Dear Robotics Education & Competition Foundation,
I am Adelade Shaw, the team captain on team 599B, I’ve been doing VRC for about 2 and half years now and it is honestly the highlight of my school day. I am so glad to have been given the opportunity to do this after school. But recent actions have had me and everyone in the VRC space rethink VEX Robotics and its parent company, Innovation First International (IFI) and I’d like to try to convince y’all why y’all might need to rethink your relationship to IFI. I’m sure y’all have seen the letter by now Denouncing VEX’s parent company, for their abhorrent management practices (or lack of) and toxic work environment. So, rather than spending this letter beating a dead horse, I’d like to convince y’all to cut ties with IFI for the reason that by doing so you are enabling a monster of a corporation to economically harm not only the bright young engineers who participate in y’all’s program, but also yourselves.
I believe that your foundation enables a company like this primarily through adhering to rule R34H
“Official VEX products are ONLY available from VEX Robotics. All official products are listed on vexrobotics”
And whilst I and many others believe it is necessary to have a universal standard of what vex parts are allowed at competitions in order to protect the integrity of the game (otherwise we’d just be “smol FRC”). I and surely my peers strongly insist that this rule does not protect the integrity of the game, but instead a monopolistic power structure that hurts everyone. This is easily conveyed by how the rule makes it so every single team must buy every vital component from Vex Robotics. Therefore making impossible for another competitor (who may offer better quality, faster shipping and lower prices) to sell the exact same product.
This, my friends, is a monopoly.
It is anti consumer, bad for the free market, and most importantly bad for every single team within VRC. The sole entity that benefits from this is Innovation First International. Because when consumers like us and our teams are deprived of our choice in product supplier, when we can’t even choose where we buy something as insignificant as our screws. It gives no incentive to a corporation like IFI to improve or even do the bare minimum. When we have no choice but to buy our falcon 500s, our batteries, or our flex wheels from one company, then it gives said company the ability to treat it’s employees like garbage and run the business like a boy’s club. It gives that company the ability to completely and utterly fumble the distribution of crucial parts like flex wheels and ball bearings and falcon 500s and even the field elements. It gives them the ability to charge $240 for the gps sensor sensor, which only works in skills auton matches. It gives them the ability to offer no support to teams dealing with their broken batteries other than, “just buy new ones”. It gives them the ability to charge $32 whole US dollars for two triwire solenoid cables that haven’t been improved in years. But worst of all, it allows them to trample on teams who are only trying to express their love of engineering in the best ways they can.
So, to the higher ups at the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, I feel there is only one option you have to help the young engineers who count on y’all and are being burdened by the greed and incompetence of IFI. Waive rule R34H at all competitions and form a whitelist of vendors so that teams can find guaranteed vex approved parts for competing without having to go through one single company that has this much control over the space. I think we’ll all find that with new competitors in this space teams will be able to get better quality supplies, faster, and more sustainably. I know it’s probably unlikely y’all, or anyone else will read this letter, but for the good of this competitive space, I absolutely hope it finds y’all. Because Innovation First Industries has became monopolistic monster, and only y’all have the power to stop it.
I’d like to leave y’all with one last thought to ponder, would you, the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, like to be on the side of the hardworking students. Who pay the registration fees, who organize y’all’s competitions, who make VRC what it is? Or would you like to be on the side IFI. The corporation one of its former employees once called a, “100% profit driven company, pretending to be mission driven”. I just hope y’all make the right decision.
It’s time to disassemble the IFIopoly
Adelade “Xavier” Shaw
Captain of team 599B