We’re an inner-city team, so it’s not easy to pull off the robot fund-raising trick, but I too have had thoughts about this. I think, especially for places that get snow (not us, it doesn’t snow in New York anymore), a robot snow-blower, or plow if you want to use fewer mechanical components, would be very helpful for plowing walks or driveways. You could probably build an attachment for a previous FRC robot, and just do some light modification, and be all set to go.
I suppose if you’re in an urban environment bind like us, you could probably do a robot trash pick-up based on the same device you saw earlier. We’ve got lots of trash all over our sidewalks, but it’s hard to get permits to do that.
We just started this year recycling aluminum and plastic in the classrooms on campus. I bought some cheap plastic tote bins, hole sawed the lids, bought some cheap bags from Costco and off we go. The catch is that 24 students spend 15 - 20 minutes picking up the recycling from the rooms (~50 rooms), and then another 5-6 students spend about 30 minutes sorting it all out. We’ve been at this for about 8 weeks now and have made $400. We could be making more by collecting the recycling from the lunch areas, but to do this we’d need to get more expensive containers that will hold up to the weather and pilferers (folks who wander through at night). Perhaps for next year.
Not the most glamorous means of fundraising, but it will get us close to $1000 come build season.