We Need Your Voice if you Live in Maryland

There are two Big Initiatives in the works for Robotics in Maryland and we need your help to make our voices heard!!!

At the Maryland State level we have two bills that if passed, would fund state wide robotics programs registration fees for 2017 to the tune of $500,000. We have an email template and instructions on how to contact legislators urging their support on HB 115 and SB 582. We’d love for everyone to circulate this template and instructions to anyone in the community-students, leaders, parents, coaches, etc, in the hopes that we will have lots of robotics community members reaching out to their representatives. The more support other legislators see, the better!

At the Montgomery County level STEM Action has submitted a grant to fund registration fees for every Montgomery County team in 2017 as well as pay for FRC, FTC and FLL fields to the tune of $125,000. We’d love for everyone to ask everyone in our county including students, leaders, parents, coaches, etc, to contact the following county leaders to help ensure the grant is funded!

All of the details can be found here http://team1389.com/we-need-your-voice/

Thanks for your help!!!

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Are these Robotics initiatives, or fund-FIRST initiatives? It’s hard to tell from what you posted. You referred them as robotics initiatives, but then went on to name only FIRST programs in the latter part of your post.

The FIRST Specific stuff was only listed at the county level. Nothing FIRST specific was said about the state level initiative.

I’d encourage you to read the text of the bill that was linked. It is only two pages and does not mention FIRST in any way.

OK - I did read the text of the bill.

I also re-read the original post, and I read the web page pointed at by the link in the OP, which then leads to the Maryland House and Senate bills.

And, my question still seems relevant.

Beyond the simple text of the bills, when/if the executive branch of the MD government executes the legislation, is the intent to use the dollars for any and all robotics programs/clubs, or were the bills introduced primarily with FIRST’s programs in mind? The bills’ sponsors didn’t just wake up one day and decide to introduce them. These things don’t happen in vacuums.

The original poster wrote “two bills that if passed, would fund state wide robotics programs registration fees for 2017 to the tune of $500,000.” That seems odd, because the bills says something different. The bills say “THE PURPOSE OF THE PROGRAM IS TO PROVIDE GRANTS TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN THE STATE TO SUPPORT AND EXPAND EXISTING ROBOTICS PROGRAMS” (This part of the original text of the bills is all caps).

Unless there is a back story, I’m thinking that the $ can be used for a whole host of things. So long as a program or club is “AN EXISTING ROBOTICS PROGRAM OR CLUB” (original is all caps again), expenses like building surface/underwater robotic vehicles for use in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean, or experimenting with flying robots/UAVs/Drones, or buying computer equipment for cyber-competitions, or buying VRC expenses, or driverless car experiment expenses, or FIRST registration fees, or …, or travel expenses, or paying a speaker’s fee/expenses, or hosting a conference, or … would all seem to be eligible, if all you have for guidance is the explicit text of the bills.

When a post focuses on “paying registration fees”, it’s easy to expect Chief Delphi readers will assume a bias toward paying FIRST’s relatively high registration fees (FRC especially). So I asked if the intent was limited to funding FIRST programs.

Bottom line: In my opinion, when anyone is using tax dollars, being results-driven, getting the most-bang-for-the-buck, and remaining program-neutral is the way to go. If someone wants me to encourage my Maryland friends to support an initiative, is me asking whether the initiative is explicitly or implicitly an earmark for one program, an impertinent question?

Is there a back story?

PS: The Montgomery County $125K appears to be an earmark for one program. If it is part of a broader, diverse initiative, the OP doesn’t frame it as part of a bigger picture.

PPS: Monocultures are rarely resilient, and like hot-house orchids, often simply can’t expand throughout a complete ecosystem. Diversity is good, and consequently I believe public stewards and their advisers have a duty to cultivate it. If someone asks us to be advisers, it’s OK to ask them to help us do it well.

For the state level, the Powerhawks (FRC1111) have been working with house and senate leaders to craft a bill that could be used to fund robotics programs. Robotics programs at the state level are not specific to FIRST.

At the county level the funds would be tied to FIRST, since that is what the grants was written around.

While I agree that this bill is a step in the right direction, I don’t think that it goes far enough. For example, our team was pushed out of the school system this year. Long story short, even though the school had the resources and space to accommodate our team, the liability issue of not having a staff member from the campus we operated on was too big of an issue to overcome. As a result our official designation as an school sponsored activity was taken away and we were told we would have to pay to use the school during non working hours (aka weekends and certain week nights). Keep in mind that we had not received funding from the school in at least 6 years, but were now being asked to pay them. Fast forward a few months and we are in our own building outside of SMCPS and are paying rent. This has increased our budget by about 40%. Despite all this we have maintained our partnership with SMCPS and remain on friendly terms.

Our school system, on the other hand, just got a new grant of $350,000 for after school activities. This is not an uncommon occurrence for SMCPS, which has only three medium sized public high schools. While this latest grant is large, they do receive numerous grants each year in the tens of thousands of dollars from numerous sources. This of course is on top of all the county, state and federal funding they have access too. However, this money is not always spent wisely. My wife, who is a teacher, until recently had a computer that was not capable of playing a video or browsing the web. Meanwhile, her school had brand new Ipads (paid for by a grant) for the student to use. However, these Ipads lacked the software needed to be useful and teachers weren’t given the ability to purchase, install or get training for the software they wanted. As a result the Ipads mostly serve as paper weights.

