Impacts on teams/cities from a community STEM center?

Hi everyone,

We have the chance to make a pretty exciting proposal to our city and were wondering if anyone who has been involved in a shared community STEM center could share how that has made a positive impact on their community.

By “shared community STEM center” I mean someplace where multiple FIRST (or other) robotics teams can meet, perhaps with a full-sized field, machine shop, build space, computer lab, etc. Some of these were mentioned in the thread by @Andy_Baker here.

Thank you for your help!

The MEZ in Detroit would be one such venue that I would look into. I believe Kettering also has a similar setup with a community building area and practice field.

It’s super ironic that you bring up this topic because I have a meeting on Friday about a large donation for a similar communal machine shop/practice facility.

In Minnesota the only such facility is called MURA and is located in the Twin Cities. Similarly it contains a full size wooden practice field and a machine shop. It has seen a great amount of use from teams in the 2 years that it’s been operating and I expect the usage rate will skyrocket next year with bag and tag going away.

Now more than ever is the time that the FRC community should be looking to implement these types of facilities wherever possible. These facilities facilitate cross-pollination of ideas between teams, and really take the team experience up several notches. I imagine that with no bag and tag these types of facilities will be used for scrimmages for teams with no competitions in a given week. I’m personally very excited at the prospect of having one near me.

Kettering University does have a FIRST Community Center. It currently houses 9 different FRC teams and we offer lots of summer camp opportunities along with help for starting and mentoring the whole progression of FIRST teams for the area. If you would like any more info pm me and we can set up some time to discuss.

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Has anyone ever combined and FIRST Community Center with a community Makerspace so that people not part of the FIRST programs could use the resources there? For example, inventors or startups? Would be nice to see what that model might look like.

https://amroctampabay.com/ does exactly this, and it seems to be working well for them so far.

There are a couple of full size fields in the Houston area. Three are in schools. One is in a government facility. The biggest benefit is that teams can scrimmage before and during the competition season. 118 used to invite teams going to St Louis to scrimmage at their field when theirs was the only one in the area.

There is a STEM center in the west of Houston with enough shops for 8 teams, a full-sized field, a shared machine shop and meeting rooms. Currently 5 FRC teams and some VEX teams are based there. One of the local Kickoff events has been held there in recent years and I believe some scrimmages. It has also been used for FLL Practice Day events and other non-robotics STEM events.

The value will depend on your situation. One opened in the north of Houston a couple of years ago and now has 2 teams that are from the same school based there. The other schools in the district were too far away and so no plans were made to base any other teams there. They have hosted some pre-season scrimmages there.

Hopefully someone from the Toronto area can give their input since they have several full-sized fields that have been made available to the local teams.

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Toronto Ontario? There are a number of team hosted practice fields across Ontario. 610 is notorious for hosting teams in the Toronto area. Most teams that have the space to set up a full or even partial practice field are usually pretty happy to invite other local teams out. Not exactly “Toronto area” but, the Waterloo Wellington area teams work together to try and set up a field each year. (It’s been in a different place each year for the past few years as space can be hard to come by.)

The closest thing I know of that relates to what OP is asking about up here in Ontario is probably what some of the Hamilton teams have got going on. I’m a little foggy on the details, but I think they have space in an old school owned by their school board. The school itself is currently acting as a daycare or something and they get a few rooms and the gym to have build space and an almost full practice field. (We actually copied their practice field setup this year as we did not have enough space for a full length field.) @nuclearnerd, @Marcus_Q or @Matt_G might be able to chime in on this better than I.

It’s possible there are infact teams here in Ontario who work out of a “STEM center” as described by OP. I just don’t know of any off the top of my head.

A bit of a tangent, but what really excites me about the bag going away is seeing the single robot teams out at the practice fields.

