Below is a statement previous posted by Innovation First, Inc. on the Chief Delphi web forum. I thought I would repost it here for those interested.
Innovation First, Inc.
This is in response to the many inquiries and notes of support we’ve received regarding the recent announcement by FIRST to expand the intermediate program formerly known as the FIRST Vex Challenge. Innovation First, Inc. (IFI) pitched this program to the FIRST Board of Directors in 2002, and we have been working diligently to make it a reality ever since. IFI is pleased that FIRST has approved the intermediate program now known as the FIRST Tech Challenge. In developing the Vex Robotic Design System, IFI brought together major corporations, universities and some of the brightest minds in industry to deliver an award-winning platform that our customers now rally around. The volunteers, teams and affiliate partners all reported an overwhelmingly positive response after two years of successful pilot programs.
As you can imagine, the announcement by FIRST that they are “actively exploring the use of other robotic platforms” and that Vex is “unlikely to be utilized in future competitions” comes as a great shock and disappointment to IFI. We intend to provide many more years of service to FIRST and the community by delivering the best value products and exceeding expectations – a trait in which we take pride. Please understand that IFI received this information via the Chief Delphi forum, not via FIRST. While we frequently read the Chief Delphi site to stay current on what is important to teams and the issues that impact their experience, we don’t typically comment or speculate on FIRST-related business. Although we don’t fully understand FIRST’s decision and related intentions (and we certainly can’t speak for FIRST), we can comment on the facts surrounding Vex and IFI’s continued commitment to the platform.
Q: If FIRST drops Vex, will IFI continue the Vex platform?
Yes! Sales of the Vex Robotics Design System are setting new records each month, with the vast majority of shipments going to our primary market of schools and universities for classroom use – in addition to extracurricular competitions.
Q: Will IFI continue to innovate and grow the Vex platform?
Yes! IFI continues to add additional resources to support the rapid growth of Vex. As a follow up to the popular new Advanced Gear Kit and Large Omni Wheel, we’ll be introducing five new accessories and sensor items this summer alone. Other significant enhancements are in the works. We’re also working with Intelitek and Carnegie Mellon University on additional new curriculum and educational support materials. Vexplorer™, the new mass market robotics kit designed by IFI for Revell, debuts on the shelves and websites of major US retailers in August exposing the Vex platform to thousands of new, young customers.
Q: Will there be other Vex competitions?
Yes. While our primary support goes to FIRST, there are already a growing number of local and regional competitions using Vex today. We continue to receive inquiries from a number of organizations to support both national and international competitions. The reality is there will be multiple options to compete in the future and we hope that FIRST is among them.
Q: Is the Vex platform limited to the United States?
No, Vex is global. International shipments of Vex platform-based products have increased tenfold in the past year alone. As just one example, the Chinese ministry of education recently visited the U.S. as part of its Vex pilot in Chinese middle and high schools. IFI facilitated two Chinese regional tournaments and, along with our Chinese manufacturer, brought eight teams to compete in Atlanta. They have since requested space for twenty-five teams in 2008. In addition, the newly formed Asia Robotics League has selected the Vex Robotics Design System as its exclusive platform for their six-country competition to be held in Seoul, Korea in October. There are also Vex events planned for Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Israel, UK and others.
Q: Is it IFI’s desire to end the relationship with FIRST?
No. Our professional staff has over a hundred combined years of FIRST experience as team members, mentors, game designers, sponsors, judges, regional director and many other positions. We believe in the FIRST mission and have enjoyed a long relationship as a FIRST supplier and sponsor. We hope to continue to serve the community for years to come.
**Q: Why would FIRST change from Vex? **
We don’t know. Customer feedback to IFI from teams, FIRST and a two year Brandeis University study has been overwhelmingly positive. We are unaware of any feedback that would support a platform change.
Q: Did IFI raise their price of Vex products to FIRST?
No. IFI sells Vex products directly to teams, not FIRST.
Q: Has FIRST identified a potential replacement for the Vex Robotics Design System?
We don’t know.
[FONT="]We assure our customers that IFI will continue to support the Vex Robotics Design System for many years to come. We hope this helps clarify some of the confusion surrounding the recent announcement by FIRST and reinforces our commitment to Vex and our customers.