organization withdrew their teams to support those teams that could not compete at all due to Covid and snow cancellations. Class acts everywhere.


PIC wasn’t really legal in the 2019-2020 season. They gave you examples of legal control systems in tower takeover, as well only the VEXNet 2.0 key being legal, which was only compatible with the Cortex.

That said, Cortex didn’t have nearly the supply chain issues that the V5 has now.

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Obviously this isn’t the point of this thread (and I think the fact that it was unambiguously mentioned as legal through 2017-2018 proves my point about how much more generous they were with the PIC grace period) but it does seem that it was still technically legal?

r. Robots must use ONLY one (1) VEX EDR Microcontroller.
a. Examples of VEX EDR Microcontrollers are the VEX ARM® Cortex®-based Microcontroller (276-2194) and the V5 Robot Brain (276-4810).

The fact that those are listed as examples and not an exclusive list, as well as the explicit mention of PIC in a list of things allowed

A VEXnet upgraded 75MHz Transmitter may only be used in conjunction with a PIC Microcontroller

seems to imply it was competition legal.

Again, not remotely the point of the thread, I just really want to believe there was a season where PIC, Cortex, and V5 were all legal.

EDIT: and I just saw the rules below that with Cortex and V5 as an exclusive list of valid options. OK, seems like it wasn’t legal and the rules were just weirdly written that season.


PIC was legal during 2019-2020. The rules start tightening around R16 which prohibited the 75MHz crystal radios, but events could allow said radios at their discretion under R31.

The PIC did actually have a VEXNet upgrade. From what I've heard it's pretty rare though (hence the rule about no mixing PIC and newer controller)

Going back on topic, I think they should’ve just done the same thing as 2019-2020. That is, allowing the older cortex at the event’s discretion.

EDIT: Point in case, PIC was allowed to compete on paper even though it was way past EOL, unlike with the EDR cortex and V5.

Even though the software was depreciated, even though the VEXNet 1.0 radios were problematic, even though the hardware wasn’t worlds legal, at the very least PIC was still technically allowed to compete at events under the rulebook.

I’m honestly surprised RECF would force all teams to use V5 after VUR4 during 2018-2019.


I have to agree - there were many lost opportunities here to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive. It’s easy to paint the RECF as the big-bad in this situation, but a little non-linear thinking by others could have gone a long way here.


I agree that RECF should have made and accommodation when it became apparent in 2020 there were going to be V5 supply issues. There are teams in Delmarva that are not competing since the didn’t have access to V5 hardware.

I’m not sure how they got through the build season without reading the rules. They are pretty clear about only having V5 hardware. But getting teams to read the rules is hard.

While I’ve committed my share of event atrocities and have invoked the ire of RECF, I don’t know if I would have let them play. I’m sure I would have gotten an earful from teams that lost matches being paired with the Cortex teams. I’m all about the experience and inspiring teams, this is a tough line to cross.

In hindsight, this is something that should have been discussed back in October. And maybe it should be on the table for the 2022-23 game. I don’t have insight into the VEX supply chain. I do know that supplies of components are just a huge mess. Try to get a Raspberry Pi with 8 GB is almost impossible. They are predicting it will be 1Q 2023 before they will catch up with the current demand. But if lots of teams are not going to be able to get V5 electronics as a stand alone pack, maybe a 1/2 step back to allow Cortex makes sense.

About the PIC backpacks, I have/had 4 of them, they were pretty cool. So as I read the rules, they would have been legal under the “need VEXnet” rule. TBH, those whip antennas on the 75Mhz transmitters scared the daylight out of me. More than once I’ve been wacked in the face.


I completely agree with everything that’s been said above, and here’s my standpoint on the issue:

So, I go to a STEM magnet school, where our only ‘sport’ is robotics. Because of that, robotics is a massive deal here. We’re a combined MS/HS, and because of that, we have to allocate our funds between the two coexisting orgs(4591 & 3249). As far as funding goes, we’re treated like a club, not a sport. So we don’t really have all that much.

We had enough kits between us to have as low as 2-3 person teams, which I feel is the perfect number for some new students learning robotics. So when I read that section in the manual in June, I was worried. Worried that the opportunity to compete in this wonderful sport I’ve come to love would be ripped away from those who might not get as much grant money as they need. As of right now, my club has forced us to be in teams of 4-5 people, and is putting all extra expenses towards new kits, instead of registration for more comps to give them more chances of doing well(Backstory on that, we get 1-2 comps a year, 3 if we’re lucky. If we could go to more comps, we’d have more teams do well, advance, etc.).

However, we still have all of our old Cortex hardware locked in a closet in our parts room. If we had a setup similar to 2018-19, where the middle school teams used Cortex, and high school teams used V5, then everyone would, in theory, have equitable access to everything they’d need to compete. It truly saddens me that our club has come to this.

