Furnishing a shop on short notice

Hypothetically (or not so hypothetically), let’s say that your team was gifted a new workspace that gives you additional room. It’s a great opportunity and you can take most of your tools and toolboxes but not the furniture or computers.

Your team has 30 people on it plus several mentors.

  1. What are your priorities?

  2. What other things would be nice to have but can wait?

  3. How do you raise the funds for this or get it donated on short notice?

I think it would be for (1) workbenches and chairs, plus shelving, computers and anything needed for safety
For (2) a fridge
For (3) Lowes no longer does open grants and Home Depot seems to have steered there grant program towards veterans. Are there any FIRST-friendly national chains that one might approach for donations or deep discounts on stuff like this?

Any thoughts?

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  1. Tables and chairs, shelves (preferably collapsible ones that can be brought to competitions), a projector or TV to go over meeting plans, and some laptops
  2. Good desktop computers for CAD
  3. I would reach out to local furniture stores to see if we can get any in kind donations, and reach out to parents for old furniture. Or go to Goodwill and get some crusty office chairs for $5 each if it comes down to it.


  • A big workbench where the robot lives
  • Smaller workbenches where projects can be done
  • A no-power-tool space for six people (CAD, programming, business, etc)
  • Cart parking
  • Shelves for parts
  • Organizers for those shelves–I like Sterilite shoeboxes for big things and Plano tackle boxes for loose hardware, though there are many valid answers here. The big thing is to standardize on them.

Nice to have:

  • Fridge
  • Boombox

Getting it cheaply:

  • Walmart sells Plano boxes for cheap ($3-4 each) and does local grants. Harbor Freight does grants. State surplus warehouses have leftover parts that may be suitable, if you don’t mind the paperwork. Amazon wishlists and DonorsChoose for the rest.
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I’m pretty close to @Billfred on this. Dedicated spaces for different kinds of work is (assuming square footage is available, but few dollars) is at the top of the list. Once you get past that and are looking at tools:

  1. Hand tools. wrenches, drivers, pliers, allen wrenches. Spend a couple hundred dollars here as a first pass.
  2. Electrical tools, wire, pins, and housings necessary to cut and crimp #6 to #22 wire, including SB-50’s, Anderson Power Poles, Automotive terminals, and Dupont 0.1" connectors. You should be able to do all of this for a few hundreds of dollars.
  3. A solid drill press, vise, and bits. Again, a few hundred dollars. Personally, I’d also add some 0.1" perfboard because it is so awesome unless you’ve come up with enough money for a serious x-y table for your drill press.
  4. Cutting aluminum stock repeatably. A horizontal bandsaw takes up a bunch of room, but is really the right solution. A chop saw is great for wood, but terrrible for aluminum unless everything is clamped down extremely tight. A portable bandsaw is better, but still an exercise in personal stability.

You should be able to get through #1 to #3 for under $2,000, and be better off than my FRC team was for its first four or five years.

The next few hundred dollars should be spent on devices to bend and shape metals, and/or to 3d print parts.

Not too much after this, you move into the tools which cost thousands of dollars which can do truly awesome things, but where I am not your guide.

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Thanks. These are some good suggestions. Hypothetical team has a decent collection of tools and parts that are organized at this point, so I am mostly wondering about actual furniture and other things a workspace would need if it isn’t physically at a school where if you need something you can probably borrow it from another room or find it someplace.

Get the best Ridgid brand wet-dry vac (shop vac) and a bunch of shelves. I like the Whalen brand ones from Costco.

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My priorities that I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

  • Storage cabinet for flammables
  • Anti-fatigue mats
  • One bookshelf designated as the “Library” (here goes tool manuals and other assets)
  • Lighting lighting lighting
  • One surface that is OK to decorate with all the free stickers we get

House compressed air piping, with 40 gallons or more of storage, would be a nice-to-have.


What size do you like for these things?

This is actually what we use (except we use the Harbor Freight part storage containers instead of plano ones). We are planning to build a rolling rack for ours so that we can just roll all of our parts into the trailer to go with the Pit. In fast we are trying to get all of our important tools portable so that we can just roll everything on/off the trailer and take 5 minutes to set up the pit instead of an hour.

Actually, we have that vac. It’s nice. And we finally got a Costco nearby about a month ago.

I took that for granted, but yeah that is super-important to check on!

While this straddles the line between shop and pit furnishing, building a combination rolling rack and work table was the best thing 1293 did last off-season.

