We have cash to burn...or do we?

Howdy FIRSTers,

Im the president of a team that has participated in BEST for the past two years and is signed up to participate in FIRST for the first time in 2011. We received a grant from JC Penney to cover the cost of whatever it was that we owed FIRST, but also received a $6500 check from the Texas Governor’s Office that we can spend how we like. Since FIRST is quickly approaching, we figure that we need to order whatever it is that we need to buy ASAP.

So…what should we do with the money?

At this point, the only thing I’d recommend buying is aluminum stock and tools. See, we don’t know what the game is yet, so I’d rather not buy parts for a complete robot only to find that I’ve got to store them for a year or three.

Cordless drill (2+)
Drill index
power saw (chop, jig)
2x sets of hex keys (both English and Metric)
Assorted screwdrivers
Safety glasses
Other assorted tools
(unless, of course, you have said tools from BEST use)

Aluminum stock: some 1x1x1/8" wall should do for starters.

Once FIRST Choice opens up a bit tomorrow, see what’s available. If CIM motors are available, get a couple; if past years are anything to go by (they aren’t in some–read, most–cases), you’ll want them.

New equipment, pool noodles, bribing Dave into givin us game hints… Mainly the first two. You pretty much just need to make sure you’re prepared for the season. Not sure how many robot-building things are really FRC-specific besides the pool noodles for bumpers…

That said, saving for next year is perfectly acceptable. I don’t know if the Texas/JCP grants are 1-year only, but if so you’ll certainly need the money.
Otherwise you’ll want to consider things like upgrading your machine shop

That answers a lot of my question…so besides tooling, will we need any of the money to purchase things that actually end up on the robot?

We already have a pretty nice shop, but were considering purchasing a CNC mill. What are your thoughts on that?

If you can arrange it, maybe find another FRC team in the Dallas area and get a tour of their shop. That should help you get a handle on what’s needed.

Buy a laptop, or more depending on how many programmers are on your team. You will not be able to stand coding on the class mate they provide, its too small. It does not even have to be all fancy, just a 15.6 inch screen should do fine.

I would assume somebody has a laptop to lend. On our team, we use my laptop and Jim’s laptop, and that is fine for all of our programming and CAD.

Thanks for the advice, guys.

We already have a laptop and a shop full of basic tools, so it sounds like we’ll be fine.

Should we be equipped to weld? Or will nuts and bolts be fine for that?

A fairly successful FIRST team is nearby (JJ Pearce), so we’ll head over there and take a look at their shop. We were actually very close to teaming up with them for this first year, but we have a lot of female team members, they have none, and were grossly inappropriate at times.

This is extremely disturbing and I hope you don’t just let that go.

One of the most important things FIRST teaches is appropriate behavior and people skills (maybe the most important thing for many.)

Sounds like they would benefit a lot more from working with your team than you could learn from them. Please don’t give up on these young men, they need help.

How much should we allot for parts that we’ll need that aren’t in the KOP?

In prior years there has been a monetary limit of $3500 worth of parts not included in the KOP. A successful robot can be built with far less than this, however. In addition, many teams that do document $3500 of additional parts actually spend less than that because some of the parts or raw materials may be in-kind donations.

If you have the funds, it may be wise to reserve a full $3500, but if you have other things that you want to purchase you can certainly get by with $1000 or maybe less if you have donations of materials.

Welding is by no means required. If you have the facilities you may decide that it is a good frame construction method, but in my experience the majority of teams use either nuts and bolts or rivets for the majority of their robot construction.

You’re allowed to spend $3500 on robot parts not on the KoP. Unlike BEST, the majority of your robot will be made up of parts not in the KoP (though the KoP makes a GREAT drive base).

I would see what you can do to quickly get a FIRST team to mentor you guys, it sounds like you have a lot to learn in very little time.

I would recommend you come up with a business plan looking at sustainability over the next 3 years before you spend down all your funds.

There are some great team handbooks out there that you could look at. Some are posted here: http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/content.aspx?id=14036
358 & 1511 have terrific planning for example. I also recommend 234 continuity plan posted in the white papers on this forum. And I’m sure there are lots of other great examples.
Travel eats up a lot of budgets.

Welcome to FRC and to ChiefDelphi, Kdabr. (Your username is clever. :))

You are receiving (and will continue to receive) excellent advice here in this thread. Be sure to share it with your mentors and the rest of your team. Do look at the business plans in the links that Jenny Beatty provided for you - it will be worth the effort.

Because you have had 2 years in the BEST program, your team should have a pretty sound foundation in what it takes to be a team and develop a plan. I look forward to meeting you and your team this season.

One word of caution and one personal request:

  • Be very careful when talking about other teams. The concern that you have mentioned is a valid one and IndySam shared great wisdom with how one team can help another team grow and develop in areas they are weak in. But be careful with the mention of teams’ names in a negative light.

  • Request: if you can, encourage other team members and other FRC teams in your area to register and post in ChiefDelphi. It would be nice to see more good ole Texas folk representing our regions here in CD.

Again, welcome! Please let me know if I can be of any help to you. Good luck, 3626!


What do you have in the shop? If you’ve got a drill press and a lathe and/or a manual mill, you probably don’t need a CNC mill. Besides the cost of the mill, you also have to consider tooling, which eats up a lot of the budget pretty quickly. There’s a couple threads about stocking a shop with $X, I think it’s $10K and $1K, that I’d look at.

OTOH, if you don’t have any form of mill/drill press/lathe, I’d get a reasonably nice manual mill and tooling. You can use a mill as a drill press, but using a drill press as a mill is not repeat not recommended. (Use of a drill press as a light lathe may be possible, but also not recommended. With a mill, you’d be more able to get away with that.)

Excellent idea!

While you have the time, please try to create a business plan, showing most expenses, funds, and fundraiser profits. 103’s business plan has been a work in progress for years because we never actually finish it. The second we update it, we buy something else. We have, however, won many entrepreneurship awards because of our constantly improving business plan.

I would say that the most important knowledge we have for the continuity of our team is within our business plan. It allows us to see how we are doing compared to previous years, make changes to the way we are doing things, and improve on our spending habits every year.

Keep in mind that you’ll probably want a rather basic robot design for the first year. If you get into designs which require complex machining you may run out of time.

No you don’t have cash to burn.

Save it. You’ll spend it sooner or later. If you really think you have a budget surplus, buy the team pizza. Or just save it for a Saturday during the build season. Also, if you want to take your robot to the next level and don’t want to drop a couple thousand on a CNC (and that’s before you factor the time and material it takes to set up and use), consider some of the aftermarket robot parts that are popular in first, like my personal favorite, AndyMark.

6500 isn’t that much money especially in this competition, maybe consider going to a second regional? More competitions are great if you can afford the time and the money.

Overall if you got anything to take away from this, wait until kickoff, AND KEEP FUNDRAISING!!!

It may also be advisable to purchase a few extra jags/speed controllers, it’s always good to have at least a few of these handy for backup purposes. Also keep a transportation budget in mind for attending the events.

One thing that would be wise in this situation would be to document how the money is spent and why it is spent. If it (or any part of it) is saved as Conor suggests (and I agree with), document the reasons the team felt that was important and what the short term and long term plans are/would be for the monies. When sending a thank you for the generous donation(s), some of this info could be included, showing the donor(s) that they have made a good decision in supporting a team that uses wise judgment and good business sense.

Documentation in every area strengthens the team and can later be used for archival and historical research/reference purposes.