How Much Does it Cost to Run a Team?

So my school is considering trying to start an FRC team (we currently have an FTC team) but we would need to raise the money. We have some ideas as to how we could do this, but we need to know how much we need. I looked at the FIRST website and it seems like it’s about 15k for 2 regionals, the championship event, and the kit of parts, but is this all we would want or need? So how much money does your team spend each year?

Short Answer: If I was intending to do 2 regionals + champs, I probably wouldn’t want to do it on a budget much less than $20,000.

Long Answer: To give a more accurate number, your team needs to make some decisions. Travel costs are often second only to registration fees in terms of expenditure (depending on team size and distance to events). If the team does not subsidize trips at all, it will allow the team to operate on a significantly smaller budget, but at the cost of shifting a sizable monetary burden over to the students. Similar choices have to be made for team apparel, food during meetings, and so on.

The price of the robot itself and parts beyond the KOP is greatly affected by your machining capabilities. If you have extensive machining resources, you can probably build a robot on less money since you can make better use of raw materials. For example, if you have good sheet metal capabilities, you can basically build your entire robot out of riveted aluminum sheet metal assemblies, which can be a very economical way to construct a robot. Anyway, to make a bit of a generalization, I would aim for at least $2000 for additional robot parts. You can most definitely build a robot on way less (I’ve done it myself…), but $2000 will give you more options (conversely, you can spend the full allowable $3500 on a robot, but it is by no means necessary to be competitive).

Are you just paying for events or are you counting in robot parts, prototyping supplies, tools, and all the other stuff that add up to a ton?

A rookie team, just out of reality in this economy, should not be thinking about 2 regionals and the championships unless you have a lot of really great mentors who have done this for a while (Like, 2826… mentors from 93 :wink: )

But then don’t listen to me because I never started a team…

Not true, they already have a good FTC team running so they are well on there way to an FRC team. If they do there homework and fundraising they can “easily” do 2 and Atlanta, we did. Just make sure to have a solid plan to follow during the season and solid people to stand behind it. Its very hard work, but its not impossible.

By the way, Monty feel free to contact me if you want to talk about this. We know a bit about converting from FTC to FRC. :stuck_out_tongue:

If your a rookie team, your not going to have to worry about paying for championships until at least march of next year (rookie criteria)*

$ 6,000 for the 1st regional and KOP**

$ 4,000 for the second regional**

$500 decorations/t-shirts etc.

$x,xxx travel expenses (if your going to a second regional, it would be cheaper to go to a regional that's nearby. ie: Midwest/Wisconsin, Oregon/MSR, SILPI/NY). get the students to fundraise for their trip using candy fundraisers/HEX-BUG fundraisers etc. so that they can pay their own way there

$2,000 Robot expenses, (if your school has a shop class or stagecraft, you might want to check with them to see what tools they have and if they would be willing to let your team use them. If not, look around for a sponsor to help you out (Lowe's, Home Depot, ACE. etc.)... or of course, you can go at it the old fashion way and just buy all the equipment by making an argument that it would be useful for a shop class/stagecraft)

$0 Food (during build, our team would do something that would work, students would sign up on days where their parents would bring in a home cooked meal for the team... or the parents would just pay for the food that we bought to eat for that evening).

$500 Practice field construction/use/maintenance (optional, if there is a team that is willing to let you use their practice field. by all means. practice on it. return the favor though, weather by one of the parents covering for lunch for both teams etc.)

$1,500 Mis. Expenses. It's always good to know that your team has some money to fall back on if something does get pricier than what you guys were expecting.

I would recommend making a business plan on which the team has a proper budget that you can present to a teacher/school administration/sponsors. But then again, you would need to know where EXACTLY that money is coming from.... that's a whole different story.

Your total budget should come out to somewhere between $12,000 to $17,000

  • You cannot open register for the Championship in your rookie year, you must win either the regional in which you attend, or win the Rookie All-Star award at the given regional. full details can be found here

**If you live in Michigan, this does not apply to your, your cost is actually $5,000 for the KOP and two district events, and an additional $500 to attend a third district event. it is $5,000 to attend the State Championship though.

