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Unread 04-14-2008, 03:58 PM
Rick TYler Rick TYler is offline
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YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

So, what would you do? Let's say you lived in the state of Madison. Madison is a pretty normal state -- about 2/3 of people live in cities and the rest in rural areas, and the state is mid-pack in income, education level, taxes, voting, everything. Perfectly average. The state has just set aside $250,000 to support youth robotics in your state, but the department of education hasn't decided how to allocate the money yet. There are 300 public high schools in the state, and there are 50 legislative districts. The state legislature thinks very highly of FIRST, and FIRST volunteers were the ones who started the ball rolling.

Assuming that all $250,000 will be spent on programs in public high schools, how would you spend the money?

(This is loosely based on a true story, but PLEASE if you know the true story, help me cover up the facts for a few days so that the discussion can go on untainted by what really happened. Or is happening. In a week or so we can tell the true story, OK?)
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Unread 04-14-2008, 04:08 PM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

Well it's clear that all 300 schools cannot start an FRC team (maybe FTC if the price doesn't change), so I would have an application to see who wants the money and for what program. So if a school of 1200 kids wants an FRC program they apply and prove that they can have enough involvement to justify an FRC team, which would be at least 15 or more because any less then you may as well do FTC. And depending on the school's financial status and involvement size the money would be alloted accordingly. So in theory someone who's starts an FRC team would get a max of 5000 dollars. A smaller school with less involvement <10 would get ~$1000 to start an FTC team.
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Unread 04-14-2008, 04:20 PM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

That's $833 per high school. FTC money, maybe. NOT FRC, by itself.

Now, that's also $5000 per legislative district. But, not all legislative districts will have the same number of schools.

So, here's the way I would do it. Each high school would need to specify how much they want for youth robotics. FRC, FTC, VEX, BEST, etc. Any program that fits the bill, with FIRST programs preferred. Give an approximate amount. That's your target.

Then, matching funds. The school raises/donates half the money from its district, and the state matches it up to a total of the target for that school. Any money left in the fund then is up for grabs--bonuses for award winners, funding for the program as a whole, or evenly divided.

Here's the trick. Even with matching funds, you only get $1666 to play with per school. But what if schools combined? Schools ABC, DEF, and GHI combine and field one team (or set of teams) between them. They now have 3x the money for one program. So this would encourage schools joining forces to maximize the impact. As they raise funds locally, they can build up a support base and begin becoming independent if they so desire. Something like NiagraFIRST and the Triplets did. Maybe not to that extent, but the same idea applies.
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Unread 04-14-2008, 05:04 PM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

The money is nice, but in the absence of dedicated, competent, enthusiastic mentors, that is all that it is... nice.

So I would probably put aside at least 15% of the funding for professional development and release time for teachers interested in starting new teams.

Then I would ask, who is going to help these teachers find mentors and sponsors? Who is going to arrange the workshops? Who will be the full-time advocate on behalf of this program to arrange the sustainable, long-term success of the program? This is a huge, full-time job... and while there are incredible volunteers who will do this for free -- and probably have to get the program to this point -- is it really fair to ask them to keep doing this year after year? At the very least a budget, an office and some part-time clerical support is needed, but more likely a half-time to full-time FIRST co-ordinator position should be considered.

Then I would look at supporting "common assets", most particularly having regional competitions close to home. While I haven't calculated the exact cost savings for our team by competing in Seattle instead of Toronto this year (we already do Portland as our first regional), I would estimate it was close to $10,000 in airfare alone. Eliminating or reducing the cost of travel makes FIRST much more "doable" for many teams, and also makes it realistic for sponsors, parents, and supportive government officials to see FIRST in action. There is nothing like going to a regional to get people excited about FIRST. Hosting an off-season event would also benefit many area teams, as would having access to a common machining/welding/practice facility during build. This would be particularly useful for teams with fewer technical resources and make it possible for schools without in-school machine shops to compete more effectively. Admittedly these suggestions would most benefit urban teams near to these facilties, but that is also where the concentration of teams is likely to be highest.

Then I would set aside a bit of money to help teams that qualify for the Championships.

Now that we have dealt with some of the personnel aspects of seeing FIRST grow, and establishing some common assets it makes sense to start looking at what to do with the rest of the money. I would use it to make it possible for schools that have enthusiastic teams of teachers and community mentors in place, who have demonstrated their enthusiasm by finding some start-up funds to "make it over the top" with their entry fees. After all, from my experience at least, when there is a dedicated team of mentors in place, and they are backed up with strong support and a bit of help from the FIRST community, the entry fees no longer seem to be an insurmountable hurdle. In the absence of the mentors and a support network, the choice between sponsoring FTC, FRC or whatever is completely irrelevant.

FIRST isn't about money or robots... it is about people. Take care of that and the rest will follow.

