For me, funding is the most difficult part of doing robotics. We do robotics independently, so we are not affiliated with a school, 4H group, or other 501c3 group, so donations are not tax deductible. We are not eligible for grants either. We’ve had some help with registration fees, but for the last 5 years we have been primarily self funded.
We are about to send letters asking local businesses to sponsor our team to help pay for our expenses to attend the World Championship and to pre-fund next season. I’ve always heard that sending letters doesn’t work, but we are going to try it anyway. It is a start. If you get a letter from us, please consider making a donation. It will help us out a lot!
How much are we talking about? We will have spent over $10,000 on robotics this year alone. We purchased a VEX field for $1500. The challenge set for $500. There were team registration fees, tournament fees (4 not including World), and travel expenses. The World Championship is in Anaheim, California. This event is 3 days, plus two travel days. All our gear and our robot must be transported too. The registration fee is $750. But working with people from other countries, competing with the best teams, being there for the release of next year’s challenge– it is highly motivating!
Robotics is expensive– but I believe it is worth it. This is a great education– very much like being an engineer. I believe kids who do robotics will have a better understanding of the material when they get to college. They will really understand concepts like center of gravity, it won’t just be something they read about in a book. They will already know why it is important. This activity is an excellent foundation for college– it’s like having engineering work experience!
Someone might say that we should hold a robotics camp to raise money. It really isn’t as easy as it sounds. You need to have meeting space, computers, software, and robot kits. If you borrow the space you have to carry your equipment back and forth. If you use your own robot kits, then you can’t be using them for your own purposes. You can’t realistically disassemble and reassemble them between classes.
Personally, I would like to see a fund created for independent robotics groups. Money could be awarded based on performance and/or need. Perhaps independent robotics teams could solicit donations that would be payable to the fund and the moneys could be dispersed upon request. A percentage of the donations could go towards management of the fund. Donors could get a tax deduction too.
Doing robotics as a family or with neighbors or others in your community is a worthwhile activity. The flexibility of setting your own goals, determining your meeting times and number of tournaments, provides a sense of empowerment. Working out of your home can be fun and relaxed, fueling creativity. It also allows more time for working on your robot.
If the funding issues were addressed, perhaps the number of teams would increase. If the number of teams increased, perhaps the number of problem solvers would increase as well. Youth would be motivated to design and create machines that improve our quality of life. “I don’t know how” or “I can’t do that” would turn into “Let’s try it and see!”
I really long for the funding obstacle to be removed. There is so much good that can come from kids doing robotics. It is an investment in our country’s future. Please consider helping us by making a donation.