My team is beginning to feel the limits of working out of our high school workshop, and has begun to search for an alternate build site. However, we’ve had a hard time finding leads on potential locations. Unlike sponsors, who you can find by a simple search for companies with giving programs, or donated materials and services which can be found through the phone book, companies don’t advertise the fact that they have empty space.
To the teams out there who have managed to get large spaces in which to work, how did you find your work locations?
Some teams have been known to get some space in an area mall. If one near you has empty space, see if you can get into it for a build season or so while you look for more space. (As an added help, maybe the mall folks will know of other places nearby.)
We’ve been relying on temorarily donated commercial warehouse space for the past two years. This has been great in that the space available has been more than adequate for our purposes. Less great in that it has forced us to move frequently.
Some key points in achieving this are:
We incorporated to become a legal entity (non-profit would be better, we’re working on this)
We hold our own liability insurance
We’ve developed contacts with commercial realators who know our needs and can be on the lookout for unused commercial property which is not moving
We try to bring tangible value to the property owners who allow us to use their building
We’ve been very respectful of the properites we’ve been able to use
We need to be prepared to relocate on short notice
195 has been very fortunate to have had a sponsor who really believes in the program donate an empty building that he was not currently renting. It has made a huge difference in not only our program but to other connecticut teams that we can have them come to our practice field and practice with us and work together on improving our bots.
This is also a huge help when we need to work all night, we don’t have to worry if the school is open.
Approach sponsors to see if they have space available.
Actually moving out to a bigger/more accessable space rather than a well equipped pre-existing shop is our primary goal. Our issues with the school worksite stem primarily from work hours restrictions, and the fact that we have to rely on our only teacher to be there all the time rather than any qualified mentors, as well as lack of overall space to do things like a quality practice field. Tools and supplies we can handle, and we’ve actually been pretty fortunate in picking up machining sponsors over the past year, though none have adequate extra space. But when the team starts erratically getting locked out of their build space in the heat of build season, a move becomes a necessity.
We sort of lucked into our old build space. One of our mentors knew a guy that ran an Engineering Co-op - essentially a machine shop with an attached office area that small companies and startups would rent office space from and get access to the shop. We got them on board with sponsoring the team with free after-hours access to the machine shop. They introduced us to the building manager (they were on the first floor of a 5 story building in St. Paul), who had a big empty room on the second floor - the room had no carpet, no heat, and barely usable lighting. We got in there really cheap (probably 10% of what she could charge for the room) for the build season.
To make a long story short, we moved around in the building for a couple of years, squatting for real cheap in whatever large space was available during the build season, and working out of a large closet in the off season. Finally the school came in and signed a formal lease with the building manager (I think the school ended up paying full price) and renovating one of the rooms for us.
Now there’s a brand new STEM Center at the school that we had a lot of input in, and the team has fully moved in there, leaving our old space empty. We’re trying to find a local team that wants in there, but I think you’re a little too far away to make that work