Behind the Bumpers interview with 2135 Presentation Invasion from California at Chezy Champs. Check out their double wide shooter and well built machine. https://youtu.be/AwxW3LjAK8M
Great job by Anisha, Shwetha, Christine, and everyone else who worked on this robot! It was fun to see live!
Low key kinda weird though to spotlight a male mentor on one of the only all girls teams at the event (just for clicks?)
No disrespect meant to anyone on the team. If you look at other places this is posted CD is the only place that I associated Adam’s name with it. I believe it would help provide more opportunity to see a team that may otherwise be overlooked by name alone.
This team wasn’t interviewed because they were an all-girls team (didn’t even know they were til just now). They were interviewed because they had a unique shooter that caught my attention.
I think it actually does really disrespect those girls though, as your point is no one will care unless you associate a successful, well known FRC male with the team? I actually would argue that you should have highlighted that this is an all-girls team, because that is really unique in FRC, and I would have loved to learn more about how their team runs in addition to their very unique and impressive robot design. I am a little concerned with how this interview proceeded beyond the caption of this post, however, and think it shows a general preconceived notion you had going into this interview and the honest impression you had of these girls - that they didn’t really understand their robot design and their success was due to Adam being their mentor. I genuinely hope this is not how you feel.
These girls were clearly nervous for this interview. You could hear it in their voices - they were shakily talking, stuttering and just sounded anxious. As someone dealing with high school students, it is really important that you can read and react to students’ emotions because you can make them unknowingly very comfortable if you are unable to do this. I am sorry to be this blunt, as anyone who knows me well knows I typically run from confrontation, but I think you really belittled these girls and had no clue you did. I point this out on such a public forum not to try and embarrass you, but because I think this behavior is all too common in FRC, and it is really pushing out our girls, non-binary students and students of color.
The specific, and very subtle things that happened in this interview led me to this feeling:
You asked the girls “do you know what motor is running X mechanism?” Do you see how this gives off the assumption that they do not know what the motor is? Also who cares what motor it is? I’d rather hear about their design process and how the mechanism works. Motor selection is too often related to available funding as well (which relates to massive inequities in FRC and beyond) so it seems mostly irrelevant to me to ask at all.
How would I fix the above:
Okay, wow this shooter looks absolutely sick. Tell me about your design process, how it works, and how it’s holding up in the competition." This is a really friendly approach (calms the nerves of the kids), is open ended so lets them speak to what they are comfortable and confident with instead of sort of quizzing them on what they may or may not know at that exact moment. I bet they have some unique team processes for design due to being all girls (same for an all boys team or any other gender on the very fluid spectrum that is gender) that I would have loved to learn from.
You made a lot of condescending comments about the size of the hopper and number of compliant wheels. I think it was intended to be funny, but I know I did not laugh, and the girls did not seem to get the jokes at all, so I am not sure why after that style didn’t land the first time you kept it up. They seemed more and more nervous to me as it continued. Again, this is about reading and reacting to the students you are working with as this is their experience and if the kids are uncomfortable we really are not doing our job. I would not have opened with a sort of a “slam” on the size of the hopper. It sort of made me feel like you didn’t think the girls knew how many balls it was legal to hold, which you didn’t really have any right to assume whether they did or did not. Again, I don’t think ability to recall number of balls it is legal to hold is worth quizzing these girls on, and I actually bet the size of that hopper helped a lot with ball jams because the balls had space to wiggle around, which is a huge strategic advantage! Combine that with a super lightweight moving floor with the polycord belts, and I bet that hopper worked like a dream every time. Maybe I am wrong, but I suspect we could have learned some of this and more from these girls if they felt more comfortable with you during this interview.
How I would fix the above
Woah this hopper is super unique and seems wicked simple. Tell me all about it and how you came up with the design." This is again, open ended so students can speak to what they are confident in, and places emphasis on the design process and learning from this amazing team.
You started interrupting them a lot towards the end. This definitely added to their nerves, and wasn’t very kind. You also seemed uninterested in what they had to say by the end. The girls seemed to pick up on that and there were a few instances where the girls (very politely so you probably didn’t notice), stood up for themselves and their design decisions. They “clapped back,” so to speak. Again, as someone working with students it is important to notice the little things like their way too polite defense of their decisions, which is sadly what girls are trained to do from a young age. Our cries for help or justice are not heard because we are too worried about being told we are bossy or dramatic.
How I would fix the above.
