Grant Writing Materials

In an effort to help teachers and librarians who are preparing grant proposals in order to purchase Finches, we're providing answers to a number of standard questions requested in a typical grant proposal. Feel free to use the text as advice or copy and paste it wholesale. If we're missing something on this page, please let us know so we can add an answer for it in the future!

Finding Funding

The funding situations at schools varies dramatically. To assist you, here is a list of sources teachers have used in the past:

  • Donor's Choose - This website allows you to appeal for donations for classroom projects from a large base of philanthropically minded users. The Finch is not currently carried by any "approved" vendors at Donor's Choose, but you can place a special materials request. Please contact us if you are interested in using this venue for fundraising. 
  • District support organizations - Depending on the state you live in, your district might be supported by a governmental organization at the county or multi-county level. These organizations may offer grant programs for STEM-related programs or equipment.
  • Foundations/Corporations - Many robotics teams are funded by technology companies who have an interest in cultivating their future workforce. You can make the same argument with the Finch. If there are any technology companies in your area, ask if they have a corporate giving program. Similarly, there may be local foundations in your area that focus on education. 
  • PTA/PTO/Friends of the Library - Many parent and community support organizations recognize the value in increasing computational thinking and other STEM skills, and have purchased robots for their schools or libraries.

Brief Description of the Finch (for context)

The Finch robot is the result of four years of NSF-supported research into using robots to improve Computer Science education at Carnegie Mellon's CREATE lab. The research effort involved deep participation of Computer Science educators and several design iterations driven by results from classroom pilots (1). The Finch has several characteristics that make it optimally suited for Computer Science classrooms:

  • It is supported in a wide range of programming languages, including all languages used at the high school level
  • It is powered over USB; no batteries are required and the robot never runs out of power.
  • No special drivers or software need to be installed to run the Finch, allowing students to quickly begin using the robot on home or personal computers.
  • It is robust and portable, and can easily be carried in a backpack.
  • The Finch comes with over 62 pre-written lessons/projects and the website allows teachers to upload and share additional lesson plans that they have developed.
  • At $99 (10% less with the educational discount), it is considerably less expensive than other robots used in Computer Science education.

The robot is equipped with temperature and light sensors, a speaker, a light that can be programmed to change color, and a three-axis accelerometer.  With the right program, the Finch can transform into a buzzing, moving alarm clock, a joystick for a student-written game, a hearing test, a musical instrument, a light-fearing robot, a weather forecaster, and much more. If data is the raw material of programs, the Finch is a way of providing these programs with fascinating, real-world sources and outputs of that data.

The Finch has been tested at several schools prior to commercialization, including one large-scale test at a community college. These tests showed promise in the use of the Finch to increase student motivation and learning (2). Since commercialization, numerous teachers have provided anecdotal testimonials of the Finch's usefulness in the Computer Science classroom.

1. Tom Lauwers, Designing the Finch: Creating a Robot Aligned to Computer Science Concepts, Proceedings of the First Symposium on Educational Applications of AI, July 2010.

2. Tom Lauwers, Aligning Capabilities of Interactive Educational Tools to Learner Goals, Ph.D Thesis, Carnegie Mellon, April 2010.  (Chapter 6 covers the Finch research program in detail)

Social or Economic Needs

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that between 2008 and 2018, 1.4 million computing jobs will have opened in the U.S.  If current university graduation rates continue, only 61% of these jobs could be filled by U.S. computing degree-earners. Unfortunately, graduation rates are dropping or stagnating at most universities. It is imperative that we have more students studying Computer Science if we are to fill those jobs. Computer science teaches students design, logical reasoning, and problem solving - all valuable well beyond the computer science classroom.  

NCWIT and have some good resources backing up and expanding on the above paragraph:

Additionally, information technology and computer science careers are some of the best-paid, highest growth options for students today. You can find detailed career and salary information at:

Which Students will be Impacted by the Grant

With the Finch's current sensor suite and software support, any introductory or AP Computer Science class can make excellent use of the Finch during the entire length of the course. The Finch can also be used in math and science classes for shorter modules. For example, Computer Science students could write data-logging programs that are used in a regular science class, with the data being analyzed in a math class. 

We also have drag and drop programming environments that allow students from 3rd grade and up to use the Finch to learn programming and computational thinking skills. 

Expected Lifetime of Equipment

A very conservative answer is three years, though we expect them to last 5-10 years with ordinary use. 

Frequency of use of Equipment

Depending on how the class is designed, Finches can be used by students for any assignment or activity involving programming in the class. 

Alignment to State Standards 

Each state's Computer Science-related standards differ, but here are some concepts that can be taught using Finch:

  • Basic input and output
  • Variables
  • Conditionals
  • Loops
  • Arrays
  • Using and Creating Objects/Classes
  • Methods/Functions
  • Mathematical operations
  • Boolean Logic
  • Program Development Cycle

There are assignments covering all of these topics freely available at the website.

Assessment Suggestions

If you need to assess or evaluate your project or grant's results, here are a few techniques we have used in the past:

  • If you have enough students (typically 30 or more), you can run some basic statistical comparisons between students in the year(s) in which you've used Finches, compared to students in previous years. Do they complete more assignments? Are assignment grades higher? Are exam grades higher? If an AP class, does the average AP score go up?
  • You can also compare enrollment in much the same way, especially enrollment in the second year in which you have the Finch (assuming you have promoted the Finch to incoming students in the first year).
  • You can do entry and exit surveys of students to determine if motivation or interest in a Computer Science career is changing based on your class. The same survey can also ask students if Finch specifically increased their interest in Computer Science.
  • You can attempt to track students who have finished a Finch class to see if they choose a STEM major or participate in out of class STEM activities.
  • If you have two or more classes, you could do a mini-randomized controlled trial (the gold standard in evaluation research). For a given concept, create two assignments - one using Finch, and one without: then give one class the Finch assignment and the other the regular assignment. Test their knowledge of the concept afterwards. You can directly evaluate both assignment completion rates and learning.

Project Promotion Suggestions

Some grants may ask you to promote the funding agency or program. Others may simply wish that you have a plan for advertising the funded project as widely as possible. The following are a number of suggestions for doing so:

  • Article in the school newspaper (for students).
  • Article in a school newsletter (for parents).
  • Display at open house.
  • Display at information nights for incoming students.
  • Hold contests or events where current students can display their work to other students to try to recruit for next year.
  • Provide a letter to parents of students who get to use Finch thanking the granting organization for providing the robots and describing how they can be used.
  • Encourage students to use Finch in science fairs
  • Encourage advanced students to organize Finch workshops for younger students.
  • Partner with a local library or community organization to provide outreach demonstrations or classes for the community.

Pictures of Finch

High-resolution pictures of the Finch are attached to this page.

Additional Assistance

Please do not hesitate to write if there is some way in which we can provide additional assistance to simplify your grant proposal process.