I find myself in the apparently enviable position of mentoring an FLL team and an FRC team that are both going to the National Championship this year. The FLL team won the MD Champion’s award, and the FRC team won the Buckeye Engineering Inspiration award.
Clearly this is a great honor and indicates that the teams did a fantastic job at home, and at their regional competitions. It will be a great experience for all involved…
But… I can’t help wondering if the money the teams now have to raise to get to Nationals couldn’t have been better spent on other science / technology programs in our area.
Granted there is no “requirement” to go to Nationals, but once that carrot has been put there and reached, it’s hard to tell the kids that they can’t eat it. I’ll also acknowledge that it’s often easier to get people to donate money for a winning team to represent the area, than for a more generic technology/education project.
However, I’ve also heard anecdotes about teams that have bankrupted themselves going to Nationals, and have not been able to survive for that reason. What a great loss!
I’d like to propose that there could be an alternate reward offered to regional FIRST winners.
What if FIRST made a GRANT available to specific regional/championship award winners to use to further the FIRST cause. This would be akin to the rookie NASA grant, but at the other end of the team life cycle. I would argue that if a team is doing well, and able to win an Engineering Inspiration or Chairman’s Award, then who better to formulate a local program to inspire more involvement in Science and Technology.
This grant would not be limited to a specific FIRST activity, but applicable to any technology area needing to be addressed locally. The grant proposal could be part of an award application, and be evaluated at the regional competition.
We keep being told that “winning at all costs” is not the FIRST way, and I believe the same is true of going to Nationals. I’d love to turn a big regional victory into a project that benefits the entire community and lasts for more than 3 days
What do other mentors out there think?