Coach #2

New Kent Robotics is proud to announce the addition of coach #2 to our team, Coach Tim!

Originally from Long Island, NY (but don’t hold that against him) Tim Relyea is a Technical Support Engineer with ABB in Richmond, VA.  He earned his  Associate of Science from S.U.N.Y. Farmingdale, Farmingdale, NY, and Bachelor of Science,Electrical Engineering from Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY.  Prior to school, he spent 4 years in the US Army where he jumped out of airplanes (perfectly good ones) and played with automatic weapons and high explosives.

Prior to ABB, Tim was a Customer Support Engineer in the Semiconductor industry installing and maintaining semiconductor capital equipment.  He also worked in the UPS industry (Uninterruptible Power Supplies) installing and maintaining Rotary UPS equipment, as well as Static Switches, Power Distribution Units and Remote Power Panels.

Tim’s son Caleb Relyea is a founding team member of New Kent Robotics.  He is entering the 7th Grade at New Kent Middle School.  When he is not building his world in Minecraft, he enjoys creating things with Legos (and pretty much anything else he can get his hands on), as well as creating games in Scratch.

Both Tim and Caleb are super excited to be a part of the New Kent Robotics team and are looking forward to the inaugural season!

Business matters

The past week has been quite busy, even if the items are not flashy.

First, we received our response from the Virginia State Corporation Commission.  They were responding to the Articles of Incorporation for New Kent Robotics which were filed on July 1, and we received our certificate.  We are officially a corporation authorized to transact business in Virginia!

Next, we applied for our EIN (Employer Identification Number) with the IRS.  Even though we do not have any employees, this is an important step with regards our 501c3 status.  I did have some trouble deciding on the correct “entity type” for New Kent Robotics, and in fact, the next day I was convinced I had made the wrong choice.  Luckily, a CPA friend assured me we filed the form correctly.  The response from the IRS was immediate, and we received our EIN: #84-2418665.

Armed with our business plan, our articles of incorporation, SCC certificate, and new EIN – I went to the bank to open a business checking account.  The folks at C&F could not have been any nicer or easier to work with!  Within a few days, I even received a debit card for purchases (of course, we need some money in the account first!)

Lastly, I have created an account with Stripe, a company I have previous experience with that can process online credit card transactions.  In my experience, some sponsors will be much more eager to support a robotics team if they have the convenience of donating with a credit card.  We will also be able to accept activity fees from families who want the convenience as well.  I am still working on the donations page, but should have it up very soon.

Again, none of this progress is flashy, but all of it is very important to being able to successfully carry out our mission.  We are still working on securing meeting space, and hopefully I will have an announcement about that on Friday.

Information from Info Meetings

It’s hard to get people together in the summer.  We had two awesome information meetings, where a total of 18 families came out to learn more about New Kent Robotics and FTC.  But there were a few families who had unavoidable conflicts, and they asked if the information would be available some other way.  First, if you have not, I would suggest you take the website tour – simply follow the link at the bottom of each page.

After that, most families have three basic questions that I will try to answer here: When? Where? and How Much?

When will the team have meetings?
This is what I communicated during the information meetings:
We will plan for 3 meetings per week – 3 hours per meeting
      – 2 Evening meetings
            – Tuesday and Thursday OR Monday and Thursday
            – 5:00-8:00 OR 6:00-9:00
      – 3rd meeting
            – Friday evening OR
            – Saturday morning OR
            – Saturday afternoon
This schedule may be dependent on limitations based upon where we are able to find meeting space.  Which brings us to question number 2…

Where will the team have meetings?
We are still looking for meeting space, and I have asked all parents to help find the appropriate space for our team.  Some notes to keep in mind:
      – This space needs to be donated, our budget does not allow for rent.
      – Heat and A/C are needed, as well as electricity and lights.
      – We need to have access during the times listed above, weekday evenings are critical since I work until 4:30.
      – It would be nice if tables and chairs are also provided, the same is true for Wi-Fi.  We will figure something out if we find something that fits all the other requirements, though.

I also see 3 basic “levels” of usage for any space:
      – Team in a box concept – everything we need will be brought each meeting, packed up and carried out after each meeting.  Our goal would be to always leave the facility cleaner than when we show up.
      – Some storage – is there is a closet or someplace we could store some items between meetings, so they aren’t in the way for other activities?
      – Semi-dedicated – if there are no other activities between some meetings, and the area has little to no traffic, could we leave stuff neat, but out?
As you can see, it is more desirable to tend towards the bottom of that list.

We are hoping to partner with a local church or business.  We would like the space to be close to the New Kent Courthouse area, and then expand our search westward towards Quinton.  If we need to start meetings before we find acceptable space, we will simply meet in my home.  We do have a promising lead that could solve all space issues, but I cannot say more until it is confirmed.

How much will this cost each family?
A robotics team can be expensive, and I’ve provided a sample budget on the website.
We are asking every family to pay a $250 activity fee for each child on the team, and we request this payment be made upon signing up for the team.  We have priced out options for a team uniform, and that should cost $30 per team member. (Additional shirts for siblings, parents, friends will probably be $25 each)  Additionally, there is some fuel cost associated with traveling to competitions.

We understand that $250 is a lot of money, but I want to point out that this is a year-long program.  If you look at just the meetings during competition season, it works out to about $5 per meeting.  But even after the competitions, we will be pouring into the kids teaching them SolidWorks, Java programming, website design, etc.  Plus, they always get more out of a season than just robotics – for instance teamwork, problem solving, and public speaking.

If you have additional questions but do not yet have my email address, please fill out the Contact Us page and include your questions in the comments area.  I will get back to you quickly.

Team Uniform

One fun aspect to the FTC robotics culture is a that each team will have a “theme”.  Most teams (and all the successful ones) have a strong team identity that is most prominently displayed by their team uniform.  Here are some examples:

Team 4634 is FROGBots – FIRST Robotics of Gainsville.  They all wear green shirts with the team logo and purple fedoras.  I believe the green hat symbolizes a position of honor for the team (drive team or captain), and I’m not sure if there is any significance for the hat feathers.

RoboLords is FTC 11112 out of Ashburn, VA.  Their uniform consists of a black t-shirt with team name and some identifying graphic.  And they all wear a gold crown.


The Tuxedo Pandas FTC 4924 is a team that consistently advances to World’s.  The shirt is actually just a plain black t-shirt with single color screen printing to resemble a tuxedo.  The males all wear black pants, and the females all wear black and white striped stockings under black shorts.  Then the hats – all I can say is those fuzzy panda heads must get hot during competitions!

In all cases above, the teams honor their sponsors by including company logos or names on the shirt backs.  Several teams use the hats as a way to display the FTC Game pins for the seasons in which the individual has participated.

Michael and I have taken all this into consideration, while trying to honor the New Kent community by recognizing the outdoor activities of hunting and fishing.  We have tentatively settled on the uniform to the right.  The pattern of the shirt and hat is called “digital camo”.  As you can see, the “hunter orange” really pops, and single color screen printing is significantly cheaper than multi- or full-color.  I am showing this mock-up with the New Kent Robotics logo, but we will design a front that incorporates the final name for the FTC team.  Our thought is that team members will wear blue jeans with this (we may change to tan khakis or chinos in the future).  I’ve priced out these options, and this should come to about $30 per team member.  Also, family and friends will be able to purchase a shirt to show team support, but the hat will distinguish team members from supporters during competitions.