To whom it may concern,
I’ve been a FIRSTer for a large portion of my life, and the teams I’ve been a part of have been in a state where we’ve been able to finance ourselves, even if our students come from all walks of life. However, I’ve been speaking with more and more teams and I’ve heard the same complaint.
I’ve spoken to many a team that suffers immensely because they either lack school support or funding. I’ve even run into students who speak of the (awful and uncomfortable situation) where a school takes funding a team itself has earned.
In Districts, when we were unable to pay for a sudden event we qualified for, our district offered us an emergency grant to cover our costs. Though this is only an example of an “emergency grant”, and the NASA Sustaining Grant does exist, I feel more could be done through the goodwill of the entire community that is FRC.For this reason, I propose FIRST as a nonprofit to start the “FIRST Relief Fund”. To potentially help teams who can’t get the district funding because they’re not in a district, or are in a geographical area where financing a team is otherwise nearly impossible.
How it would work in my eyes would be like this. Teams register, and have the option to pay extra or donate a portion of their registration to the pool. Teams that require funding could apply and be approved on a need basis (like a rookie grant I suppose), to cover their baseline. Registration, basic extension of the KoP or tools they need. Part of the criteria would likely be a plan to explain what you intend to you use the money for, as well as a “grant application.” The funding wouldn’t be exclusively for rookie teams, but rather teams that need it.
I know that asking for anything from a national organization is a lot, but I feel this would help the causes. I’ve watched on Chief here as posts of teams who face fire, flood, and famine as the community bands together, but it’s seemingly fallen almost unnoticed from headquarters. To recognize this problem would forward their mission of “to shatter a thousand and glass ceilings, a rope to pull a generation up and out of poverty.” To offer a way to try and change the culture of a geographical area starting with a team and spreading out is a very real thing we can do as a community. To take GP out of FIRST and place it neatly into places that so desperately need it, is a real possibility.
I’ve done some digging and keep finding teams who “pimple”, who exist for two years and die out, exactly the amount of time the rookie grants are good for. (attrition) Sustainability is the hardest part of any team, and having this would not only help teams continue to exist, but aid themselves in getting off of it. In a successful system, the Fund would always be in surplus, but the world is a much harsher outside the walls of competition, something I want to so desperately fix.
A robot fanatic who wants to keep inspiring for as long as possible.
PS: I encourage discussion on this idea, and am well aware it’d have a wealth of potential problems. However, the benefit to me vastly outweighs the risks if it accomplishes even a portion of the goal I’ve laid out.