School Troubles

Our team was a rookie team last year, but our coach/sponsor moved away. Now we have been trying to make our team a nonprofit, community organization, but our school systemisnt cooperating like they said they would. They took away most of our tools, and we dont have anywhere to meet or build. its really upsetting, and we dont really know what we can do.

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Do you have a mentor that is a technology teacher? We have him as our lead, which is also where we build.

There isn’t much information to go on here. To clarify:

You were based at the school, the coach left, and you decided to be a community team instead.
What did the school say they were going to do? What aren’t they doing?
Do you have a new workspace picked out?
Do you have an agreement set up with the owner of your new space?
Who bought those tools originally? (Even if you bought them, was it your money or the school’s?)
How did you inform the school that you were leaving?
Is your head mentor involved in all of this? A teacher? Are they helping?

These issues are really hard to solve if you don’t know someone “on the inside.” We’re friendly with some school board members, for instance.


I know this will come off as a little cold… Of course the school pulled support when your team changed to a community/non-profit organization. If they do not have control it is not reasonable for them to provide space, tools, money, or other resources. However, none of us know the details of who bought the tools, how money was raised, or any other agreements between your team and the school.

One way to get around this is to sign a no-cost or low-cost lease with them for space and tool access. This clears up the relationship from a legal/liability/ownership standpoint. But the school might not be willing to do this.

One option is to find a build space elsewhere. 95 has worked out of a DoD garage, an unoccupied house, storage warehouse, a college, un-rented office space, and a vocational center in another school district (with that no-cost lease agreement I mentioned).

Another option is to throw the brakes on leaving the school district and making it work within the limits of their bureaucratic system. It might not be great, but it’s probably workable.

This. Our champion is the director of the vocational center we work out of now. If there’s no champion at the sponsoring organization it can be remarkably difficult to work effectively with them.


Making the break from one organization (the school) to another (your own 501c3) is incredibly tough, and not something I would recommend for most teams. As it is, unfortunately, the school probably owns everything your team has (tools, computers, even last year’s robot). When companies sponsored you last year, the checks they wrote were probably to the school, not directly to you, as you were not a legal entity. You then used that money (ie the school’s money) to purchase stuff like tools and the KoP (aka your registration fee), as a legal agent of the school.

Unfortunately, this sort of situation goes way beyond internet advise, and gets into a whole realm of legality that is best avoided. Even if the situation with the school isn’t great, working with them to maintain a relationship with a goal towards improving it is going to be the best path 99.9% of the time.

For the first 6 years of my team’s existence, we didn’t have a presence at the school. We went through the school for donations and money stuff, but we built off-site. For those 6 years, I only saw the school 1-2 times per year. The first 4 years, we arranged our own build spaces and everything that entailed, until the school realized it was a liability issue for them and they should probably resolve that (aka sign a lease at the building we were getting donated space, and start planning to build something at the school for us).

I know plenty of school-affiliated teams that don’t have a school employee associated with the team. I know others (like mine) that have an “employee” working with the team - aka a mentor that went through the paperwork to get on the school employee roster and gets a small coaching stipend, even though they have an unrelated job elsewhere and are never in the building during the day. Figuring out how to make it work can be tough, but it’s something to look into.


I felt too bad saying this, but yes. Pulling support from the team makes total sense for them to do, and they likely own all your stuff anyways.

I’d start off by seeing if you can find a different mentor at the school. If not, you need an adult mentor who can deal with the school. If you don’t have mentors, then you’re going to be working out of somebody’s garage, using whatever tools you have available. And, that means a tough time. You need support. (Among other things, how are you going to pay the registration fee?)

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Corporate sponsors, but they’ll need to get them right now if they want to be able to register for the next season.

When 3928 got dumped by the school after their first year, they joined the local 4H chapter. We/they were pretty fortunate that a partnership was also formed with the local university which gave the team space and access to tools.

Working with your local 4H chapter is often a good place to start.


It’s important to note that the OP said “trying to make our team a nonprofit” - that implies that they aren’t one yet. Without nonprofit status or a school to funnel money through, it could be very tough to get corporate sponsorship.

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I agree with everything that has been said.

It sounds as if you (the team) desire to become a community team without true community support.

Your team becoming a community team is no different than if the school’s soccer team became a travel/club team. The school will have no vested interest in the team; therefore, will not support the club team. Additionally, the school may not be insured to cover the liability of an outside club/team using their facilities to manufacture or build robots.

As for the tools – if they were donated to the school (either a direct donation or via a program like Donors Choose), then they are the school’s property.

Unless you have someone (adult) who is willing to accept the legal responsibilities of transforming your team into a nonprofit organization, it will not happen. The IRS has streamlined the application process, but the record keeping remains a labyrinth of rules and regulations.

I strongly urge your team to recruit a teacher to take up the reigns for the team – and that you remain a school-based team….at least until you have true community support.


Make the school’s administration part of the team. We invite our admin (and a few select district personnel) to important events (e.g. kickoff, nearby regionals, end of year meeting/party). We give them team shirts. AND, certificates of appreciation.
We step-up anytime the school calls for volunteers - from helping with Meet the Principal Night to Freshmen Orientation. We wear our team shirts to these events - letting people see who we are.
Make your presence known within the school. It goes a long way when you need something.


So our coach from last year moved to a different school. The school system was never supportive of us in the first place, so we decided to make the team a nonprofit. We have no place to work, and we have a mentor, but he doesnt know his way away first the way our old coach did. From what we were told, the school was gonna give us a place to work, and tools to use to get started. Instead they took away our tools, that one of our sponsors paid for, and we still have no place to work.

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