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.

Information Meeting #1 (7/9)

We had an awesome meeting at the library tonight.  10 families came out to learn more about FTC robotics, and I got a chance to meet many future engineers, scientists and leaders.  Again, this is just showing us that there is a desire for an FTC robotics team here in New Kent.  Mr. Zane, our beloved mentor from Lord of the Bricks even came out and shared some information with everyone.