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Unread 04-14-2008, 05:15 PM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

Earmark it for grants of $10000 for FRC teams, $1500 for FTC/Vex teams.

The grants are either given out on a "first come, first serve basis" or a panel is established to determine those schools most in need of a grant to help their robotics program.

Providing enough money to cover the basic operating expenses of a smaller number of robotics teams to ensure their stability is (IMHO) more important than spreading the funding too thin among too many teams.
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Unread 04-14-2008, 05:48 PM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

I would offer grants to teams or prospective teams that submit a written proposal. If the proposal is accepted, the team gets a share of the money, with a certain minimum amount, say $6000. It should be encouraged for kids to submit the proposal, not adults.

I like Jason's idea to allocate 15% to staff development - again, decided by proposal.

Teams can re-qualify for the next year (Um, I am assuming the funds will be available next year, if not never mind) by submitting a report on what they did with the money, ditto the staff development. No report, no chance next year.

Acceptance of proposals is done by a committee of folks not on the state BoE, since they seem to be dithering.

Oh, FRC, FTC, FLL, and any other "Robotics" curriculum is welcome to submit a proposal.

All the accepted proposals and reports published for public consumption, e.g., website, eventually.
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Unread 04-14-2008, 07:27 PM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

How about using the money to illustrate the need for great teachers to come to FRC as coaches. Use the money for teacher compensation. Let the sponsors and school districts and fundraisers fund the teams as most do now, and use the extra govt money to bring robotics coach pay up to that of prominent football/basketball coach pay. It will attract the attention of a LOT of teachers.
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Unread 04-14-2008, 08:16 PM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

For FRC, my suggestion would be to give the money out to rookie teams, second year teams and mentor teams.

I would give out $6000 to a rookie team and $4000 to the team that mentors them. The mentoring would require a report and some required duties for mentoring teams in terms of what help was given and received. For a second year team they would recieve $3000 and their mentor would get $2000. A third year team would get $1500 and their mentor $1000. This gives three years of support and enough time for a team to begin to develop its own support system.

I have seen too many teams get a NASA grant and then after two years have no idea where to get money... they have not been weaned away from free money... many of these teams survive for a third year.. but then drift away.

This money does several things then. It encourages established teams to mentor young teams, it also allows those teams to sign up for a second regional for their efforts. It gives a rookie team the means to play for three years while encouraging them to come up with their own funding sources....

I would also put some of this money into a fund which gives support to teams that qualify for nationals... Rookie all star teams in particular. Perhaps a $2500 stipend that helps with travel for a rookie all star team for nationals. This would pay for half of their registration fee for CMP.

If the state had its own regional, this would require about $15,000 which would give these grants to 3 regional champions, the chairman's award winner, the engineering inspiration award winner, and the rookie all star. No team could get two stipends and non-state teams would not quailfy for the awards.

Support could be given to FTC teams in the same way...
Perhaps $1500 the first year, $1000 the second, $500 the third...
with FTC mentors getting $500 to mentor a first year team, and $250 the second year... with no third year mentor help...

Rookie awards should also be offered to FLL teams at $500 each.

All of these awards need to be tied to a demonstration of putting a robot in competition.... this means that both the rookie and the mentor would have to make sure that the rookie robot makes it to the field. In cases where this does not happen, both of those teams would not be eligible the second year for awards. Some type of report would also be required... similar to what NASA requires....to show the team progress.

I think some of the money should also go to establishing an off-season event and workshops to help teachers/mentors/and students understand what FIRST is about.

I would probably break this down like this:

10 FRC rookie awards $60,000
10 FRC mentor awards $40,000

10 FRC 2nd year awards $30,000
10 FRC 2nd year mentor awards $20,000

10 FRC 3rd year awards $15,000
10 FRC 3rd year mentor awards 10,000

10 FTC rookie awards $15000
10 mentor awards $5000

10 FTC 2nd year awards $10,000
no 2nd year mentor awards for FTC

10 FLL Rookie Awards - $5000

Regional awards to Championship qualifiers: $15,000

Off-season event(s) $15,000
Workshops (FRC, FTC, FLL) $10,000

This is a well balanced program that encourages mentoring and long term viability for teams. It also spans all three FIRST programs.

With this program in three years it would increase the number of FRC teams in the state by 30. FTC and FLL would also increase by 30 teams each.

It also provides some vital infrastructure that gives workshop and information help to new and old teams alike. It also increases the state's ability to support these teams and the old teams by having these off season events and workshops.

This is a WIN WIN....
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Unread 04-14-2008, 09:35 PM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

I like this thread. I can see many states working on this in the near future. If I knew my state was earmarking money for Robotics programs I would like to see the money to go to rookie teams. I like the idea of giving a larger amount in the first year and less in the second year. I also like the matching funds concept. I would put a stipulation in that the team had to attend an in state regional competition. (this is easier for NY, there are 3 regionals).
I would like to see the state develop an application for funding. I would also want to see a board of people put together to select teams for funding.

