08 Sep 2018
2018 Business & Strategy Draft 1
Task: Write a business plan draft
This year is Iron Reign's eleventh season in FIRST, our ninth year overall. We've participated in five years of FLL and seven years of FTC.
While our team originated at WB Travis Vanguard and Academy, as our members became older (such is the passage of time), we moved to the School of Science and Engineering at Townview (SEM) in DISD. Despite our school being 66% economically disadvantaged and being Title 1, our school consistently ranks in the top 10 nationwide academically. Our school also has numerous other award-winning extracurricular clubs; including CX Debate, Math/Science UIL, and more. Our school employs a rigorous STEM-based curriculum, which provides our students access to specialized class schedules, such as Engineering, Computer Science, and Math, as well as paying for AP classes that our students would normally not be able to afford. The average SEM student takes at least 10 APs.
A History of Iron Reign
Iron Reign has been a team for nine years. We initially started as a First Lego League (FLL) team, plateauing in regionals every year we competed. This was usually not due to the actual "robot game" in FLL, but because of our presentations. Starting there, Iron Reign was defined as focusing on creative and innovative designs. We also did Google's Lunar X Prize program every summer, achieving finalist status in 2011 and 2012. Upon moving to high school, we started doing FTC, as FRC was too cost-prohibitive to be parent-run.
We have been an FTC team for 7 years, advancing further and further each year. In Velocity Vortex, we got to the South Super Regionals, qualifying by winning the North Texas Inspire Award, which means that we represent all parts of the competition, from teamwork, to the presentation, to creativity, and to the actual game. In Georgia, the same year, we were the first alternative for Worlds if another team dropped out.
Then, last year, we finally got to Worlds. We got there in two ways: the 2nd place Innovate award at Supers, and also got the lottery, on the prior merits of being a FIRST team for so long. There, we got the recognition that we'd been seeking – we won the Worlds Motivate Award.
In the same vein, we compete in the Texas UIL State Championships. For those unfamiliar with UIL, it is the main organizational committee for all public school academic and athletic events in the state of Texas. Through UIL, we helped compete in the first test program for the UIL Robotics program and since then have competed in every subsequent tournament. This year, it finally got out of the trail period, and became a full-fledged competition.
Our outreach stands out from other teams through our mode of presentation. Last year, we renovated a 90's Seaview Skyline RV, took out the "home" components, such as the bathroom and bedroom, and turned it into a mobile tech lab, so that we can bring STEM to underprivileged demographics within our community. Our RV currently holds 4 3D Printers, 30+ computers, 3 widescreen TVs, and 1 microwave. Our current curriculum consists of teaching kids 3D modelling in the back of the RV, using Google Sketchup, as it is free and available to any family with a computer. We usually help them design keychains, as they are memorable, but don't take excessive time to print on our printers. In the front, we teach kids how to use EV3 robots and teach them how to use the EV3 programming language to compete in a sumo-bot competition. We also give advice to parents and educators on how to start FIRST teams.
To make Iron Reign's history entirely clear, we **built** the RV two years ago. We do not claim any credit for the actual construction of the RV in this journal; however, we do share the goals of this program: making the RV run as a standalone program, expanding the program to other communities, and serving more and more underprivileged communities in Dallas. To our own standards, we have achieved this.
Our current funding services for the operation of the RV come from Best Buy, who purchased the thirty-plus laptops and four 3D printers. We receive grants from non-profits such as BigThought and Dallas City of Learning to fund events and provide staff (even though our team provides staffing).
When not in outreach service, we can transform our RV into tournament mode. We have taken numerous long-distance road trips aboard our RV, with locations such as Austin, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Florida. We substitute the laptops for a band saw and drill press, use the flat screens to program instead of teach, and bring our higher-quality personal 3D printer. At tournaments, we encourage other teams to board our RV, not only to encourage them to start their own similar programs, but also to help them with mechanical and building issues.
Iron Reign spends a lot of time on outreach. So far, we've spent 84.5 man-hours and talked to just under 2000 people (1995) within our community. Our goal of this outreach is to reach disadvantaged children who would not normally have the opportunity to participate in STEM programs in order to spark their interest in STEM for future learning. Some of our major outreach events this year include Love Field Turn Up!, where we reached 1100 children from around the Metroplex. We've worked for our school district in various circumstances, including bringing children back-to-school STEM education and running orientations for our high school.
We also represent FIRST in a variety of ways. At our Mobile Learning Lab events, we talk to parents and educators about starting their own FLL and FTC teams. We currently mentor our school's FRC team Robobusters and are in the process of founding another. We are the mentors for our sister team, FTC 3734 We also provide help as-requested for FLL teams to go back to our roots. As well, we've historically hosted underfunded teams for late-night-before-tournament workshops.
