DoD Sponsorship of FIRST

During the Kickoff, Paul Gudonis made reference to several major “new or expanded” corporate and government sponsors of FRC. He specifically mentioned: SAIC, Department of Defense, Platt Electric, Northeast Utilities, AT&T, JCPenney, and United Technologies Corporation.

(For reference Paul’s comments I am referring to are about 20-21 minutes into the whole Kickoff video just before he discusses FIRST “going green” with the new “FIRSTGreen” fundraising program.)

(There is a press release here with more info on the new SAIC partnership.)

Being a Department of Defense (DoD) affiliated team, we are particularly interested in what Paul meant by “new or expanded” sponsorship specifically by the DoD. Try as I have, I can find no further information detailing what “new or expanded” sponsorship the DoD has partnered with FIRST to provide.

Obviously the DoD has a vested interest in robotics technology and science and engineering. As such, I would love to see the DoD become more involved with sponsoring more FIRST teams. There are a lot of military engineers around the world at a lot of military installations that seem like an untapped resource for teams.

Does anyone have any additional information as to what Paul was referring to in his Kickoff presentation regarding this “new and expanded” sponsorship of FIRST?

Also, if your team is sponsored by or even non-financially affiliated with the DoD or branch of the military please PM me or post in this thread. At a minimum I would like to get some handle on how many teams the DoD currently supports and what that support is. Ideally, I would like to start a discussion about how we could pull together to create more DoD sponsorship opportunities within FIRST.

As a government organization, the DoD has much more funding than NASA. As cool as NASA and space exploration is, the DoD has many, many, many more, robotics applications much closer to earth that need qualified scientists and engineers. These including robotics applications with both piece and war time missions. (Whatever your political views are please try to keep them out of this thread.) Beyond robotics the military needs qualified scientists and engineers just like everyone else for the same variety of applications as most of the private sector.

The generous funding and substantial sponsorship opportunities provided by NASA are well documented, well known, well coordinated, and well understood throughout FIRST. If there is some sort of similar DoD program to sponsor FIRST teams I don’t know about it and trust me I have searched. It seems to me that any direct DoD sponsorship of FIRST teams is disconnected, ad-hoc, not well documented, not well publicized, and pretty much (from my experience) non-existent yet the DoD has just as much to gain or more than NASA and the rest of corporate America from “the fruits of the FIRST tree.”

Does anyone have any idea how to go about approaching the DoD (through proper chain of command, of course) to start a coordinated NASA style FIRST sponsorship program at the Pentagon level just like NASA’s headquarters level program we all know and appreciate whether we are directly sponsored by NASA or not? Is this possibly what Paul Gudonis was referring to in his Kickoff presentation? If not, why not? I know I am dreaming big here but why not? It is getting harder and harder to find sponsorship everywhere these days and NASA can’t continue be the only major government sponsor of FIRST forever. It seems to me that the DoD could step in to share some of that government sponsorship burden. The Army sponsors drag racing, NASCAR, etc. to the tune of millions of dollars a year and that is just one branch of the DoD. Why not FIRST? I love racing and have spent many thousands of dollars going to NASCAR races over the years but that was MY money. I would much rather see the DoD spend my tax dollars sponsoring FIRST than painting their name and logos on the side of some race car. With the new Presidential STEM initiative it at least appears the government gets the FIRST message at the highest level. I know developing a program like this is probably a pipe dream, would take an enormous amount of time and effort and that the middle of the build season is probably not the best time to start this discussion but I’m hoping to at least get some ideas thrown out in this thread that may plant the seeds for the future.

For the record: Our team is DoD affiliated in as much as we work in unused space at a DoD research facility during build season and they provide us some storage space during off season and most of the team mentors are DoD research scientists and engineers. For the generous use of the space we consider the DoD research facility to be one of our title sponsors. However, the DoD scientist and engineer mentors are all on their own time and the DoD provides us no direct funding, zero, zip, nada. We have other sponsors and fundraise just like everyone else to cover the costs of entry fees, travel, parts and materials, etc.

If you are a DoD sponsored or affiliated team please consider sharing what sort of support the DoD provides your team directly.

Sit tight. The reason they didn’t elaborate is because it isn’t appropriate for them to make the announcment yet.

Things are still being finalized and it would not really be appropriate for us to jump the gun on this until the announcement is made and the dust cleared.

Thank you for your input. Do you have specific knowledge or are you speculating?

I’m just reading tea leaves here. There are several things going on from my observations. There are discussions related to support of FIRST programs and there is efforts that Dean mentioned regarding creating a national brand awareness campaign like the Girls Scouts does.

DOD and the DOD contractors (and others) are very interested in getting on board. It just take time. Sometimes a LONG time. The military is rapidly moving toward robotics platforms for land, sea, and air.

IMHO DOD gets value at Nascar (recruitment) and they will get value at FIRST as soon as they can figure out how to get it done. I met some DOD related people in Atlanta last year. They know we are here.

It would be good to see teams funded in a similiar fashion as NASA teams.

I was basically suggesting that we wait until the announcement from FIRST come out regarding the partnerships Paul Gudonis and Dean Kamen mentioned come out.

We have a very similar arrangement.

Oh, they know we’re here. Tardec supports a number of teams and brings some of the battefield robots to the regionals in Michigan. They are awesome - and one of their prototypes was powered by cims :smiley:

I agree 100% that they get return on their investment in racing, etc. via recruting. I’ve just been “fighting this battle” if you want to call it that for years internally and I have seen no signs that “they” are figuring it out. We know how to do it, we have plenty of working examples, just call NASA and ask how they do it. I am just hoping there is some big secret going on between FIRST and the DoD that we don’t know about yet. If they didn’t want the cat out of the bag though then Paul shouldn’t have said anything about it at Kickoff. There is a big press release about the SAIC partnership. The JCPenney support is well known. Dunno about AT&T. I can only assume the others like the utilities/power companies are possibly going to be regional sponsors or something. It’s also that the DoD is just so much larger than all the others and that it could have a positive global impact that has me wondering.