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Yes, the Hamilton Shared Practice Field or “Robodrome” in downtown Hamilton is something that has been evolving over the last seven years. It is housed in an older elementary school that is being used for admin and community activities. We’ve worked with the Board of Education to make a portion of the school available for FIRST robotics with former classrooms being used as build space for the HWCDSB teams. We have an (almost) full size field in the gym with a regulation field perimeter. Teams intending to use the field work together to construct wooden field elements in January when the game is released. 5406 was able to secure a community grant a couple of years ago that added some equipment including a CNC router, CNC mill, and laser cutter. We open the field to all teams for practice sessions. It has been great place to collaborate and allow teams to get drive time before their events. Let us know if you would like more details.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute provides space for a practice field for nearby (and less nearby) teams to use. It’s been a great resource that 2791, 20, 1493, 3044, and others have used to get valuable driving, programming, and learning experience.

We’ve had nearly 20 different teams come to our facility at some point or another during the past 5 years. I anticipate with no bag and tag, and that we added the field perimeter this year that that number will rise and the visits will be more frequent.

Some things to keep in mind with your proposal:

  • Liability. Particularly if you have a machine shop there. Who is allowed to use what and all that
  • Space can get tight easily. If we tried to host a real scrimmage with 6 teams all bringing 5-10 people our facility would be quite crowded, especially with the field perimeter. It wasn’t as bad when it was easy to just designate a half field space
  • Benefits of sharing design knowledge/experience is almost immeasurable. We invite other teams in and sometimes we help them, sometimes they help us. When we’ve gone to scrimmage at other facilities, we always benefit from the knowledge of the other teams there.
  • It’s also much easier to share knowledge/ask questions in a lower intensity environment that isn’t competition. I always want to go and see/learn from other teams at competition, but I don’t typically have that time available
  • Depending on the end goal, it could reduce the “cost per team” to field a competitive team. I don’t know how the other teams do it, but I imagine that they don’t duplicate all of their machinery, but instead share and split the cost. But sometimes that might be tough, I know during some weeks we pretty much have the mill or CNC running non-stop
  • Aside from robot knowledge, tool use knowledge I imagine could be increased substantially in a shared/community STEM center. While we had the money to purchase a mill, we only only had 1 mentor that really knew how to use it. We’ve been able to train up additional people (and a lot of students) from that one person. But the years of experience of that one mentor is still immensely useful when to refine accuracy and speed of using the machine

With no bag rule I am interest/hope more local teams take advantage of this space.

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That’s pretty cool that 4607 is working towards a community space for STEM! Hope your meeting goes well and your teams’ influence in your area continues to grow.

In Seattle, in the Highline school district, 1983 Skunkworks has set up a multi-team center in an old elementary school. It’s a work in progress and not fully operational.

In Manitowoc county WI, the 5 teams that form the Lakeshore FIRST Robotics Program are currently working to create a space that serves this purpose. We have a building location locked down and are in the process of renovation and planning how to handle building a full size field as well as supplying and insuring a machine shop.

While I can’t say what the measurable impact of this resource will be, we do hope it will increase our visibility in the county, help build up the sense of community between the FIRST programs in the area, and serve as a resource towards the inspiration and recognition of STEM in Manitowoc.

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The Queen City Robotics Alliance (http://queencityrobotics.org/) in Charlotte, NC is home to 6 teams. Someone on one of those teams would know more about the impact. (@OccamzRazor?).

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So I have dual hats. I created and run the outreach program for our makerspace. We house a FRC and FLL team plus provide training to local FRC/FTC teams. Additionally I assisted in starting and mentoring the FRC team. We don’t have enough space for multiple teams to build, so tooling is limited to our FRC team. The FRC/Makerspace combo is great. We’ve had a few makers become mentors. Plus when people visit the maker space, there’s usually talk about the FRC team

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I could talk forever about the benefits our NC teams have seen from a collaborative FIRST Zone. We have a full size field, shop, and meeting area for all FIRST programs.

A maker space just moved into the same building as the Zone and my engineering company so I am excited to share those benefits as well.

Thank you, everyone, for the great info!

If anyone wants to add anything else, please do so!