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[DPRG] RE: Funding Grants for DPRG

Subject: [DPRG] RE: Funding Grants for DPRG
From: Dick Swan dickswan at sbcglobal.net
Date: Mon Feb 15 01:52:15 CST 2010

Bruce:

There’s a difference between the $32M DARPA grant for “Big Dog” and the type of “community” grant that might be more accessible and relevant for DPRG.

 

The “Big Dog” grant was from DARPA and brings with it all the expectations of a “research” type grant expected by one of the major Federal funding agencies – DARPA, NSF, NASA, etc. They have formal expectations from the their funding. One of the things they want to see that there is a viable path to take research/grant $$ into some kind of sustainable ongoing activity. DPRG has no credibility in that area.

 

A local “community” grant has nothing to do with academic research and building potential products. I suspect the funders are most interested in how the grant will enrich the local community. And I suspect they are far less rigorous in their selection criteria for grant awards. DPRG does have credibility in the area of community involvement with:

·         Semi-annual contests open to the public

·         Participation / booths at many local conferences

·         Formal monthly meetings open to the public

·         Informal weekly meetings

·         A long established history and presence in the Dallas area.

·         And the fact that DPRG is registered non-profit entity is another plus.

 

I know nothing about “community” grants. But I suspect DPRG is more likely to obtain this type of grant funding than from a federal agency. 

 

It’s unrealistic to expect a community grant for DPRG to simply keep doing the kinds of activities that it historically has. It would seem “wrong” to ask for thousands of grant $$ to support the 30 or so active DPRG members, who pay a modest $10 annual fee, for this. So it does beg the question of just why DPRG thinks it should get grant money?  And what are any incremental benefits that DPRG will provide to the community from the grant funding?

 

Over the years I have heard of a few suggested activities that DPRG could sponsor that might be leveraged to obtain significant grant $$ (i.e. tens of $K). These include:

·         Work with the Boy Scouts (or 4H or ???) to develop a “Technology Merit Badge” training course and exam. This becomes appealing to federal funders because it has prospects of national exposure, it would presumably use online / at home materials (cyber-learning is hot), it is education related. The suggestion was that the kids build and work with a $20 electronics breadboard kit that explores sensors and includes something like a Arduino CPU.

·         Grant money to hold low-cost or free summer-time workshops/classes on robots/electronics. Say four to six one week long sessions.

One challenge with either of these proposals is that they are too large to be done with volunteer labor; I suspect they require (temporary?) resources working on a full-time basis. Which is one of the reasons for getting the grant funding in the first place. Is this – i.e. paid sub-contractors – an area that DPRG is willing to enter?

 

If DPRG is not going to chase after larger grants, then is the reality that it chases after a few small grants ($200 to $2000  each) every year?

 

I’ve probably missed the monthly meetings where the following may have been discussed. If so, I apologize:

·         If the need is simply to double or triple DPRG’s revenue then why not simply increase the annual $10 fee to $30 or more. By far the easiest solution. Especially if there was still a lower-cost option for “hardship” cases like students and out of work members.

·         An order of magnitude revenue increase from grants appears to be driven by the desire to lease a permanent venue for DPRG.

 

Consider the need for a permanent venue:

·         Suppose the current hacker space activity succeeds including the discussed option as a location for DPRG meetings. Then I think the desire for a different permanent location for DPRG will disappear.

·         Suppose the current hacker space activity fails. Then it’s very unlikely that DPRG would be able to mount a successful plan to find their own permanent venue. There appears to be far more energy behind the hacker space than DPRG is likely to provide.

In either scenario, DPRG does not end up with its own venue!

 

So back to the question. Why does DPRG want to obtain grant funding? And how would DPRG use any funding received? An what is the target for annual grant funding?

 

 

Dick

 

 

-----Original Message-----
From: dprglist-bounces at dprg.org [mailto:dprglist-bounces at dprg.org] On Behalf Of Bruce K. Harlan
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2010 10:29 PM
To: dprglist at dprg.org
Subject: [DPRG] RE: Big Dog - now grants

 

It would seem Dick has made an accurate assessment. Probably nothing wrong with it, either. The difference being- do we wish, as a club, to pursue grant money? If the answer is "no", then we are probably in good shape except for a beer budget and another warehouse.

 

If we do wish to pursue grant money, then we need to alter a few things.

 

I have been tasked with finding some grant money for the club, but so far, for the most part, I have been listening to others in the club to see what we, as a club, wish to be. Generally, the answer is "Hobbyists that pretty much wish to be left alone." If that is a correct assessment, then that's OK, but no organization is going to grant us any money to do so.

 

Of the list that Dick presented, I think the biggest problem is "No credibility". Ouch. Grant money or not, we should be credible and 

respected; we should be a club others are interested in joining. Whether we market it or not, there is (or should be) much wisdom among an "organization of 'old farts'"; wisdom that others wish to seek out.

 

Aren't we the oldest Robotics Group in the country?

 

Bruce Harlan

 

 

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