Hello FIRST Community!
FRC Team 1584, nedrobotics.org, was founded 11 years ago. Although we have never had faculty or financial support at our small mountain school in Colorado, we have always had enough student interest to field a team. This year we had 13 students, though 6 of them were part time, splitting their time between FRC and other extracurricular activities. Three mentors from the rookie year are still fully committed, even though one mentor never had any kids, one didn’t have any kids do FRC, and another mentor’s kid did FRC for 3 years, and has been out of high school for 8 years. We obviously believe in FIRST, and we know the students appreciate and benefit from it.
So, our biggest threat ever came our new principal, who ripped up our FRC registration fee check, and tried to end our team by cutting off access to our funds. No notice or discussions with anybody. Luckily, one of our mentors is well connected to the district administration, and we got our money back. Then he tried to take the varsity letter away from robotics, which was also reversed by his bosses, but why would a principal do those things? Anyway, we did the 2015 build season for Recycle Rush, and are ready for our regional event next week.
I did confront the principal about his actions at 2 different public meetings. In the first meeting he evaded the question and then when I asked again he told me to stop bullying him. All I did was ask why he tried to end the robotics team. In the second meeting he gave the explanation for trying to end the robotics team because it cost him a coach fee out of his budget in order for someone on our team to get a key for access to the school. I since learned that fee is $600–obviously a horrible excuse to end a FRC team, and I don’t believe the real reason. If he literally didn’t have $600, we had over $14K saved from our fundraising, and could have easily paid for a coach ourselves. I don’t think we really know why he tried to end our team, yet.
The opportunity is, Boulder County passed a bond, and between the elementary school and the middle/senior high school there will be ~$13M invested over the next ~2 years. Most of that goes into expensive stuff like roofs, HVAC, facility layout, etc, but there is an estimated $4M in discretionary funds that the principals get to invest however they want. As of right now there are no considerations made for a decent workshop or any machines or tools at the high school. What the principal is lobbying for is an outdoor dome for more sports’ space. The principal has proven he does not value “applied STEM”, (which is a term I use instead of robotics when speaking with people who don’t really understand FIRST).
What I need is some hard and soft data to sell the value of FIRST to the principal, the school district, the board of education, the community, and the students. It is our team’s fantasy that we get a curriculum integrated into elementary and the middle-senior high schools, using FIRST as a key component of it. Most other schools in our district use that exact model, and they have machine shops, and teachers who are passionate about applied STEM and FIRST. This principal was a sports coach for years, so that helps to explain some of his actions. It appears legal and normal to give principals this much power, so my optimistic nature is being tested, because a principal trying to end a self-sufficient and successful FRC team just doesn’t make sense.
My questions are, what are the best online resources to sell FIRST to people who don’t know much about it and probably won’t spend more than a few minutes researching it?
I envision some teams’ websites would have what I am looking for, so are there any recommendations?
What else might motivate people to value applied STEM more than they do today?
Have any teams created surveys for their FIRST alumni, or their communities, or K - 12 students, that they would be willing to share either the form and/or the data?
In lieu of finding a survey or data that is ready to use, would the FIRST community be open to filling out a survey, the data from which will be shared with all teams?
The success stories every team has are valuable, so has anybody tried to break it down into a ROI or some other way to quantify and qualify the value?
Our team can try to do all of this from scratch, but of course the school district gave us only 2 weeks before a key deadline, which is why I am asking the larger FIRST community.
Any other ideas for how we can create that change, in light of the biggest threat our team has ever had, the principal? We would rather work with him to build and expand an applied STEM program together, because if it is a fight we won’t have a chance, and our team is doomed.
Thank you for your consideration,
Mentor, FRC Team 1584