Thoughts on Becoming an Independent Team?

#1

So this season has been an interesting one for me but probably the one I’ve enjoyed the most thus far be it from connecting with the community more or feeling the most competitive I have felt, hopefully this upcoming year is even better. This year I made it to state and choked when it mattered and I can’t blame that on VEX so I’d like to improve my skills. I went to Worlds and helped out an independent team and I’m highly considering going independent.
(I believe context is necessary in writing a compelling argument).

I’ve had a bit of disagreements with my school about being competitive and that’s understandable (I’ve mentioned this in previous topics of mine). Going with another team to worlds only worsened our disagreement so maybe that wasn’t the smartest thing, however after my experience with that team and talking with my mentor I think going independent can highly benefit me. I ordered V5 the day they were available again after accumulating the funds so I could work over the summer so that won’t be an issue, however competition and registration fees and be an issue.

I’d like to hear the community’s thoughts and opinions, am I reading the situation wrong and need to go about this differently?

Also, if any of you went independent to you have any advice be it funding or whatever?

Thanks.

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#2

So you’re saying you want to be a one person team?

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#3

2 person, I’d gladly take more though.

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#4

Ohh, so independent as in “detached from a school”?

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#5

Yes, completely detached from school and ran independently by myself.

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#6

I can help you out, I’ve lived the best and worst of both worlds.
To start, it’s easy in VEX IQ (which I know you’re not doing but I thought I should mention it) because of the smaller parts, lighter robot, and smaller fields.
As for VRC, it’s a tougher story. Obviously you need to fund for yourself a lot, especially since sponsors are more willing to support a school club, rather than in independent team, but if you know some people, it shouldn’t be a big road block.
Some awesome advantages are parts and time. All the parts that you buy, are yours, no need to share it with your sister team. Time is the biggest one. Many schools don’t pay much attention to their robotics program, and the club meets once or twice a week when the school year starts, but as an independent team you can meet every single day over the summer if you want. As long as you have a fair space and some containers, storing parts shouldn’t be a problem.
The biggest challenge for VRC independent teams however is the field. The field might be a one time purchase, but it ain’t a cheap one. Not to mention that it’s a 12 foot square field. It takes up so much space that not many independent locations have. I’ve had to schedule scrimmages with other clubs just to use a field, and that’s not easy either.
All in all, an independent team makes everything yours, from the parts to the time, but costs and field will probably be your only issues, but once you get around those it should run like a regular season. Also you can meet on weekends. :slight_smile:

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#7

Thanks for the advice. The biggest reason I want to go independent is because of time and selection of competitions I go to. I have space allocated but not the money for the field just yet. Right now I plan on getting cheap mats from amazon and using plywood as a perimeter. Mats might not be the most realistic for practice but just gotta step up my programming game with some odometry or something :wink:
Right now, the people on my team is just me and my brother so meeting isn’t that big of a deal. Brother is on the team for experience for when I graduate and it’s just him so it’s really just whenever I have free time.

If I don’t have a field in time, I’m still taking the competitive robotics class at my school and am still hoping to have a spot in the room because I help out all the teams at my school when I’m there. We have an elevated field there I helped build so I’d hope I’d be able to scrimmage at least sometime. However the robotics teacher is apparently mad at my actions which I can understand a little.

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#8

Definitely become an independent. We ended up becoming the Illinois state champions, and our school attempted to stop us from going to worlds. We ended up cutting all ties with our school and just go to worlds ourselves as an independent. (Kinda salty that they are now advertising our strong performance at worlds)

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#9

Nice job! Are you guys entirely self-funded or did you get sponsorships.

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#10

We are attempting to become completely run off sponsorships. Many companies are actually willing to sponsor small teams as long as you have some decent awards.

