Spartabots: the Cost of Running a Robotics Club


Sebastian Hurst, Editor

Spartabots: the Cost of Running a Robotics Club

Robotics has come a long way since the early 2000s, back when the Segway was unironically seen as a game changer. The last few decades have been incredible for science and technology, and as the understanding of robots and how they work grows, so does the need for competition. 

However, competing in these competitions isn’t just building a robot to complete a given task, it’s also about teamwork, sportsmanship, and of course money. On FIRST’s competition details they say:

“FIRST recommends raising between $15,000 and $30,000 in order to participate in two to three regional competitions through corporate donations and school fund-raising efforts.” This means without school backing Skyline Highschool’s Spartabots need to raise a lot of money in order to go to competitions.

“The actual robot itself only costs around $1,000-$3,000 but what I think is more important to consider is there are a lot of costs like tools, machinery, and parts that go beyond that.” Said Shivani Modi, The Director of Business for Skyline’s robotics club. “Honestly more expensive than the robot is registration for the competitions themselves.” 

Skyline Robotics can spend upwards of $14,000 on competition entry alone, and if they make it through nationals, its another $5,000-$9,000 to go to worlds. With prices like these money becomes incredibly important, especially for a public school like Skyline.

“The majority of our funding comes from grants.” Said Shivani, “which is when we write up proposals to different companies, organizations and corporate sponsors and we basically ask them for money.”

Some of the Spartabot’s past sponsorships have been companies such as Best Buy, Microsoft, Boeing and even the Issaquah School Foundation. Companies like these are key assets in getting Skyline to competitions, however, it’s never a guarantee they will work with the club again the following year.

The uncertainty around business grants means we need to find other ways to raise money as well. “We also host our own fundraisers, so the one that we have every year is the annual banquet, it’s the showcase we do every year and charge a ticket fee. Parents are encouraged to buy tickets too.” 

These banquets serve as both a way for the team to make a bit of extra money through tickets and a way for the club to show off trial robots designed for a friendly in club competition held during the banquet. Robotics still being a club means a lot of people join without prior robot building experience, competition like this gives those students a chance to learn before the build season starts.

Robotics is an ever-growing industry and that is true even at a high school level. The sport is still new and currently most teams are student run. With the season starting in early January, Team 2976 is working hard and getting prepared for it. Let’s go Spartabots!