New FRC Team Concerns

I’m with a group of students looking to set up a new team in the south bay area and we have some concerns. We’d be forming a team of about 30 people and need a place to meet and build the robot. We can’t meet at school because we’re breaking off from an existing team already school affiliated, which is the environment we’re used to (we had two rooms and a storage shed). We’re not sure where else we could set up; we are aware that we need space for tools and robot testing, but we just don’t know what locations are good. We’ve considered working out of somebody’s garage but we have concerns with liabilities and transportation. Additionally, we don’t know how we’d fit 30 people in a garage and still have space to work to keep them active. Are there things that can be done to keep everybody included and feel part of the team while not necessarily working on the robot itself?

Thank you for any advice.

Talk to sponsors, friends & family, or even a rotary club, and you could probably find a place to work out of. Microchip, one of our main sponsors has warehouse here in Arizona, and we (FRC) have been working out of one of their locations for over 10 years now. Workshop, storage, and even a full field space.

The FTC team I mentor started out in a garage, but then again, it was only 5 students compared to 30.

Also, try to get in contact with your state Affiliate Partners/Regional Directors. They may have some leads.

Ask your parent group if their companies have any spare room to house a team. You’re in Cupertino, in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Tech companies are everywhere. It’s a lot to ask but it’s worth trying for. Have a solidified plan before trying to find a location outside of MVHS. Have a dedicated student group, have at least potential mentors, and reach out to teams in the bay area who can help you. If you can show that you have a plan and some organization it makes people more inclined to help you.

It’s going to probably come up. Do you have insurance.

+1 to all this. It’s really important to make sure there are enough people to sustain a program. Also, if you are leaving due to some sort of problem with the existing team, have you tried addressing it with the people there? Starting a rookie team is an incredible amount of work, and IMO it typically isn’t the best solution if you are just having issues with the current team.

Edit: if you are serious about starting a rookie team and would like advice on any aspect of starting a team, feel free to shoot me a PM. I’m more than happy to help out.

  1. Start thinking about the legal stuff. You’ll need insurance. Insurance will require you to be a legal entity. Here in Ontario our community team is a registered not-for-profit corporation - and the application to do that means we need a written statement of objective, directors, policies, a name search, etc. None of this is difficult and you can probably copy/paste a lot of that stuff from other teams since all of our objectives and policies are similar. But it takes time to file, and your end goal is to have insurance in place by September or whenever you want to start meeting.

  2. Put together a quick little package to give out as you are looking for sponsors (including space). A little brochure indicating who you are, what you do, what you’re looking for, how to contact you. As a new team you won’t have a robot to show pictures off, but maybe you can use pictures from your previous season on another team. Without putting the cart in front of the horse, the better you can make this look (in terms of having a logo and a bit of branding) the more credible and organized you will look.

  3. Recruit mentors. These can be parents, they don’t have to be technical, they don’t need to have engineering experience, but you do need people who will help with team administration, managing students, and being willing to exercise their contacts.

  4. Contact your local community centers, public library, city officials, anyone that you have contacts with, in addition to the employers of your students and parents. You could theoretically meet in someone’s house if you used the garage as a build space and a room inside for “classroom” stuff like working on laptops. You are right to be concerned about liability, and if this is a path you still want to take, talk about it with your insurance provider to see what policy hoops you will need to jump through.

My team reached out to our local public library, who were happy to get involved and provide us with a great classroom meeting space. We can’t build the robots here but we can do pretty much everything else. Then we reached out to another local community center who offered us a storage locker and the back area behind a gym during build season. (This arrangement actually won us a Judge’s Award in 2016, as they were impressed by how we overcame these challenges and worked in public spaces, opening up tons of opportunities to tell people about FIRST and STEM).

  1. Find ways to get your name out. Do a community event like a bottle drive or BBQ. Get an article in the community paper. You may not make a ton of money but that’s not the point - it’s to tell people “hey, we’re a thing!”

  2. Don’t underestimate the amount of work it takes to start a team. It sounds like you’re on a great track already and I wish you luck and success!