I really like the idea of putting something together to help with mentoring. I'm not too sure that teams should get funding for mentoring other teams. That doesn't feel like FIRST to me. There does need to be something in place to help teams get good mentoring help. ( would rather see this come in the form of a tax deduction for mentors)

I personally like Ken's idea of getting $$ to teachers. Again there needs to be some stipulation for minimum requirements. I have witnessed why it is almost impossible keep teachers involved.


I do believe that the money should be available to all robotics programs. FLL is just a bit harder to figure out rookie teams, but it does feed the rest & is the cheapest.
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Unread 04-14-2008, 09:55 PM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

I personalty would not give MOST the money to FIRST events . . from the states perspective there are more cost effective ways of spending money.

first I would put a BEST hub in each large city and each major area. lets say 10 hubs in total. at a cost of 20K(thats an over estimate) per hub, and each hub servicing 30 High school teams, that would come out to 200K for all 300 schools.

that would make sure that every high school student in the state had a chace to participate in a some robotics education. it would also help to foster these areas for more FIRST teams ( BEST teams have a habit of wanting more and working to raise money to become a FIRST team)

the left over 50K I would put towards the registration for 8 rookie FIRST teams

but this is just the way I would do it.
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Unread 04-14-2008, 10:17 PM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

First, there are a LOT of schools out there that don't have enough teachers (a) interested in robotics, (b) with enough time to do FIRST, and (c) with skills commensurate to running a robotics team. One FRC team per high school will never happen for this reason.

So take applications from those who are interested.

Require the applications to have a business plan, and evidence of corporate sponsorship.

Sponsors, governments, and FIRST itself absolutely love to start new teams - but far too often, the teams are poorly supported. The number of teams that fold after a year or two is staggering. So require these teams to PROVE that they are going to do their best to create a sustainable program.

That's how you get the most bang for your buck.

PS - BTW, I would NEVER want grant money in FIRST to be based - even a little - on performance. Money for Regional Winners and Award Winners? That's not what we're all about.

1. Regional wins tend - but by no means always - to go to well-funded, or at least not impoverished, teams.
2. A lot of winning is luck.
3. Award selections are based on a judge's 10 minute appraisal of your team. They are nice, yes, but they have as much to do with how you sell yourself as they do with content.
4. This creates a conflict of interest for teams. You can keep kids inside the loop in the design process, but risk your funding, or you can ship your robot to the local engineering firm and get your check.

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Unread 04-14-2008, 10:26 PM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Abwehr View Post
Sponsors, governments, and FIRST itself absolutely love to start new teams - but far too often, the teams are poorly supported. The number of teams that fold after a year or two is staggering.
Around one in ten FRC teams in any given year do not compete again the next year. I don't know what the rookie failure rate is.

Quote:
I would NEVER want grant money in FIRST to be based - even a little - on performance. Money for Regional Winners and Award Winners?
I assumed Bob was intending this to pay for Championships, but I could be mistaken.

Great responses! Keep them coming.
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Unread 04-15-2008, 12:22 AM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick TYler View Post
Around one in ten FRC teams in any given year do not compete again the next year. I don't know what the rookie failure rate is.



I assumed Bob was intending this to pay for Championships, but I could be mistaken.

Great responses! Keep them coming.
Yes,
This was the intent of this money. To allow teams to go and represent the State/Regional at CMP. From my experience I see that areas that are well represented at CMP have a vibrance and energy that is not seen elsewhere.
It is a point of pride to be at CMP.

Many teams that win at a regional are NOT the best funded. Rookie teams, for instance, ALWAYS have a tough time coming up with the funds to make it to CMP. Sure, the Chairman's Award recipient has their act together... that is what it is about. The regional needs to be represented to bring back what is best about FIRST to the rest of the teams. I would suggest that any chairman's award team or engineering inspiration team or rookie all star would want to come back at a workshop and share what they learned.

I don't think it is a bad thing to help by giving these winners some help to make it to CMP. They are the regional's best for that year.

That is my 2 cents anyway.... the money would HAVE to be used to defray the CMP registration fee only. It is not to help fund the team to do anything except represent the regional at CMP.
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Unread 04-15-2008, 07:42 AM
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Re: YMTC: Your state has set aside money for robotics...

How many school districts are there? If possible, divide to the districts and have joint teams. Thats what we do and its proven to be very successful with many other teams as well. The way that some grants are given, is based on sustainability, but in reality big number of students and major corporate sponsors DON'T mean that small intercity schools with few numbers and a lot of community support doesn't need the money even more.




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2008-Present: FRC1745, P51-Mustangs - Mentor
2005-2008: FRC118, Robonauts - Alumni
National Director of Philanthropy - Delta Epsilon Psi Fraternity, Inc.
1745 - 118 - ΔΕΨ
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