1293, notorious for overbuilding, has taken a beefy 4’x8’ work table through two moves. They used to have two before the most recent move, when I pointed out that about 1.5 of those tables were really just serving as bad storage containers and pushed for the aforementioned pit cart. If I were to build out a new one from scratch, I’d probably go 4’x6’.

For smaller projects, our pit cart dimensions have been promising. It’s 8’x2’(ish) of usable space, and that lets two people work comfortably at it. Three in a pinch.

We’ve also bought a 6’ fold-in-half table and a couple chairs to form the start of our no-power-tool space, which will be in the lightly-traveled hallway just outside the shop. The fold-in-half design makes it much more portable than a traditional folding table, and the impermanence encourages things to be put away at the end of the night.

Given our student sizes (8th-12th grades):

  • 34-36" tall
  • ~22" deep if built against a wall
  • ~30" wide (x any length) if built as an island

I use unfinished solid-core doors for workbench tops. They often can be found at our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for ~$20 ea.

Later in life, if they start to get ratty, I may resurface them with an additional lamination of hardwood plywood or tempered hardboard. (In our shop it’s permissable to write on workbench tops, drill into them, use them as cutting surfaces, etc.)

Hypothetical team is no longer hypothetical. The lease has been signed on our new shop, which more than doubles our space (1750 sq feet - can’t hold a full field but is a big upgrade for us!) I’m excited. Now the hard work begins because it’s completely empty and we can’t take furniture with us! At least we have tools and robots and lots of fun people. :smile:


I highly recommend you do some research and look for recently closed companies and reach out to their property managers and the facilities they were occupying. Back in 2010 or so, Alcatel Lucent donated a bunch of fantastic workbenches to my old high school team (FRC 11) because they were literally just going to dump the stuff elsewhere.

Absolutely reach out to companies to see if anyone has old furniture they just want hauled away, it is more common than you might think. Same for offices, other schools, warehouses, colleges, etc.

This company has local offices near you as well. I would at the very least try to reach out to management to see if they have old inventory they would be willing to donate.



Thanks for the tip! We’re starting with the “parents network” (how we got the building in the first place - someone who knew someone who knew someone) but I’ll definitely check out the company and others like it. We have some students who are very good at speaking with potential sponsors, which is a big plus.

Also look at Nextdoor (I think that’s what it’s called). We’ve picked up lots of semi-random stuff by that method for low/no cost. Including a refrigerator or two–I don’t recall if we got our grill that way or not.

Yes!!! My current employer moved the group I work in from Fort Worth to Houston and left behind several dozen metal workbenches with thick, hardwood tops and a lot of general office furniture. It was all sent to an auction house for pennies on the the dollar. If had my SUV instead of my car there on my last visit, I would have offered them 5X or 10X what they would have got for one or two of those workbenches.

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I skimmed the thread quickly and would like to add some items I did not see.(Or missed.)

  • If your team does not have access to a practice field, I suggest getting a roll of carpet to lay down in part of the space to drive the robot on. (A little bit for drive practice, a lot bit for programmers working on auto.) You can sometimes get the carpet from an event you attend.

  • Extension cords. (Pull downs would be great but otherwise get some tape to prevent tripping hazards.) Being able to setup or re arrange your space and not be restricted to where outlets are located is huge.

  • Auxiliary lighting. Depending on how good the lighting is in your space, consider purchasing additional lights to set up near workstations. It’s amazing what a difference a single desk lamp over a table makes. Especially in the winter when it gets dark early.

  • Garbage, Recycling, Compost containers. You need a way to handle the team’s waste. <- This might seem like an obvious one, but the number of times we’ve forgotten about it is kind of embarrassing.

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Lowe’s directs you to this:


How can my organization apply for a grant?

Lowe’s has revised our grant process and no longer has an open application process. As we strive to support our markets as strategically as possible, we are proactively identifying projects leveraging our current partnerships.

If my organization has worked with Lowe’s in the past, are we eligible for grant consideration?

Lowe’s Community Relations team will reach out to the organizations with whom we are focusing our strategic philanthropy.

When will Lowe’s reopen its grant application process?

We will update any changes to our grant application process on this website or via formal communication to existing partners with whom we are focusing our strategic philanthropy.

So I guess you have to know someone.

Ours is actually the perfect case for them because our building is in a historic district that is in the process of being revitalized, but we’d need to figure out who to talk to about it since they don’t take unsolicited proposals.

Interesting, that’s new. We had applied for and received a Lowe’s grant this past spring, so I guess this change occurred in this latest grant cycle.