Practice active listening skills. Cater the interview towards the topics the girls seem to be confident/most interested in. Let them guide the conversation. Be positive, excited and most importantly, a lot kinder.
These are kids who just experienced and are still experiencing a highly traumatic global event in the middle of some of their most formative years. These kids are not okay across the board and we probably won’t understand how the pandemic affected them for years. They deserve kindness, patience, enthusiasm and for us to treat them as informed, highly knowledgable and capable individuals, no matter where they presently are in their learning journeys.
People ask me a lot how I am so good at connecting with kids, and I am legitimately just calm, kind and understanding. I aim to be their calm in the chaos and their anchor when they need a steady hand, and you can’t be that unless they feel comfortable with you. The individual actions we take as mentors have a large impact on how our students feel about themselves and us as mentors, and that is why I say all this in such a public forum.
We all really need to do a whole lot better if we want to carry on Woodie’s legacy. He made each and every kid feel like the most special person in the world in the moment they had while they signed his jacket. It is our job to do that now. When I had an opportunity to chat with him in 2019, he didn’t spend any time talking about our robot. He asked how I had so many confident girls on 6328 in the pit. He asked me how I made that happen. And I told him what I said above. I am just their biggest cheerleader. I am nice. I am excited. I set healthy boundaries with my students. I believe in them and their ability to learn and do good things in this world. It is nothing special. But I am this way with every one of my students, and I try my best to be 100% for them every time i see them. The consistency and reliability is the key.
I am probably going to get blown up for this post, but I am tired. No, exhausted, after 12 years of feeling so out of place in FRC because I like the color pink and wearing makeup. Or even worse, it is assumed I don’t know anything because of these feminine characteristics. I know I am not the only one who feels this way, so it is time to get mad. If you aren 't angry you aren’t paying attention.
I’ve been screamed at by one of the so called “well known mentors” as a student myself after the match didn’t go as planned. I don’t think all are as amazing and wonderful as they seem. Don’t turn these girls into products of another man’s success. They are so much more than that.
Do better FRC.
As a female drive coach who was told I ‘had to have the stones to play on Einstein, babe’ by another well-respected adult coach after being eliminated in 2019 (after, you know, I was already an Einstein coach in 2015…)
Dee, this response is so necessary.
Support the students rather than challenge them. It’s not difficult.
Editing to add: Can we stop labeling teams with ‘high profile’ mentors as “XYZ’s team”? I am so, so sick of my students being labeled with “Oh, that’s Libby Kamen’s team” as if they’re not accomplished in their own right. 1923 is built (this year alone) with 172 students, 10 other mentors, and yes, my input - but they are the sum of the work of generations of MidKnight Inventors before them; and shouldn’t be boiled down to my presence - or any one individual’s - as I’m sure Adam and others in the spotlight would agree. Let’s just agree, as a community, to cut this out.
I think my favorite of all time is “you should be home baking a pie instead of wiring the robot.” From my high school mentor to me in 2012
Also could not agree more on the singular mentor tied to team success thing. I really feel like that needs to go, and we need to refocus on student success and achievements
Thanks for taking the time to respond and help educate so we can continue to improve our interviews and help girls feel feel like FIRST/FUN is providing an inclusive program. I’m out with my kid right now, so I’ll respond when I have more time to dedicate my attention.
I don’t want to pull the thread off Dee’s very important points, they deserve even more attention and discussion.
Just a quick note, even AT the event when his team was announced for a match, Adam didn’t seem thrilled with the needless spotlight on him instead of his students.
I know this discussion is ongoing, just wanted to say - thank you, Tyler, for editing the title of the thread to exclude the mentor’s name; I think that goes a long way in determining that this is about our students, not the people at the helm. (I mean no disrespect to Adam in any way here; just helping highlight the kids, which I know we’re all about.)
As adults in FRC, no matter the role, everything we are doing needs to be for the students. Volunteers, mentors, content creators, doesn’t matter. Presenting the video as view-worthy because a prominent figure in our community is a mentor and not because the students deserve to have their accomplishments shown does the exact opposite. Instead, it makes it feel like we should only care about teams when we recognize the name of someone involved rather than the merits of the students.
Like Dee said, a huge problem is that it didn’t feel like the students were given the opportunity to tell their story in a way that is meaningful and authentic to them. Interrupting them, asking questions that aren’t open-ended, and comments that seem to be making fun of the design that they spent so much time on is so disheartening.