Honestly, I fully understand where the RECF is coming from with this, however much I dislike it. Think of VRC like a new gaming console. Hardware is a particular game. The company that makes that console isn’t going to update the software forever so you’ll be able to play the game, thereby forcing you to pay for a copy of the game, or a different game entirely, that will run on the console.

I’ve been speculating about this quite a bit recently, even to the point of putting together a pitch to my school board about it. Banning Cortex effectively puts a paywall on robotics. The goal of Vex, as stated in the RECF’s mission statement, is “to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics”, but how can they increase student involvement when those students have to pay to play, and aren’t able to?


This doesn’t make much sense from the RECF’s point of view, actually. If a team has the means to buy V5, they will do so in order to be competitive. Not doing so puts you at such a huge disadvantage any team that has it within their means to get a V5 will. Any team that can’t afford or source a V5 and is forced to play with Cortex hardware will not be any more able to buy a V5 if it is required than if it isn’t. If anything, not requiring V5 would result in more income for the RECF, because a Cortex team might register to compete that otherwise couldn’t.


It’s understandable that cortex will have to be obsolete sooner or later. Eventually, field control or something else of that nature will likely change in such a way that cortex physically cannot connect. But that hasn’t happened yet, and I don’t expect it to for some time. And I don’t think cortex should have been made illegal until it’s incompatible with tournaments. Especially not during a season where it’s extremely difficult to acquire v5 components, affordable or not. It doesn’t seem beneficial to anyone involved for this to have happened.


Worlds this year, it would have been earlier but it’s another victim of everything that happened in the last 18 months.


So, you’re saying the new field controllers will be used at worlds? We knew it was coming, but that’s exciting news.


Interesting to know. It’s inevitable that cortex loses compatibility, and I don’t think these systems are expected to, or should be constrained to the limitations of cortex.

However, a local middle school tournament is not worlds, and I feel like exceptions should exist for this season in particular for events where cortex is compatible and the alternative is that a team goes home, unable to compete.


I like where your going with this. But in some areas, all the middle school teams had full V5 systems. I’m not sure where to stand on this topic. For the most part a Cortex robot would be dominated by a V5 robot of the same type. This then leads to @Sylvie (s) point saying they would otherwise compete.

I feel like RECF could even open a new division of VRC specifically tailored for the old system. Possibly even create a invitational showcase where teams use cortex systems exclusively. I’m sad to see cortex left behind because it’s nostalgic, but it is truly like upgrading your PS4 to a PS5.

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Just to build on this point, here’s a different viewpoint:

  1. By not reading the rules, 2 teams had a bad experience
  2. Worse, likely there was a waiting list and 2 teams that could have competed were not able to

Folks are putting a lot on the RECF here. Nothing is preventing students from self-organizing such events. In fact, I’m pretty sure @Sylvie and other students (apologies if I’m over- or under-including) put together a highly successful 1-v-1 remote tournament system last year that heavily influenced this year’s remote rules.

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Just to be clear - I do not see the students having anything part of this situation. I does fall on the adult mentor / coach not asking more questions and seeking resources to support the student-center journey. If a new organization - team - I think RECF Team Engagement Manager is going to be huge supporting teams (and counterpart Event Engagement Manager supporting new and all EPs). this will make regions stronger.

As an EP, I am glad this has been raised, end of the day I want teams to have a good experience. Some cases it is a no-win situation. But from discussions here, we can find solutions - “find the helpers” and make it work.


I can kind of understand how the mentor would have missed this. I think a lot of us, because we’re forum users who are super involved with VEX, don’t really understand the viewpoint of somebody who’s less involved.

Imagine you’re a coach who only knows the cortex as “that robot brain thing that makes the robot move.” If you think that’s an exaggeration, I can link you to posts on the forum asking questions about V5 in IQ and about programming the cortex in V5 programming subforums. So you’ve always used the Cortex, but unbeknownst to you this year it’s illegal.

But the only indication of that fact is buried in the boilerplate robot rules that look pretty identical to last year saying “don’t hook an Arduino to your robot”. So you miss it as you read over the rules.

An easy solution to this would just be a one pager of “important rule changes from last year” that covers all the things that have been true for like 8 years but no longer are. Like the fact that parts identical to VEX parts in all ways but color are no longer legal, or the fact that the Cortex is no longer legal.

If you’re communicating to a large group of people, and part of that communication is “if you don’t replace this thing your robot can’t compete” I think you have an obligation to make it a bit clearer than just having it buried in a list in R16a. Otherwise you’re gonna end up hurting the students the whole point of this program is to inspire. (And also, let us give them some leeway, because nobody is gonna be hurt by allowing the robot with the Cortex to compete)


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