|2018-08-18||Back to School Fair||Ethan, Kenna||6.5||130|
|2018-08-01||SEM Summer Camp||Arjun||6||175|
|2018-07-21||MoonDay||Karina, Ethan, Janavi, Charlotte||26||200|
|2018-07-14||Dallas Public Library||Ethan, Kenna, Charlotte, Evan||16||190|
|2018-06-23||Turn Up! Dallas Love Field||Justin, Ethan, Charlotte, Kenna, Abhi, Evan||24||1100|
| || || || || |
| || || ||84.5||1995|
Business and Funding
Iron Reign, for the past two years, has increasingly ramped up its funding. We aggressively seek out new sponsors so that we can continue to keep Iron Reign great. Currently, these include:
- BigThought - RV materials, staffing, and upkeep
- Dallas City of Learning (DCOL) – RV materials and upkeep
- Best Buy – 4x3D Printers, Laptops for RV
- DISD STEM – Practice field and tournament funding
- RoboRealm - $1500 of machine vision software
- Dallas Makerspace – Access to machining tools
- DPRG – Robot assistance
- Mark Cuban - $2500
We are always seeking more funding. We apply for the FIRST and FIRST in Texas grants every year, and seek grants from STEM-curious companies and individuals in the Dallas area. We have applied for grants from Orix and Mark Cuban, receiving personal funding from the latter. We receive staffing and upkeep from a local Dallas non-profit, BigThought. Currently, we are seeking funding and assistance from Ernst and Young, an international company with a Dallas branch, that a team member works for.
In previous years, we have lacked the ability to get significant transportation funding to get to tournaments. However, through our partnership with DISD, we have solved that problem, and when DISD is unable to provide transportation due to short notice, we can provide our own transportation due to our building of the RV.
Reference Business Letter
To whomever it may concern,
My name is Abhijit Bhattaru, and I am currently a member of Iron Reign Robotics at the School of Science and Engineering at Townview, a DISD magnet school whose population is 66% economically disadvantaged. We have been a FIRST team for about nine years, over half of some of our members' lives. For the past six years, we have operated as FTC Team 6832, Iron Reign. We've achieved various forms of success in these years, culminating with our rise to the Houston World Championship this year, winning the Motivate Award, an award for outstanding outreach within our community.
What makes our team stand out from other teams is our dedication to our community. Two years ago, we converted a Sea View RV into a Mobile Learning Lab equipped with 4 3D printers, 15 EV3 robots, and 30 laptops to teach children basic programming and 3D modelling. The purpose of all of this is to start a spark of STEM in underserved communities so that these children can later go into STEM. And, we have expanded this program nationwide, presenting at the National Science Teachers' Association national conference in 2017. We have partnered with local nonprofits such as Big Thought to fund our outreach expenses, and to reach out to interested communities across Dallas, and the nation, to expand our program.
So, why do we need your help? Our school is 66% economically disadvantaged, and adding to that, DISD is facing up to[an $81 million budget gap](https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/03/24/without-local-tax-hike-dallas-isd-could-face-fiscal-disaster). The district's funding for robotics has been dropping to the point where only the basics are covered and even then come too late in the season due to red-tape. The one silver lining is that the DISD STEM Department is still able to handle most of our competition travel expenses. This offsets our largest expense category. But we still have to fund the development of our robot, and we aim high. Our robot earned an Innovation Award at the twelve-state South Super Regional Championship this year. We try to push the boundaries of design and execution and this requires a different level of funding for parts, materials and tools.
To achieve this higher level of funding, Iron Reign is aiming to create a 501(c)(3) foundation to avoid the level of red tape and financial mismanagement from DISD that we have experienced for the past several years. This is where you come in, Mr. Cuban. We are asking for a seed donation for this non-profit, so that our team can become a free-standing team unhampered by DISD's bureaucracy. Our mission would still be to serve our school and community, as it has been for the past eight years, but we would be able to avoid DISD's mismanagement.
If the money is not utilized for a seed donation, we would allocate it for new robot parts and equipment. A starter kit for FTC is at least $600 but this is nowhere close to cost of a World Championship robot. To become more successful in the robot game for the following seasons, we would need a higher investment into parts, considering many things can go wrong in an 8 month season. Your donation to the cause would allow us to become more successful.
In return for your investment, Iron Reign will set out to accomplish what you desire from us. We can promote you and your companies on our website, presentations, etc. However, this is just one option. We are open to helping you in whatever way you would like in return for your help to our team.
Thank you for taking the time to consider our request, and if you happen to have additional time, we would like you to look over our previous Engineering Journals[here](http://www.ironreignrobotics.com/) to see our team's engineering process and history. To see a video about our robot, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBlGXSf-8A
Also, since you were not able to meet with us, we thought we would bring ourselves to you. Here is a video of our team and the FIRST Tech Challenge program.
Thanks for your consideration,
Iron Reign (6832)"
Looking Back, Moving Forward
Recently, Iron Reign has put a large emphasis on recruitment. We have alternating years with high turnover due to graduation, so we hold recruitment meetings at our school every year for both Iron Reign and Imperial Robotics.
We already have another team in our school, team 3734 Imperial Robotics. **3734 is an entirely different team, with different sponsors, members, robots, journal, outreach, and codebase.** That being said, we recruit the more accomplished members of that team. The teams' relationship is most similar to the difference between a Junior Varsity team and a Varsity team.
We tend to recruit based on robotics experience, but having robotics experience alone is not a guarantee of joining our team. Iron Reign has a specific culture, and we tend to recruit people whose personalities fit our culture. We also do not accept people who only want to join robotics as a resume booster. While robotics is indeed a resume booster, and we allow every member to claim co-captain on their college applications, members of Iron Reign ought to join out of their genuine passion for robotics, not because of it getting them ahead in the rat race of college applications.
We will finish drafting the remaining sections after Kickoff brainstorming is completed.