One of the biggest things we can do in our program is to make sure that everyone has the space to be their authentic selves. When media is created like this it makes it seem like that can’t happen. Content that is aimed at the FIRST community should be wholly about telling stories - about robots, about teams, everything. And it needs to be done in a way where teams and participants share those stories in whichever way is the most comfortable for them.
I don’t think “no one will care” is fair. I understood Tyler’s point as “potentially more people will care”.
I comment because I am one of those “potentially more people.” I clicked on this thread earlier and watched the video specifically because I saw Double Wide Effective Shooter and Adam in the title.
I’m a pretty niche demographic here though, as I am no longer actively involved in FRC, almost never watch Behind the Bumpers, and did not know who 2135 was.
EDIT: I see that I didn’t word my response well. I do not mean to imply “potentially more people will care if a well known male is associated.” What I meant was “Potentially more people will care if they know (or know of) someone involved.”
Now that the title has changed, I think we should split the thread as the discussion is important.
I’m immensely proud of how hard the girls worked on this robot and I’m glad they’re having their moment in the spotlight. They really deserve it.
Agreed! The robot is stellar and I loved hearing them talk about their work. Can’t wait to see what 2022 looks like for the team!
Thanks Dee for outlining not only examples of what bothered you but how you’d fix it. While I certainly don’t intentionally make the same sorts of mistakes, I’m sure there are times I do. And I’ve even gotten angry on behalf of my students when they go through interactions like ones you and Libby highlighted (a student on our team was told “those aren’t make up packets” when she was taking some swag from a booth at a STEM event )
Definitely am going to try to take a mental note of if I’m asking my students open ended questions often enough so they get a chance to share what they want rather than feeling tested/grilled/whatever.
EDIT: probably over-analyzing my own post, but my “even” in “and I’ve even gotten angry…” wasn’t meant as a defending myself but rather that just that I’ve already been trying to be mindful of comments that are made and how they affect someone even if people think they’re “just joking”
Could not agree more, but we should definitely keep this discussion up because it is important! Not sure how to split threads though, does a mod need to do that?
I really appreciate your thoughtful response and willingness to commit to making positive changes! We all have blind spots depending on on backgrounds, we just need to be aware of those and make sure they don’t unintentionally hurt our students.
I do understand what you are saying, but I think the inherent idea that we associate whole team efforts with an individual (frequently male mentors although not always the case) is a cultural change that needs to happen, as Libby pointed out. It starts at an individual level. As you were scrolling through CD, and the thought in your head popped up “oooh Adam Heard = interesting team,” maybe next time stop yourself and say “hey I should really be thinking about these teams as a whole. Y is a great mentor, but team XXXX is comprised of a lot of great people as well that deserve recognition” By having that growth mindset, you may view that team, their robot and their accomplishments in a whole new light!
Dee and all,
Thank you for taking the time to call out and help educate myself and others in the FIRST community so we can do better. You have valid points that I will absorb and try to be more cognizant of in the future.
Responding to some specifics for FUN I would like to speak about how we go about doing interviews specifically more in-depth to what happens leading up to an interview and what happens during the interview itself.
I do apologize for mentioning Adam in this context, with any team it is my goal to try to get as much attention on that team as possible and I went about it the wrong way and admittingly it was a fumble on my end not realizing this was an all girls team to compound all of this.
I do want to be transparent that if the thread title was " Behind the Bumpers - FRC 2135 Presentation Invasion - Double Wide Effective Shooter" that I do estimate that viewership would be about 1/2 to 2/3 of what it is. Not an excuse, but it’s something that I do feel is the truth based on hundreds of data points I can look back on. While not definitive, looking at my posts in r/FRC for CC videos we have done so far this team has 1 karma versus dozens for others:
This doesn’t excuse word choice in a title by any means, but this is why I wanted to find a way to help bring more eyeballs to this team and choose to only post it that way on CD because I thought people who knew Adam would appreciate and want to see the team he is now apart of. Those who stated it are right of how it should be, but the reality of how consumers view content is different.
Should FUN help be a change agent to that? Absolutely. Over the years we’ve tried many different methods to highlight other aspects of teams. 90+% of videos like this produce significantly less (>50%) viewership. When the season picks up again we’ll keep trying to do other content and appreciate suggestions on what to do.
Behind the Bumpers:
Here is how we typically go about filming a Behind the Bumpers segment. I’m posting this so you can poke holes and help us improve.