Noting their location (Philly):

$6000–KOP+Philly Regional


$200–practice field–may vary by year

$2000-3500–Additional robot materials

$1000–hand power tools (drill, hacksaw, etc.). May be less if you already have said tools.

$8000–Funds to keep you going for one more year assuming no fundraising (or a recession). May be accumulated over 2-3 years.

Total:$17,700-$19,200 for one event; add $4000 registration and extra for travel for each additional event (except for CMP, when it’s $5000).

Someone’s probably going to come in here and say that half of this stuff is unnecessary, and they’re right: the only required part of this is the $6000. However, the rest is “expected” of a team.

For my old team, who did 2regionals + Championship for as long as anyone can remember (until this year), we figured $15,000 registration, probably around $4000 for robot parts and materials, $500 for shirts and stuff like that, and travel was paid mainly by the students and parents. (All numbers are approximate or guesses or both, except registration.) And I know I’m missing some things…

Over the course of a season, especially a rookie season, it is not difficult to spend $6000 in addition to regional registration costs. And that’s not including travel There are more costs that come up than you will ever realize at this point. Can it be done on the cheap with little more than the KOP? Yes. Can it be done better with more money? Absolutely. I would not start an FRC team without a minimum of $11,000, and at least one person who has done it for at least two years previously.

If your serious about starting a team, start looking for potential sponsors and see what’s out there. Start with one regional and Champs. Especially for the first year. My $.02

A good budget plan would be 2 regionals, plus funds in reserve for the Championship if you should qualify - $15000. Plus robot and other expenses of $2000-$5000. Then decide on travel costs, whether it would be covered by the team or the students. If you don’t end up spending that $5000 plus travel for the Championship the first year, you have it in reserve to get you started the next year.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with starting out slower, planning on only one regional. You could do that for about $10000, maybe slightly less. Hopefully you could go to a local regional and not have travel costs.

I firmly believe that every student should have some financial stake in the program. This gives the students more of a feel of ownership for the team. The amount may vary by team based on your demographics. Do all students in your area typically have several hundred dollars of discretionary funds, or would $50 be a stretch for them? In addition, each team member should be responsible for some fundraising. They would get a credit share for doing things like carwashes, serving in a restaurant, or soliciting local businesses. They would get individual credit for things like candy sales. These funds could be used to offset travel costs. There are several CD threads on fundraising.

Not to change the subject but only 2 mentors on 2826 had ever done FIRST before.

As for the budget i agree with just about everything that has been said. We, 857, are a small town team and our budget this year was about $35,000. We went to 2 Michigan district events and are going to Atlanta. We don’t charge the high schoolers anything except for their shirts, so our travel costs are more expensive than the registration fees and building the robot, that is why our budget is so big.

Your budget really comes down to what you can get and what you plan to do during the year.

I wouldn’t plan on doing 2 regionals and championships your first year unless you have some very experienced mentorship. Start off with just one regional, and championships if you qualify.

As far as actual money goes, take into account what tools you have and what tools you need. If you’re starting from scratch you’re going to invest a significant sum in tools. Erich listed $1000 for hand power tools, but if you’re really at nothing right now, it could easily go higher. Power drills, bits, saws, blades, the list goes on. And none of it is particularly cheap.

If you feel you can raise the money for a second regional, I would highly recommend skipping it your rookie year, and investing that money in tools that can be used to make you more competitive in the future, as well as using it to try to get your students practice using all of them in the off season, as well as practice prototyping new devices, and reading up on basics for electrical systems, pneumatics, motors, etc.

What people have put in above sounds right. Important part of FIRST is the business and learning from it. NEMO (non-engineering) is just as important as building the robot.

Start at a reasonable level and build from there. I agree with comment above, FTC is a great start.

Another note. As they said being a rookie you can not go to Champs, but being an experienced team you might win all-star rookie like we did and qualify to go to Champs. So you will have to decide at your last regional to go or not and spend the shipping costs. Later you can raise the cost to enter champs, for it is easier to raise money for a winning team.

We put together a budget to help start a new team in Indy, and estimated at about $10,000 - $12,000 for the first year.

This included going to one regional, hotels, transportation, basic tools to start, extra robot materials, some t-shirts and that was about it.

