Starting VEXIQ Teams
Lots of families are teaching their roboteers at home. This page will give you some tips and ideas on how to set up your own team. This page covers the VEXIQ (plastic parts) competition. There is a similar page for Starting Teams for VEX EDR metal.
A VEXIQ team has at least two people on it, but three is the optimum size. The robots are small, so four or more makes it hard to work on the robot. Each team needs two drivers, a third roboteer is good to have as a backup. Having a team member from another family also gives you access to a second adult that can be backup transportation.
Siblings are a great choice for your team. Having a younger sibling lets them work with you, but having a friend from another family helps take some of the sting of the cost.
Transportation logistics and build / practice locations are the next big item, and getting parents to be agreeable and maybe enthusiastic about it. This section describes some of the things to think about.
Competitive teams spend at least 4 hours a week building and driving robots during the season (September through April). That is a pretty big time commitment.
You will need a place to build and practice. Picking up after a build session and putting everything away is pretty easy. You are going to need storage for an 18 x 18 x 18 robot, parts, controllers, battery packs, game practice elements, etc. You can easily fill a 3' wide 4' tall book case (I like the bakers racks. This keeps roboteers from just tossing small parts on the shelves, they fall through. They soon learn to put things back in the storage box)
Practice space is a problem. The full sized field is 12 feet square which is quite a bit of space. In most years you can get away with setting up 1/4 to 1/2 of the field. Setting up and tearing down the field will take extra time out of your build sessions.
You will need to get transportation to and from at least 2 events and your State Championship. These are day long events that an adult is going to need to stay for. For small states like Delaware, events and States are no more than an hour away, so it's not a big deal. A bigger state could be a multi hour drive each way.
It's important that the adults involved understand the commitment they are about to make.
Cost of VEX Competitive Robots
The cost of VEX Competitive Robots is about the same as the full cost of competitive tennis, golf, swimming, etc. so don't panic.
A robot will cost about $1,200 in parts. Depending on the complexity of the game and your design you can easily spend more on parts. The programming tools are another $50 (More details below)
Registration is $75
Each event will cost about $75 (not including transportation and food)
State championships cost about $100 to $150
You are looking at an outlay of $1,600 to $1,800.
Many teams buy the official field perimeter ($800) floor tiles ($250) and a full set of game elements ($300) for a total of $1,500 (including shipping). This is something that can be shared across multiple team, check in your area to see if there are other teams that you can work with.
You can build a practice field for about $100 and when you register your team you will get some game elements, that is the lower cost way to go.
The easy way to get money is to get your team to pay for everything. For most teams that's not an option, so the second option is to get some external sponsors. This is going to take about as much work as building a robot, so be prepared!
First off, make a business plan to map out costs. Mark out the activities that need to be done with a timeline so you can tell if you are making progress.
Pick a good team name, get a gmail account with that name. (ie STEMBots@Gmail.com) You will be giving this email out, you don't want to give out your personal email.
Create a marketing flyer. One page with:
- What VEX Robotics is and how it supports your team's STEM education plan
- What two events you will be going to (so they know where their logo/name may be seen)
- What the costs are (but say that it's about the same as other sports
At the bottom ask for sponsorship and put the email address so they can contact you.
Using the flyer as the start, create a 1 minute speech. You'll be handing someone the flyer and while they look at i, you will be talking to them. Important to not just read the flyer to them. But here is your chance to add facts and details about your team and robot, the hours you will be spending working on it, the cost for events, the cost for the robot, (motors and controllers are $30 and you need 10, what your school plans are and why robotics are important, etc.
Practice giving it. Get feedback about the flyer and pitch from some adults.
Decide on sponsor levels. For example at $100 they get their name on the back of the team shirts. For $250 they can get their name on the shirt and a logo on the robot.
Next, create a list of possible sponsors. Remember that only about 5% of businesses you talk to will give you any support, and lots of times it's only $10 or $20. (But $20 is a new motor, $10 is the controller). While it helps to go to robotics related companies to get sponsors (like electronics, engineering, mechanical, electrical, machining, etc.) think outside the box. One of early my supporters ran a nail salon.
Lots of businesses have processes for giving money. If they have one follow it. A number of businesses will not give you money, but may give you something they sell. My first teams kept parts in tackle boxes donated by the local sporting goods store. Home Depot has given small tool boxes.
Remember, if you don't ask, the answer is always no. But if they say no, thank them. But keep them on your list for next year when you come back and say "We won at the State Level, would you like to sponsor us now?"
Go get sponsors!!