I’m a member of VRC team 1000 from Foothill High School. Last year was the first time we had really done robotics and we had a pretty small team, only about 6 people. This year though we have around 28 and we want to try to start an FRC team. With VRC we had no mentors, it was all student-run and we didn’t really have to go out of our way that much to find sponsorships etc. from foundations and companies. From what I’ve seen around the forums so far I guess that around $12,000 should be the target for one regional. I was just wondering how to approach companies about being an FRC sponsor, getting mentors etc., and if it’s realistic to start a team now. Also, around how much is the typical time commitment during the build period for our team.
In my opinion, the best thing to do would be to contact other FRC teams in your area for advice. Company sponsorship varies regionally, and the mentors and veteran students on those teams can help you out immensely. Your cost budget seems pretty reasonable.
Now is the perfect time to start a team, and you’ve made a great decision to by coming to these forums (and it sounds like you did some searching before posting…kudos on that).
Never hesitate to ask for help here and with your local teams. In the end, we’re all one big FIRST family and always willing to help out another family member.
There are plenty of great teams in the Bay Area (8, 100, 114, 115, 192, 254, … and dozens more). You should plan to go to the CalGames event on Oct 10 at Woodside HS to meet directly with members of many teams. If you can, bring potential sponsors/mentors to CalGames, they’ll “get it”! You can also meet with members of the Western Region Robotics Forum (WRRF) and maybe even Mark Leon from NASA (also know as the “MC with blue hair”).
As far as fund-raising goes, in addition to approaching local businesses (with some literature from the FIRST Communications Resource Center) for sponsorships, NASA grants have been awarded to rookie teams. The application process typically starts in September, ends in October, with awards announced in November. I don’t know whether grants will be made available this year (NASA budget issues), but if you are successful, your FRC registration is covered.
You’re looking for mentors, which is a good start. I’ll echo Dave Brinza’s call to talk to the local veteran teams to find a mentor team. Matter of fact, make plans to* compete in* Cal Games. I’m fairly certain there are some practice robots in the Bay Area that just might be available, and pre-rookies often get big discounts to off-season events.
As for actually getting mentors, ask around. Parents may know some people who can help with the technical and non-technical stuff. Also note that parents can do a lot to help the team out, such as assist with fundraisers and bring in food on occasion.
As for sponsors, anything that you can get that will help you is fair game. Facilities, mentors, machine shops that can make key components, restaurants that can do a “robotics night” or provide discounts, contributors to drawings or fundraisers, matching donations, the list goes on. Make sure to thank them–have their names/logos displayed on your robot and/or your shirts.
Oh, and one more thing: Get your school on board if you can (and if you haven’t already). The better the relationship with your school, the happier you’ll be in the long run. What you’re looking for from them is recognition as an official activity and the ability to be under their umbrella–funding from them isn’t a realistic goal at this time.
Team 668 can set you up with a robot and mentor support if you would like to participate in the Cal Games. We would also be more than happy to help out through the upcoming FRC season. Just click on my username to send me a pm or an email via this forum and we can work out the details.
With the way the economy is right now, I would not depend on just major sponsorships from businesses. Team 675 got their money from student fundraising and donations for their first 6 seasons. This last year they went from having 5 or so large sponsors to none, but they were still able to go to the Silicon Valley and UC Davis regionals by collecting smaller donations and doing a lot of fundraisers such as fall and spring pasta feeds and a large garage sale in a busy downtown park. Another idea is to have each student on the team go out and try to get at least a total of $100 in donation(s), which shouldn’t be too hard. That’s an easy way to get $2800! One mentor on the team went out and collected donations and raised almost $8,000 for the team.
For trying to get larger sponsorships you can’t really ask for an amount, you just have to give a nice presentation about what FIRST is about, what goals you have this next season, etc. If they are impressed they should hopefully make a donation towards your team. You will have more or less luck with this depending on where you are located in the Bay Area. If you are Located in Silicon Valley and in the South or East Bay, you will probably have a better chance than you would if you are located in the North Bay.
Thanks for everyone’s responses. We’ll try to make the Cal Games, I think we have an old FRC robot from 6-7 years ago lying around that we found recently although I’m not sure it works. I’ll try contacting some local companies that were interested in helping out our Vex team and see what we can do. Is there any way I can get more information on the Cal Games?
Also, is there a set rule for rookie status? We did have an FRC team 2 or 3 years ago as well but there is nothing left from then besides some metal and wheels.
Change out the drive if it has drill motors (the drill motors are now illegal), and build bumpers and a trailer hitch, then see about a control system. Now you not only have a robot for Cal Games, you have some experience building and competing at the upper level.
Rookie status: If you want the old number, you could get it, but I’d advise the rookie status for now.
Gonna have to hand it to Mark McLeod, that spreadsheet (found here) is handy (though 255 is included incorrectly…). Foothill (Pleasanton) has had no fewer than 2 FRC team numbers already. Team 298 (1999-2002; 255 is also listed for 1999-2000) and more recently, Team 2446 (2008). At this time, you could go with 2446 or as a rookie; you might get 298 if you ask nicely. Depends which way you want to go.