An assessment of the current state of the Turkish FRC Community

As we begin the 2023 FIRST Robotics Competition Season today, we feel the need to share our concerns and thoughts about the current state of the Turkish FRC community.

At the latest FIRST events held in Turkey such as Pendik Off-Season, we’ve observed with concern that mentors of various teams were significantly influential in the construction and the preparation of the robot as well as the team’s other endeavors, while some teams’ students members were incapable of presenting and demonstrating their own claimed work.

Members of the Turkish FRC Community and FIRST alumni,

Recalling the importance of the FIRST Robotics Competition Mentor Guide and stressing the fact that many alumni have grown up in the culture of FIRST now become the mentors; hence their excessively influential role in the internal operations of the team, including the robot design process is significantly controversial on the basis of FIRST Core Values.

Emphasizing that the tasks of mentors in the FIRST Robotics Competition program are well-documented and clearly stated by FIRST and noting with great concern that the negative situations mentioned above might seem advantageous in the short term for the teams’ success, but they weaken these teams in terms of student development and reduce the overall benefit and sustainability of the Turkish FRC Community in the long term.

Highlighting that the aim of these programs is not only to promote engineering, but also to develop teamwork and leadership skills in students, to raise awareness of the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and to provide an experience of people working together toward a shared goal.

Recalling also the importance of the FIRST Impact Award (formerly known as the Chairman’s Award) as it honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the mission of FIRST.

Acknowledging the importance of academic writing and presentation skills as well as creative marketing as one of the crucial skills of FIRST’s educational goals while reminding that it only represents one singular part of a widely varied agenda.

Recognizing the projects and initiatives that reach wider audiences, encourages more of today’s youth to become science & technology leaders and mainly addresses the issues that are relevant to FIRST’s mission & vision.

Emphasizing the ultimate goal of FIRST, transforming the culture in ways that will inspire greater levels of respect and honor for science and technology, and underlining that this goal is only reachable through a series of strategically approached, professionally planned, sustainably maintained, and efficiently scaled initiatives that drive for real change.

Noting with concern that the recent increase in the indifferent activities of the teams and series of unfortunate misinformation within the community exacerbating the risk against the development of the Turkish FRC Community as well as the globally renowned successful image of the Turkish FRC teams.

Expressing our deep concerns about the latest situation in the Turkish FRC Community, regarding the issues of over-extensive intervention of the mentors to their teams’ activities and changes in the teams’ focus from the contents of their projects to the visuality of their initiatives and their award submission.

Noting that this article contains personal observations and thoughts and includes topics that we believe deserve consideration. These discussions are not necessarily narrowed to Turkey but also globally in order for FIRST programs to be more sustainable and achieve their goals. Also we want to clarify that our intention in this article is not to accuse any specific FRC team, but rather to share some observations on the Turkish FRC Community.

İbrahim Tolga Gönülkırmaz / FIRST Alumnus
Hazar Tek / FIRST Alumnus

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I’m not sure I understand your point, here. Most people tend to believe that FIRST is particularly vague about the role of the mentor—permitting everything from a totally hands off mentor that never touches the robot or design to one that is totally hands on, building/designing/programing alongside the students.

This topic has been discussed countless times on this forum. Lots of people share your beliefs about the role of the mentor, but it is not universally held, and it is certainly not clear to me that FIRST has any problem with the scenario you described. You might not like it, but it’s permissible within the current program design.

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Collin Fultz, Senior Director of FIRST Robotics Competition, just addressed this exact question during the Kickoff broadcast:

“Mentors and coaches should focus on making sure their students are inspired […] and there’s no one size fits all for what that inspiration looks like.”

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While definitely agreeing with Mr. Fultz that there’s no one size fits all, there is also a size that doesn’t fit at all. Even though this situation is permissible in FRC or at least FIRST consistently remains passive regarding this matter, it doesn’t necessarily mean that mentors could build their teams robots all by themselves and leave students out of the process. FIRST is a STEM-centric educational program and hands-on experience represents an incredibly important part. This post is merely dedicated to the latest situation in the Turkish FRC Community where there are many mentors, unfortunately, abusing this permission and disregarding the students’ development and experience.

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I think that they are tryıng to articulate that some of the mentors are so overbearing that the students are not being inspired. If that is the case, then the situation is problematic.

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Respectfully, there are no rules or guidelines covering a size that doesn’t fit at all.

If FIRST wanted to come out and say “students need to have a hand in ____” they could. But for 30+ years they haven’t said that, and instead leave it up to individual teams to decide what the right fit for them is towards the goal of inspiring students.

And I promise you this problem isn’t unique to the teams in Turkey. As Jared mentioned, this topic has been discussed many many times and there are people on all sides of the spectrum regarding the level of student vs mentor involvement.

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