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#11

The problems with schools is that they are a money business. 90% of the schools around America would provide a great deal of money (millions) for sports like football and baseball, but they will only provide a thin strand of funding (sometimes less than a thousand) for STEM classes like robotics and engineering. Schools decide to spend the millions for sports to attract new students into their school because the outside sports and facilities will be the first things that students will see when they come to visit. This means that you will likely be getting the bad end of the stick if you decide to do robotics at your school. I have gotten the bad end of the stick when I tried creating a robotics program at my school, as they didn’t provide any room as well as absolutely no funding for the program. And for that reason I became independent.
If the school declines funding you, you will be better off independent as you will not just need to figure out funding for the school that declines funding for you but you also have to be the burden to every student involved as you will likely be the most motivated of them all. If you are going independent, keep in mind that you are not being supported by the school. If the school is stealing credit for your accomplishments you have the right to take it to court with the school for taking credit. This is your team, not the schools.
Going independent isn’t as hard as you think, once you are able to receive funding. Get sponsors, as they can likely provide more money to your team than most schools can. You will also be able to achieve more since you have more time, a more quiet environment, as well as less distractions. Since you are independent you will have less teams to practice with, so you NEED to make sure to scrimmage with other organizations to make sure that you are battle tested. Join alliances so you can make sure to have exposure to knowledge and information, as you will benefit greatly as independent with those sources. Although people look at independent teams and how lucky they are, keep in mind of the tough roads ahead when independant. If you are independant, you will need to plan ahead with homework assignments, projects, and tests. You will be busier than anyone at the school, as you will be either doing homework or robotics. Gaming time may decline, as you will be spending the majority of your time practicing, building, documenting, and programming. But out of everything, you will quickly come to the realization as to how much being an independent can help you in life. You don’t realize how much you learn with funding management, planning management, and community outreach which would never be learned from in a funded robotics classroom. As you become more social as it is a necessity, you also become exposed to greater and more efficient building techniques and designs. It’s insane how much I learned when I became independent. It’s as if a gate opened, showing so much I never knew existed.

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#12

A beautiful monologue! Thank you for imparting your wisdom upon us!

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#13

The way my team solved the money problem was by asking local businesses to sponsor us. On top of that we created a in-depth budget to know what we were spending on. Each team member split the costs. Also, I recommend hiring “tournament players”, or kids who don’t really know whether they want or have the time to commit to the team. They would split tournament fees in order to be able to say they were on a team and competed (for their resume). All in all, you have to factor in tournaments fees as well as parts. You are looking at probably about 6 grand for just starting up (v5, hardware, tools, field, tournaments).

I personally am on a private team in which I solo build, program, and drive. It is a LOT of work. However It definitely is not impossible.

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#14

Hello we are team 83838A “Team Turbo”. We went through the same thing, we used to be a school team but then we split off. I would recommend becoming an independent team. once you become an independent team your going to have to pay the initial cost, the parts, and electronics, etc. After you buy those you can just reuse them for next year. You don’t have to buy a field, I would just recommend buying the game elements to practice with and design your robot off of. And being an independent team gives you much more freedom. You get to keep the trophies that you earn, and you can meet with your team whenever you want. The only downside of being an independent team is paying for the competitions, (which is relatively expensive). On average if you make it to states it would cost about $1000 per season (more or less), but if you split the cost with your teammate it would be less expensive for you. But in conclusion i think it is a good idea splitting off.

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#15

Soooooo it’s possible to go as a home team or something?

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#16

We have been an independent team for quite a while now. It’s definitely possible, and I like it much more than being on a school team. My school team was amazing in that we were blessed with funding and a great coach, but even with all that, a private team has benefits. We now have so much time. I never had time in my school team to dedicate more than a day or two for testing autons and such because 2 days a week isn’t enough for us. Just the time benefit makes it more than worth it.

As for sponsors, once you have achieved something and can show your robot to companies and plans for the future, you should have no trouble finding sponsors.

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#17

Yes.

910X and 9605A, who both made it to finals in the divisions whose winners made it to grand finals at Worlds, are both home-based teams. (So was 77321J, which was based out of the coaches’ house.)

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