Where do you all find grants for expensive machines?

I know that many teams have access to machines (CNC mills, lathes, etc) that cost on the order of $10K-$25K or more each.

We’ve been really successful at getting lots of smaller grants ($1K-$5K) to purchase individual things or groups of things, but when it comes to big ticket items I am not sure where to go. For teams that have mastered the art of funding large purchases via grants, is there a particular type of company or foundation you look at for this?

(I’m trying to figure out pay for a new machine shop, probably obviously).


It sounds like your financial structure or approach is different than the ones I’m familiar with. I’ve worked with a couple different teams over the years, and for all of them, nearly all our grants went into our general account. There might be an occasional grant earmarked specifically for registration, or an in-kind donation like a company giving us their old laptops, but for the most part sponsor grants have been unrestricted & not tied to a particular goal or purchase. So big purchases like expensive machines happened after a year where we came in far below budget or ahead on funding, or we’d save up for them over a couple of years, and it didn’t matter whether the funding had come from one $10k grant or ten $1k grants or ten thousand $1 donations.

Can you clarify why your team needs one large grant, or a grant specifically earmarked for a particular machine? Understanding your constraints might make it easier to offer advice.


Without going into detail, I can share the type of sources of our larger funding ranging from 25-400k/year. Some are specific to our State up to Federal funding allocated to our State.

  1. Large Private Foundations
  2. Afterschool Program Grants
  3. CTE Perkins Funding
  4. Hawaii State Learning Centers
  5. TANF Dept. of Health Grants
  6. Our 501c3 Fundraisers

We’ve used these to purchase large equipment items, help fund trips (Hawaii to US Mainland, Canada, China, Japan, Korea), and to cover our largest cost, Personnel.

Once in awhile, we are able to get special large funding to cover things such as capital improvement which is legislative and through something called CIP Funding. I am currently working on a large one, but COVID sort of put things in limbo for us, trying to get a large additional STEM Center.


This is actually for a new team, not an existing team, so it’s a totally new community-based venture via a 501c3 rather than a school. My perspective is coming from (1) my job, which includes writing grants to support scientific research salaries and equipment and (2) past experience with success/failures in writing grants for robotics teams over about a 10 year period. Most things that get funded have specific outcomes planned or specific items that need to be purchased – and some granting organizations ask for receipts.

That being said, the existing team has some carryover, and sounds much like your team experience.

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It sounds like 1,2 and 6 are relevant to us. We’ve also had some students lobby the city council to raise awareness and there may be something there long-term for facilities. I had not thought of 2, specifically, but that’s a good search term. Thanks.


This is in the YMMV category and not directly related to grants for machine tools, however if you are already making inroads with the City Council they may have connections with people in real estate development. Those contacts turned out to be beneficial to finding affordable (basically free) space for community groups I have been involved with.

Another note, in the past we have needed to combine grants and donations in a matching situation from multiple funders to get larger ticket items. If you have a champion at a private foundation in the area they may be willing to help make contacts at other foundations to help grow your potential funding network.

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Are budgeting for tooling? Tooling can end up being a significant fraction of the purchase price of equipment like a mill. Without the tooling, it will be a large paperweight.


This is a good point, and the existing team space is basically a tax write-off from someone in real estate - but via a team parent’s contact, not via the city. It’s not a need for the hypothetical new team (something I hope to be able to post about in a couple of weeks - amazing opportunities are out there for host workspaces for sure).

I like this idea and it sounds feasible. We’ll definitely want to look at this possibility. Thanks!

I agree on this. I’m not a pro machinist myself but I’ve definitely had to make sure tooling is in the budget in the past, so those things are being considered. Thanks!

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