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    Robot Funding

    If you are reading this, you probably have accepted the fact that you cannot build an entire robot with just parts lieing around your house. And if you haven't accepted that fact yet, this page can probably help you live your fantasy slightly longer. I will be talking about the many ways you can get parts for your robot by spending as little as possible.

    First thing to remember, you get what you pay for. So if you are not willing to pay much, you cannot get the latest and greatest. You must settle for less, take shortcuts, and be a little more patient and innovative.

    Dumpster Diving
    Dumpster Diving
    Yeap I mean exactly that. Find a dumpster and jump right in. Serious. People throw away some pretty cool stuff. One man's trash is another man's robot. Just about anything electronic, although as a whole may not work any longer, has millions of useful parts. Those old 3.5" floppy drives? They have stepper motors and gears in them. Old computer cases? Great for a metal chassis. Not to mention the thousands of LED's, resistors, pots, and gears with all old electronics.

    You may have to search a little for that particular resistor value, or perhaps combine a few big capacitors you find to get the value you want, but most of it is all there. Just go behind a big apartment and search through. Hackers dumpster dive. They usually look for old harddrives that people like you through away with your passwords still on it. Wanna be like Neo? Take the red dumpster. Cough. A great place/time to dumpster dive is at university dorms and apartments at the end of the school year. Students are moving and can't take everything with them, so they throw the rest away. You can probably furnish an entire apartment with the stuff you can find during that time. Side note: wear protective clothing . . .

    Robot Hobo
    Beg Like a Hobo
    Serious again. Call up friends/family and ask them for old electronics they no longer use, but have not yet thrown away. Go to GoodWill and buy stuff super cheap. Go down to junkyards and ask if you can search through it for scrap. Old cars have billions of high powered electronics in them.

    FREEEEEEE Samples
    Yeap, companies are itching to give stuff away for free. Basically if you work at a company, and are working on a prototype, parts manufacturer companies want you to sample their parts in an effort to convince you to use them again for mass production. But I seriously doubt this is your case. But hey, why not apply for free samples, have them shipped to your 'company,' and tell them it is for a 'prototype' robot. Obviously this system can be abused, ruining it for everyone, so I won't tell you which companies are good victims. But it is usually the manufacturer of the part. Electronics manufacturers are the best, because it costs so little to make parts. You can usually apply for the samples right off of their website. If not, call.

    Homemade Robot Parts
    Make Your Own Parts
    If you can make your own part, you can save a lot of money . . . in exchange for reduced reliability and increased frustration. Many circuit schematics are available online. Take out your saw and make your own wheels. Whatever works. Custom made parts are also more rewarding too . . . if they work. Duct tape, anyone? This site is basically dedicated to teaching you how to make your own parts, so no more details needed here.

    Robot Grants
    Now for people with too much pride . . .
    There are other more 'respectable' ways to get robot parts, but it generally requires a lot more work.
    Apply for Grants
    If you are a university student, your university probably has research grants being offered. Ask your proffesors about them. My university called me a 'regular customer' of their research grant program. Generally you will have to write a several page grant proposal, consisting of your reasoning to make your robot. This means your robot has to have some useful function to society. Basically state your design, how you will go about doing it, how it benefits society, and how you are going to dessiminate the knowledge (tell everyone about it). Most grants have specific purposes, like to help the disabled, or to improve a process through better automation or something.

    Generally applying for grants limits you on what kind of robot you can build. Your robot basically has to cure cancer, not look cool and smash other robots. You will probably also have to give presentations and write essays/scientific papers. But hey, writing an essay about your robot is much more fun then writing about the 7th president of the US like you did for class. Who cares anyway? There are generally about 3x more grants for minorities and women too. So if you are not a white male, you have more opportunities. But if you are a whitey like me, learn to speak english with a spanish accent . . . I speaka engalish. Look into the minority groups around your area and ask them about grants. To sum it up, if you want to be a robotics engineer or research scientist in the future, taking the grant approach is really good experience. Hey, it got me my current job =)

    Robot Donations
    Apply for Corporate Donations
    Not a university student, write like George Bush, and afraid of territorial homeless guarding their dumpster? Well you have one more option. Basically this entails calling up dozens of companies, and asking them to donate or loan one of their products.

    But don't expect to get something 100% for free. Expect to earn it.

    If you are lucky, they have lotsa money to give away for donation tax breaks. A collegue of mine once got $20k from a well known ketchup company to build a robot for a competition with no strings attached. But I wouldnt count on it happening to you. So basically call them up, say hey I got this neat idea, I need this particular product, and this is how it will benefit you and your company. That last part is very important. You need to convince the company they will increase their profits if they give you a part. Battlebots get a lot of donations because they advertise on national TV. Most big competitions are great for advertising to like minded engineers. So tell them you would put their company logo really big on your robot. They might possibly have a newer version prototype and would love to have a slave beta tester. If possible, ask them for parts that they have in stock and are not selling very fast. Tell them its for your highschool team's education. Convince them that it is for a good cause and it will improve their corporate image. Also be persistent. Keep calling back if they do not give you a definitive answer. Call different divisions within the company too. They consider that dedication that you will follow through with your plan.

    Robot Competition
    Win Money In Robot Competitions
    Compete in a robot competition where they have cash prizes. Usually the prize will only be enough to pay back about 50% of your costs, but it helps, does it not? This is a great way for beginners to stock up on parts for future robots. You can reuse the parts in the future. After awhile you can build robots without paying a cent. I once scrapped 5 of my old robots for parts, built a new robot in only 2 weeks, did not pay a penny for anything, and won $300 from the competition. Yeap, rent wasn't an issue that month . . .

    Aware of my $200 robot competition, yet?

    Robotics Club
    Join a Local Robotics Club
    I cannot stress this much more. Best place to get 'connections,' ever. Any equipment you need they will loan to you. Any odd part they are not using they will let you have. In return you do the same for other members. A win-win situation. More experienced members will also teach you how to improvise to reduce robot costs and the time you spend making one. Just google search '[hometown here] robotics club/society.' You can probably find someone to split the costs of making your first robot with, too.

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