Approach team in the pit and introduce yourself, typically try to find a time where a team has a long match break: "Hi I am Tyler from FUN, we are looking to interview your team and robot to show off to the FIRST community. Are you familiar with FUN (explain if not)? Would you have some time to do an interview? It will take about 15 minutes and we typically are looking for 2-4 students to feature.
(Assuming they are ready and have students selected, though sometimes we go through this first prior to selecting students) Spend <5 min for prep: Great! For this type of interview we typically focus on your team and robot specifically on what we can show on camera. Every team is different, but we typically follow a few key areas and then build from there. For many teams that means following the power cell through your robot, so we can cover key areas like your intake, indexer, shooter and then climber. While we will cover most of this during the interview is there anything specific on these areas or any other areas on your robot that you are proud of or think is unique that you would like to show off to the FIRST community? Is there anything else about your team that we can show on camera that you would like to make mention of (make notes of what is listed)?
Great! I’m going to take a minute to setup, this is our camera person (name) btw (wave), but between you (x), can you discuss who wants to cover what on your robot?
Come back and take notes of each persons name and what areas they will be discussing.
My goal is to act as the narrator, I’ll help guide through when one student is done talking to transition to the next and I may ask you a follow up question. If for some reason you don’t know you can pass the microphone to another student or if nobody knows we will just move on. Please spend about 1-2 minutes per topic as we want to keep this interview to about 6-10 minutes.
Microphones: Show the students how to hold the microphone, a few inches from mask and arm locked it so it doesn’t sway. I will have my own microphone and rest of the students will pass around the other.
Does anyone have any questions before we get started?
- Start Interview
Nearly everything that is talked about in the interview is prepped ahead of time, there’s improv for sure but it is our goal to make the students as comfortable as possible in a stressful situation. Do some students present better than others? Of course. I believe these girls did fantastic describing their robot. While I cannot speak specifically to this interview, typically if a question is asked a second time it’s because it was mentioned in prep and I am trying to help the student speaking about areas they seemed comfortable with.
Dee to your comments during the interview, listening back you make many valid points and I appreciate your coaching on how to improve. This is something I will keep in mind for the future.
To expedite time and so everything is handy to a team, we keep them in their own pit typically while filming. For those who attended CC you know that the pits that were in the off-site building were extremely loud. The microphones that I use do a fantastic job of cutting through ambient and other sounds, but that’s not the case for me and others in the pit. Combine this with masks it is sometimes unintelligible and I have to do my best to move forward or sometimes guess when someone is done speaking relying on eyes and facial movement. This isn’t specific to this team either and happens all over. Texas Cup was a great example of this depending where the teams pit was versus the loud speakers. We’ve had to add headphones to our camera operators so they can hear what either of us are talking about so they know what to focus on.
I fully acknowledge that I could have done better. I do want to demonstrate what it is like to do an interview in certain pits. The camcorder that I use Panasonic CX-350 is a fantastic camcorder that actually has a pretty good dual channel front microphone that records in separate channels other than the XLR input. Below is unedited audio from both the camcorder microphones and the handhelds and is a close representation of what is it like to hear someone in pits with all the other noise. Combine this with masks and yeah it’s not easy during the interview for both the students and myself to know when someone is done speaking and almost impossible to gauge tone of voice or inflection.
If there’s points I didn’t address I would like to find a way to do so, but this convo should be split or I would be delighted to discuss via DM.
Thank you everyone for your passion and time to help make FIRST a better place.
I guess I don’t find these as mutually exclusive. In my case, it was a sequential:
- I saw a thread about a team I wasn’t familiar with, but saw someone I knew was involved with that team
- Because of that, I watched a video and got to see cool work the team did. I now know of 2135, and that they built a cool 2021 robot.
This is similar to how I came to learn about 253 Boba Bots (Katie’s involvement). There are so many FRC teams these days that all deserve recognition. Unfortunately we all have limited time, and as a casual observer I now mainly pay attention to the teams or people I’ve worked with previously. I’m not saying this is ideal, but this is how I’ve chosen to continue following FRC.
This I completely agree with. I think both statements of yours that I quoted here are separate discussions. Though maybe I’m being naive and these points can’t be decoupled.
I don’t look at it like “XXXX is person’s team” but instead as “person is on team XXXX.” I agree the former implies the rest of the team doesn’t matter. I personally don’t find the latter to be disrespectful to the rest of the team.