For the first time ever, Florida FIRST Robotics Competition teams are receiving funding support from the state of Florida!
Thanks to South Florida Congressman, George Moraitis, and Senator Chris Smith, working with FIRST Robotics Competition Team 744, Shark Attack and with the support of FIRST in Florida personnel and representatives of the University of Central Florida and Florida Atlantic University, every Florida FIRST Robotics Competition team will receive $2000 towards registration.
“I was honored to work with FIRST Robotics in securing state funds to assist with the robotics competitions in South Florida,” said Congressman Moraitis. “Robotics is a great way for our students to experience how engineering and science can be used in a tangible while allowing them to learn and compete with teachers and other professionals in our community. I want to specifically thank Kent Stolley, Lauren Cooley and (FIRST Regional Directors) Terri Willingham and Sandra Contreras for their invaluable assistance with this year’s funding for FIRST Robotics.”
Combined with FIRST funding for rookies, that means every new FIRST Robotics Competition team in Florida receives 100% funding, and returning teams can benefit from the additional funding in combination with Society of Women Engineers and other grants.
Representative Moraitis , Florida House of Representatives, District 93, made the budget request on behalf of Team 744 with the goal of helping fund FIRST Robotics Competition teams in Florida so they can participate in at least one of the two local Regional Competitions: the Orlando Regional or the South Florida Regional.
With Florida in vital need of skilled science and technology workers, but with less than 10% of college degrees and certificates awarded in Florida in 2011-12 being STEM related, legislators recognized the power of FIRST to build academic and workforce readiness:
- 89.6% of FIRST Alumni are either majoring in a STEM field in college or is working in a STEM profession.
- 91% of FIRST students are more interested in going to college and 41% wants to major in engineering.
- 90% of FIRST Robotics Competition students plan on taking more challenging Math or Science courses next year and
- 88% are more interested in doing well in school
Additionally, there is $30 million in college scholarships available to FIRST participants. And companies and organizations such as Boeing, FedEX, Google, the CIA and the US military, NASA, and many others all recognize the value of the skills provided by FIRST programs and actively recruit FIRST alumni for internships and jobs.
The story of how the funding came to be is a great example of how FIRST is #MoreThanRobots and about the impact that civically involved teams can have for their programs and in their communities.
History of Funding
For more than a decade, members of Team 744 have been legislatively active, building a relationship with State Rep. George Moriatis, their state representative, and meeting formally with his aides in 2012 to start a conversation about state funding.
“One of our team members presented his personal analysis on growth and sustainability of FIRST teams in Florida We also did a demo of one of our robots,” said coach Lauren Cooley.
Shark Attack followed up on their initial meeting with Rep. Moraitis by proposing an additional legislative initiative which wasn’t acted upon at that time. FIRST in Florida was also invited to submit a line item budget request in 2014, during a STEM Day at the Capitol visit, which also did not make it through.
However, Shark Attack continued contact and discussions with Rep Moraitis over the next four years to encourage funding of FIRST, and state FIRST representatives continued inviting congressional leaders to events and programs.
In February 2016, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Orlando and FIRST in Florida joined together for the Orlando Science Center’s STEM Day at the Capitol event, using the opportunity to raise awareness of FIRST and STEM. Shark Attack, and FRC 3556 GET SMART , FRC Team 6198 Pensacola Bayou Bots demoed their robots in a cold and windy courtyard to the enthusiastic appreciation of Capitol staff and guests. Meanwhile, in the Rotunda, the Tallahassee Lego Robotics Club regaled with their great work.
During the STEM Day event, Team 744 met with Senator Chris Smith, of South Florida and a parent of a student on the team, and discussed the possibility of funding from the state. At the same time, other teams, including a rookie team from his district, were meeting with Senator Don Gaetz , Chair of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
“Senator Smith worked with us to plan a strategic way to add $200,000 to the budget, for this year, through allocation,” explained Cooley. “Based on our years-long relationship and our invitation, Rep. Moraitis came down to see our demo in the courtyard. He agreed to support Senator Smith’s strategic plan.
“We followed up and worked with both Senator Smith and Rep. Moraitis, to indicate what a beneficial FIRST robotics allocation would look like and how it could be dispersed through the university system.
“Two of our team members actually wrote the text/content of the budget allocation request. One of our members was assigned to maintain contact and provide support as requested by Representative Moraitis’ office during the budget proposal process. This resulted in hours of meetings and additional phone conversations to craft the final proposal and work it through the budget allocation approval process The allocation was included in the approved budget.”
From there, the work to distribute the state-allocated funds was largely led by Florida FIRST personnel and representatives from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Central Florida, responsible for the distribution of funds to FIRST and from there to Florida FIRST Robotics Competition teams.
Shark Attack continues to work closely with Senator Smith and Representative Moraitis by keeping them updated on their team’s endeavors, and inviting them to events. As a matter of fact, Representative Moraitis will be at the Mission Mayhem Off-Season event at Dillard High School October 22 !
Funds will be evenly distributed to all FIRST Robotics Competition teams in the state of Florida, following the intent of the allocation of the budget. Whatever money is left will be applied to defray costs of the Orlando Regional and the South Florida Regional.
Be sure to follow instructions for securing funding found here.
What You Can Do
You can stay involved and say Thank You to Representative Moraitis , Senator Smith and your congressional representatives and senators for their support of FIRST in Florida!
You can also save the date now for STEM Day at the Capitol 2017 on April 11, 2017
and help us continue to raise awareness and visibility of FIRST in Florida.
Thanks to all who helped make the 2016 Florida State Funding possible, and to all who continue to work to promote FIRST statewide and help more youth across the Sunshine State experience the power of FIRST Sport for the Mind!
Go Teams! And thank you, Florida!