Of course the last thing I want to do is mess up some grand plan between FIRST and the DoD if there is such in the works. But Paul shouldn’t get our (maybe it is just me) hopes up by announcing major “new and expanded” sponsorship from the DoD but then not giving us any further info like they have with the SAIC partnership.

As far as they knowing who we are, well sure they do. As an example, just go to the US Army Educational Outreach Program website. They list all the FIRST programs as something the Army sponsors. But what does that mean exactly? When you try to dig deeper they just direct you to the main FIRST website. I know what FIRST is. What I want to know is what exactly does the Army do to support FIRST since they claim it as part of their educational outreach efforts. I’m just trying to get a handle on what the current level of DoD sponsorship is for FIRST in general.

As a side note, every year at Atlanta I see the CIA logo on the big blue sponser banners. What up with that? I’m not at all being negative about the CIA. I’m just wondering how that works, and why the CIA would have “gotten it” years ago but DoD hasn’t.

Glad to know we aren’t the only ones in this boat.

DeepWater, please send me a PM. I’m a recently laid of Lockheed Martin Contractor who is currently going back to school to be NYS certified in Physics/Math. My desire is to be come a DoDS teacher and as an Air Force Brat would love to see a more active military sponsorship.

Places to start would be the Chesapeake Regional. The Navel Academy has been sponsoring a FIRST competition there for numourous years. The acting Sec of the Navy dropped in on Sat to be a Judge. My guess is what ever was being talked about at Kickoff will be BIG, but is likely still classified

Also, there was a team last year at that regional who is sponsored by an Army Research Lab. I can’t remember the name exactly, something Hawks, but talking to them is well worth it.

Other food for thought is that Lockheed Martin is one of the largest sponsors of FIRST Teams, yet there are alot of sites that don’t have teams, including the largely untapped LM Aero. With a new Utah Regional, it maybe be easier to get the AF Academy on board. If any FIRST students are attending/planning to attend, they might be able to start up a team with our support simularly to what was originally done at Clarkson (229). Also, the Air Force Research Lab in Rome NY also has a mentorship program with the local high school, so while it isn’t FIRST, there is a precident.

As part of a team that is sponsored by a DoD (SPAWAR) entity the DoD does actually invest $$$ in some places, although for you specificaly not your team… Currently funds are allocated and monitored for appropriate use the the DoD educational outreach program, and it includes mentors who work for the DoD to provide feedback and progress updates on their teams! They are paying attention and I am sure there is more to come! (That is the tea leaves…)

And of course there are the problems of ‘institutionalizing’ a new program within a large institution.

Over at NASA there is a small group of committed individuals that are great advocates for FIRST.

There needs to be a committed advocacy within DOD to make it work there as well. Allocating some funding to be available to the spread around to bases would be pretty cool. I can think of quite a few installations that could tap into that if there was funding and a streamlined application process.

You would think local sites like SPAWAR, NRL, Army Research, Warner Robins, etc would be glad to get on board if there was a fastpath. In fact I know they would.

Some teams in NJ are affiliated with or mentored by Picatinny Arsenal up in our area. The engineers that work at this facility are phenomenal. One of our programming mentors is a former Smart Missile programmer for them :yikes:

it’s certainly been there in the past, but this year it’s scheduled to be in baltimore, at the baltimore convention center.

my hope is that this opens it up an makes FIRST more visible to more people as they walk down the street, but i still liked it at the academy…

Unfortunately, that is no longer true this year. Last year Das Goat (Team 116 or 166, I believe) was no longer at the CR. They had been at the USNA as a team, and used their facilities, they were no longer listed as an active team. I haven’t checked to see if they are active this year, though. This year, the CR is being held at the Baltimore convention center. I don’t believe that it is a lack of wanting to be a part of FIRST by the USNA, but that security concerns have caused them to pull back. I hope to see the DoD re-engage in FIRST. Locally, 836 has the Pax River Naval Airstation, where research such as UAV is being done. Many of our students have gone on to work at Pax River in those programs. It would be nice to see them available as a sponsor as well.


USNA last fielded Team 165 in 2007.
Construction at Halsey Field House conflicted with FIRST schedules, not security concerns.

ARL supports Team 1980 in Aberdeen MD home of the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, as well as 1748 in Baltimore and 53 in Greenbelt and 449 in Silver Spring.
There are other teams supported through the NDEP

I know some teams that are sponsored by the Army, I was just wondering if the Navy does any team sponsorships? I would think that they would… Please respond if you have any knowledge of a team that is sponsored by then Navy.

The references above to affiliations with SPAWAR are Navy. I’m an Engineer from Scott Air Force Base near St. Louis, as far as I know no other engineers are mentors from the base. Someone correct me please :slight_smile:

I think that 78 is sponsored by NAVSEA. I remember talking to one of their mentors this fall at River Rage.

Years ago, a friend’s husband who is a civilian contractor to the Navy in VA had a Navy-specific FLL kit that he was using with a group of FLL-aged kids.

Trying to Help

There are a few teams in Maryland sponsored by different affiliations with the military. You can see the sponsorship in the team name for the teams attending the Chesapeake Regional, for example. (Should also search for MD teams attending DC Regional as well as DC and VA teams.)

Yes, the Navy does sponsor some teams.

Our School District is known as Academy District 20, because the first High School is on the Air Force Academy and we have been unsuccessful in getting the Air Force Academy to even talk to us about any kind of sponsorship.