Remember NASA provides some grants to first and second year teams, but you have to apply and have a good plan for your team. Look at the application process for 2009 teams, and get a feel for what is needed. A NASA grant would pay your FIRST entry fee (kit of parts), but may require that you go to a specific regional.

Items to include in your roll-up

Entry Fee
Basic Hand Tools (screwdrivers, socket set, wrenches, allen wrenches, hammers, hand saws, drill bits, etc.)
Power Tools (hand drills, small drill press, jig saw, small tabletop band saw)
Materials (motors, spare batteries, actuators, sensors, spare control components)
raw materials (aluminum, nuts and bolts, tubing, wire)

Hotel rooms
Give-Away items
Transportation (bus rental, van rental, gas for personal vehicles)

$15k-$20k for 2-3 events is a good estimate.

If you need help organizing, applying for the NASA grant, or building, you are more than welcome to contact my team (hit me at or any of the other great veteran teams in the Philadelphia area.

Where, more precisely, is your school?

There is a FIRST AmeriCorps-VISTA assigned in Philadelphia to help answer your questions. I would encourage you to contact him as well as the PA Regional Director. Besides the great suggestions here, they can direct you to resources to help you plan.

Links to help:
Regional Directors:
Senior Mentors:
Starting a Team:
NEMO resources:

Thanks RoboMom, I had no idea NEMO had such extensive documentation (I just finished going through the links).

Thanks to everyone else who commented and offered advice as well, this has been such a big help to my team.

We’re lucky in that we do have a fair amount of tools (drills, a bandsaw, a press, a dremel, etc.) and we would only need travel costs for the championship (if we were to make it there). It seems like a budget of 15-20 thousand dollars would be ideal based on the comments, meaning that we should aim for 20 thousand. Thanks again for all of your help!

As several people have noted, 2 regionals and Championship for a rookie team may be too optimistic. However, I feel that planning for Championship will benefit you because it will cost a LOT of money. If you do not qualify you can keep this money in the bank as insurance for next year. I would budget for it each year and keep the money in a bank account as a rainy day fund. Estimates based on how 397 ran in 2008 (two regionals, home and away, and Atlanta)

$6000 KOP + Home Regional
$800 Shirts/Promo material (always budget MORE than you expect)
$200 Practice Field
$4000 Away Regional
$1000 Lodging at away regional (book early to get good rates, also, if you and another area team both go book together if you guys can’t get group rates, we are also an incredibly small team though, your mileage may vary)
$1000 Robot Materials (397 builds with hand tools and raw materials and makes extensive use of KOP as such 2008’s robot cost $800 to build)
$5000 CMP Registration
$1000 Lodging in ATL (Again, small team your mileage may vary)

$19,000 TOTAL

Note, this assumes that you already have tools, otherwise I would budget $1500 for tools, only spend $1000 if you can but this way you have extra in case something breaks. I also assumed that students pay for their OWN travel and food. Depending on where you are this may be a bad assumption, I know 397 has the students pay for nothing and as such our costs are much greater.

My personal suggestion, CMP is nice, it is a lot of fun for all involved but frankly it is expensive, prohibitively expensive. I would suggest instead of dropping $6000 + Travel to go to CMP that instead you put that money in the bank for a rainy day. After all, I think that a team should be able to run for a full year should a sponsor suddenly back out on them.

There is a rough budget for running a team, as I said, there are more expenses associated with starting a team, mostly tools.

We work the same way and we had the exact same budget. I think a good budget for starting would be 40K. That way you don’t start one season and the next season you can’t do anything forcing you to drop out of FIRST. But if you just want to make it by for one season, 15-20K is the way to go. Extra money helps and goes a long way. Get a hold a hold of Veteran teams nearby, I’m sure they would love to help out.

Without going too deeply in specifics, you need to account for:

Entry fees.
Extra Parts.
Team Spirit Stuff.
Awards for Other Teams.
Judging packets.
Computer system for programming.
Extra Batteries.
Tools (big bucks here).
Practice field materials.

The start-up year and the year after that are by far the most expensive because you have to lay the groundwork. It is far more than the simple cost of maintaining a team year to year.

2 regionals, champs, plus all the costs to reasonably start up a team? $25k for the first year, quickly dropping each subsequent year because you’ve already purchased your “sunk cost” items like band-saws, grinders, and other tools.