FIRST Robotics Competition Team 744 Shark Attack , part of Westminster Academy Robotics in South Florida, along with FIRST Tech Challenge Team RISE 7719 , of Lakeland, which is also heading up the first ever Florida FIRST Advocacy Conference, and others from the Florida FIRST community have been working with Florida House Representatives to broaden the opportunity for schools to participate in FIRST programs statewide. As a result, HB 9253 , a bill seeking $1 million to FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge teams and events, was successfully filed by Representative Chip LaMarca in the Florida House of Representatives.

Now before the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, representatives need to hear from citizens who value FIRST about why it is so important to help fund programs in schools statewide. As per the Appropriations Project Request Form for this bill, the appropriations bill seeks:

  • a minimum of $2,500 to pay part of the registration fees for Florida FIRST Robotics Competition teams that participate in Florida events,
  • at least $80,000 for each Regional competition,
  • $35,000 for a permanent FIRST Robotics Competition field,
  • additional funding to support growth efforts and to help FIRST Robotics Competition teams become more sustainable and competitive,
  • $275 to pay some of the registration fees for Florida FIRST Tech Challenge teams and
  • $30,000 to help defray costs of the Florida FIRST Tech Challenge State Championship.

What You Can Do

Legislators need to hear from those who have seen and experienced the power of FIRST participation directly: teams, parents, teachers, volunteers, coaches,  mentors and alumni.

They need to hear that investing school dollars and student time in more STEM-related programming, and particularly FIRST will provides an enormous return on the investment for schools, students and the community, with the potential for every involved student to “turn pro.” A 2011 Brandeis University study of FIRST participants found that involvement in the program:

  • Improved school engagement by almost 90%
  • Increased interest in college by 90%
  • Doubled the likelihood of majoring in science or engineering for participating students
  • Inspired 33% of participating girls to pursue a major in engineering
  • Improved 21st century work-life skills in communications by over 75% and problem solving, time management and conflict resolution skills on average by 95%

FIRST brings the future here, now, and exploring – and supporting at all levels – the amazing opportunities in science and technology fields is good for students, good for our communities and good for our nation.

Let Legislators know all this by messaging them to ask them to please pass HB-9253 . FIRST in South Florida has created a letter template you can can customize here, and you can use the info in this post and the accompanying graphics to help legislators see the evidence- based impact of FIRST.

You can find the members of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee here. Click on each member’s photo, and at their individual pages, click on “Contact Member”, then cut and paste your letter urging their support of HB-9253 in the contact page that appears.

Share this post freely, and keep the conversation going with your local legislators, too. Let’s Make it Loud – and funded! – for FIRST in Florida!

This article also appears on the AMRoC Fab Lab website which, like ROBOTICON, is a program of the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation.  FCDI is proud to support FIRST programs in Tampa Bay and beyond.