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.