Our team, on the other hand, does not have access to most of this money and will not have access to the new money if this bill is past in its current form. We take our relatively small budget and give 40-60 students valuable hands on educational experience that we all know as FIRST. I think that explaining how valuable this experience is would be preaching to the choir so I won’t do it.

My point is, why limit the availablity of this funding the school systems? They already getting funding and often don’t use it as efficiently as a community based organization could. What we should really base these types of grants on is the effectiveness of the individual program not whether or not it is run by school system. This way the tax payer’s dollar is spent in the most effective way. I have to question, based on my experience, if the money will be spent in the most effective way and contribute the programs that are shown to be suitanable and effective if only the school systems are allowed to play.

With that said, good on the Power Hawks and JJ for get something done in the state government. Its not an easy task to get a bill this close to being passed.

Hey Erik,

So for next year, what should we change about the state level ask to get the space we need?

One thought I had was to try and locate a maker space in every community that could be managed by a school or community center. (or robotics team)

We should just add that 501 C3 organizations or non profits in general can also apply for the funding. Maybe this is too simple… but I like simple.

I have a guess that the two current bills are barking up a slightly wrong tree, and that the Tax Code is a better tree to bark up. States often encourage private sector activities by offering tax incentives to everyone, instead of by giving out grants to a smaller set of recipients.

What does your (or whoever is advising the legislature) analysis of statewide needs tell you about who needs help the most (students who aren’t being exposed to opportunities, and who don’t know what they can accomplish), and about where those students are.

I’m not saying anything new when I notice that Maryland’s needs span everything from big city suburbs, to inner city communities, to rural agricultural regions, to commuter exurbs, to small cities, to … It’s more than a cliche to say that one size will not fit all.

The legislature needs to (obviously) develop a plan that helps the entire state, and solves (first) the state problems that are both the most important and most urgent. My hunch is that those problems/needs (numbers of students, and greatest missed opportunities) are in the low-income and inner-city regions.

When I looked at this in the past, I only scratched the surface, but what I found out definitely led me in the direction of suggesting somehow seeding large areas of the state with many small projects that have a low cost-per-student and reach students who aren’t already on a tech track.

My guess is that the first problems that should be solved are more fundamental than a lack of big-ticket registration fees, or sophisticated maker spaces. Hundreds/thousands of students need to first be prepared to take advantage of those things before they can pay off properly.

There are people in the FIRST and related communities who have given me wise advice about Maryland’s needs in the past. Would you like me to pull together some names for you? I’m guessing that you are already in contact with them, but there might be a new name or two in the group.



There has been a lot of work done to get the bill this far with a lot more ahead. It is a step in the right direction. This type of bill had to be attached to an existing department and since this partnership is in it’s infancy, what made the most sense was to have the funding go through the Board of Education per the research done by the author. You are welcome to watch the hearing.

There is a lot of work to be done but this is a start. Please be mindful of the hardwork that has gone into this effort.


It sounds like you are familiar with the history of the bills and with their sponsors.

Would you might walking the potential supporters who will see this discussion on Chief Delphi, or hear about it from a CD reader, through some of that history/background?

What is the partnership? Who/what are its envisioned members?

In what direction is this step pointed? Just like it’s hard to hit a distant target with a short-barreled pistol, it’s hard to fully understand the authors’ vision and goals, given just the terse language of the current two bills.

What was the hard work, what did it entail, who did it involve? Who else needs to be encouraged to be involved? Who has supplied advice to the bill authors so far? How can Chief Delphi readers dazzle them further with demonstrations and success stories? Why was the work hard?


So there is some Good news and some Bad news about the bills and grants we have been working on this year.

Good News. The state level bills HB 115 and SB 582 have passed and are sitting on Governor Larry Hogans desk.

Bad News. The bill that made it to the Governors desk cut the planned funding for robotics across the state from $500,000 to $250,000. This is a good start, we hope that next year we can urge state level law makers to make STEM and Robotics a bigger priority and demonstrate that support through increased funding.

CALL TO ACTION: We need everyone across the state to reach out to Governor Larry Hogan and his staff to let them know this is important and needs to be funded. To contact the Governor; http://team1389.com/maryland-and-montgomery-county-robotics-funding-updates/

Bad News. County Executive Isiah Leggett ocemail@montgomerycountymd.gov chose not to fund the county level grant for robotics. If you are not happy with his decision, we recommend contacting him and voicing your concern about his position on robotics in the county.

Good News. The Montgomery County Council is still considering the $125,000 grant that will fund FRC, FTC and FLL 2016 registration fees and fields.

CALL TO ACTION: We need everyone across the county to contact the following county leaders to help ensure the grant is funded! http://team1389.com/maryland-and-montgomery-county-robotics-funding-updates/