STEM Lab

Due to some conflicts about the FRC program at our high school and the willingness to try and incorporate it, we are looking for other places to meet. Sadly there are not many places with a back room or space available.

As just spitballing ideas we thought up a STEM lab or STEM research building. A “safe haven” for all things FIRST in our community. It does not seem like the school is very interested, but if they become interested we could then work into the program a closer tie between the STEM lab and the school. We believe there is interest in programs like FTC and FLL at the Middle and Intermediate schools in our district. Plus there are volunteers interested in starting some sort of welding club. Plus we would also like to see some sort of solar car project and maybe even a group that focuses on energy reductions and renewable resource integration. This building would also be a place where the calculator club at the high school could come and meet, having their own space and access to more resources.

We have all been investigating ideas such as one of those steel buildings that we could then frame in the inside and build certain rooms and such. Either way we go it will end up being a very costly endeavor. Does anyone know of a place where we could go to receive some financial aide for this? Or are there any grants in existence that could help us?

I really think that your best bet is to improve the relationship that you have with your school. A mature discussion about the program benefits can go a long way. Do you have funding outside of the school? And are your sponsors in the local area?

I too believe that it would be easier and possibly have an outreach to more students by staying inside the school building. We have had many mature up front discussions with not only the people who have the power to do something but then the people who can also influence these people. Besides a space to meet and a few teachers who show up off and on the school has given us absolutely nothing, in fact they actually have handicapped us in a few spots. We have some local sponsors, but not many.

As I said before we have had a few talks. When the program was first showed to the principle and interested teachers everyone seemed fanatic about it. People were excited and plans were being made, it seemed pretty good. But then teachers began quitting the program and teacher involvement was scarce.

And as I look back it actually seemed as if the principle “Yeah, FRC can be here” and then put it all towards the Industrial Tech + Ag department to deal with the rest. The teachers in the Industrial Tech + Ag were our main source of teacher involvement for this year. But they are very very short on space down there and no accommodations were made for us to be able to leave anything in those rooms. Not only that but those rooms are messy to start with and numerous times 3484 was blamed for making this mess.

A parent went to one of the school board members and had a discussion with him. The board member was interested in FRC and thinks there should be some sort of robotics program here. But the board member thinks that the program should be held at the vocational school that is a satellite program of our school. This Voc- School is about 30-40 minute drive from the high school. And as nice as it would be to have the program there and to supposedly have a small room for us to store things in, its not going to work. And that Voc- School is only for Junior-Seniors, so all of the freshmen + sophomores have no way of getting over there. Plus our mentors have families to provide for and can’t afford driving there frequently. And is it fair to have parents come and pickup their kids 40 minutes away?

I see the effectiveness staying at the school, but yet a board member said it should go to this Voc- School. Our school system currently has an old high school with an empty Industrial Arts room that we were told we may be able to use. But now we were informed that the room is being used for storage and we would have to settle for a classroom, being an older high school the room is not that large. It seems as before we were told one thing and now we have to settle with what they give.

I think the reason we do not have a positive relationship with the school is because we are asking for things that normal clubs do not. We asked for permission for a boosters early on and we were told that was not needed because a purchase order system would work out just fine, yeah, that totally flopped. I don’t know if the school thought that this was just another run of the mill student club thing where a bunch of kids and some adults go into a room and talk about robots all year long or what. But an FRC team either needs no support from the school or total support from the school, it’s not going to work half and half.

I see a huge effectiveness of a “STEM Lab” in our local area. There are plenty of older buildings or closed down supply centers that could be transformed with a few resources to fit our needs. Plus our school is in the middle of a 4 school no FRC team (or STEM program that I am aware of) zone. And our town is really the center of all of this. And really it’s not just about our FRC team, and it’s not really all about FIRST, the bigger picture is STEM. The 4H Lego Robotics Program and all of the other FIRST programs would be able to work here. This facility could provide an area for a welding club or some other interesting vocational skills like that locally.

The program can’t grow and maybe can’t even survive next year in an area where it can’t be let out so it can shine

I can appreciate your enthusiasm for the program, but the reality is that you would need quite a bit of capital to embark on this sort of venture. While there are many vacant buildings, most of them might be vacant for a reason. You’d have to look into zoning, building codes, utilities, insurance, security, and a whole host of other things that require more than a group of excited high schoolers.

If this is something that your really determined to do, then you should start by developing a formal presentation that you can give to your school board. By the sound of your post, the school system doesn’t seem very educated about the exact logistics of FRC. They can’t help you unless they know the scope of this program.

If that still doesn’t work, then take the presentation to the City Council, or some similar group in your area. They would be the ones who could probably point you in the right direction. This would only work, however, if you have some strong parental, teacher, or other adult involvement. The harsh reality is that it is very difficult to get things done without some experienced adults backing you up.

Are there any hacker spaces in your area? These places already have the space and a basic tool set, and you may be able to work out some sort of partnership with one.

There is a hacker space about 30 mins away from our high school. But the problem is distance to drive there, and the fact that another team already uses this facility to work in