Chances are, if you are reading this, you are a robotics team in Maryland! If you have been mentoring for a while, you know the time, sweat and space it takes to host a robotics team. Some teams are affiliated with school programs, and the school provides them with most or everything they need. Some teams have corporate sponsors instead of a school.
Yet, some teams have neither of these. More and more high school budgets are being squeezed to the point that robotics programs (and other programs) are being cut out. Some high schools don’t participate in FRC due to insurance coverage, or the lack of available teachers. This leaves a void, which teams fill by meeting in garages, conference spaces, or wherever they can find a temporary home.
Space to host an FRC team is a real issue. In order to reach out to the most students possible, it helps to have an accessible, public place that students can gather in. Ideally, that place is outfitted with the proper tooling and safety considerations to make robots. As all mentors know, this takes money.
One case in point: The Robo Lions FRC Team and the Gear Freaks FTC team are now renting space in the Carroll County Center of Robotics and Engineering. While this should allow the team to expand, it represents another fiscal burden the team has to bear. If you know of space for teams that is available for free, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Money any team does not have to spend on space is money that buys robot parts, computing resources, tooling, or reduces the cost of admission to parents and students.
In order to make space potentially less challenging, a bill has been introduced into the Maryland Senate.
SB179 is currently in committee. In order to get to the full Senate, SB179 must be recommended by the committee. This will not happen unless the Budget and Taxation committee hears from mentors like you.
Bottom Line: SB179 allows Maryland Counties (and Baltimore City) to offer tax incentives for providing space to robotics programs. This is a multiple legislative step process – First, get the bill approved at the state level, and then get the incentives approved at the local level. A lot of work, but potentially a lot of payoff.
If you are interested in helping, please check out the coordination sheet for this topic.
(Author’s personal note: As a team that operates on a military base, and has students from multiple high schools and home school attending, access can be an issue. Its hard to get students onto base in a timely manner. Please support SB179 by calling, writing or visiting your representative, and let’s open up as much space for learning as possible.)