Dear FIRST Robotics : ED&I

Hi. You may or may not recognize us from Instagram, but there’s actually another account that I want to talk about on here. @dearfirstrobotics has become a platform for FIRST participants to tell their stories, and while the entries are saddening to read, they’re extremely relatable to many of us. It’s become really clear now: minority groups experience a lot of trouble within the program, and too much of it can be attributed to mentors and volunteers. I highly encourage you to read the stories on this account.

Not all of minorities’ problems in FIRST come from mentors and volunteers, I’ll make that clear. However, it’s still a troubling number. Yes, some high schoolers may be ignorant because of their youth and they’re a part of the problem, too, but mentors and volunteers are where it can be contained and stopped. They should listen to the problems of minority groups and know how to act accordingly because they drive the program and are our role models. Mentors are the backbone of this program, so they need to be closely monitored and trained.

Between Inspiring Youth Voices training and Inspiring Success training, FIRST actually does a pretty good job of explaining what equity is for a FIRST team. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the content in Inspiring Success. There’s still a problem, though.

The current Youth Protection Program required for mentoring does not include the in depth training that Inspiring Success training does. Mentors are currently not required to take this course, and the training modules are not featured nearly enough in FIRST’s newsletters, websites, and social medias. FIRST’s resources are good, but they need to be in the forefront of the program, not tucked nicely away.

FIRST’s core values include equity and inclusion. They have a good starting point, and I have to believe that they’re genuine in their sentiment. They’re just not pushing these great resources enough, and I think that many others agree, from the few stories I’ve read so far. We have to keep pushing forward.

We’ve recently released equityfirst.carrd.co to feature a petition to sign, people to email, and a template to start off with. I believe in this community and this effort, and my love goes out to everyone who has written to dearfirstrobotics, as well as everyone else who relates.

(P.S. Here’s the equity FIRST discord server for anyone wanting to chat about this effort, get help with becoming a part of it, or just needing support for any reason. To my fellow girls in stem, here’s a girls in steam discord server for us to support each other.)

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As a 6 year volunteer I’ll be honest and say I have never heard of these particular training courses before today. Are there links you can share for where these are found within the first website? If you could pass those along I will ask my connection at HQ to see what can be done to make these courses more visible.

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They can be found on this page: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Training & Resources | Resource Library | FIRST

Or directly accessed through this link. We’ve very recently made them mandatory for all mentors on 1114. I highly recommend them for any mentor or volunteer in this program. They’re useful both within FIRST and in our diverse society.

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thank you for doing this i quit my team because didnt feel welcome. one of ones running this one has been rude to friend but i hope it works for you with this hope. do you have training for students to be welcome to students.

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is there a different discord server than this one without them

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So sorry to hear that, and, yes, FIRST does have an “Inspiring Youth Voice Training” listed under “Youth Team Member Trainings” on their ED&I page. The modules are only 2-3 minutes and they’re honestly pretty vague compared to the Inspiring Success training that we want to have mentors and volunteers doing. For teammates, though, it’s decent starting point to get a conversation going when people don’t want to spend more than 10 minutes on this stuff.

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I’m obviously a big critic of FIRST and FRC. I went through and picked out some choice quotes to highlight:

I can’t tell you why we can’t get more diversity on our team. I’m an engineer, and I love it, so I don’t know what to do.

If you’re a girl, you really need to know one of the boys on the team to be able to work on the robot.

I’ve given everyone equal opportunities to participate, but I just can’t recruit girls for the team.

I wanted to do more building, but every time I tried, someone jumped in to do it for me.

We used to have some African American students on the team, but I don’t know why we don’t anymore.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. Those sound horrible… except they aren’t real quotes. They are literally quotes from the FIRST ED&I training available here and they are all about recognizing the problem.

Credit where it is due, FIRST is aware of the issues and is trying to make us all aware of them too. Anything, right now (particularly right now in the current political climate of the USA), to help make us aware of these issues and how we can improve is important.

I’m glad OP is raising awareness and pushing to make this required training for everyone.

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Is nobody else extremely concerned about the Instagram posts alleging sexual harassment and assault that the posters stated went unreported? How the heck are teams ignoring this stuff? How are schools and teachers ignoring it? How are parents ignoring it?

School teams and community teams must make it a priority to create safe spaces for all participants in which everyone understands processes for handling these situations, creating comfortable dialogue for reporting, and most importantly preventing harassment and assault in the first place. I sincerely hope these students come forward to report incidents to their mentors, teachers, parents, administration and their friends, regardless of how “minor” students might feel the incidents are.

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I would imagine that many school based FRC mentors are actually mandatory reporters and this is a bit alarming.

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Apparently, there’s Non Medical Incident Reports that should be used in these situations, but there’s just a lot of us that don’t know about them. Along with ED&I, we’re hoping that FIRST will start normalizing NMIRS and coming out about the topics addressed in dearfirstrobotics. It says a lot about FIRST culture that these ~100 stories came out in less than a month, but never before until they had a safe, anonymous platform; we need to make people comfortable with talking about them in a “real” FIRST environment. We’ve been working with different regions of FIRST and hopefully things will change enough where we can provide that environment.

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To be fair, NMIR’s are not heavily advertised as an option for teams. I’m only aware of them thanks to the informal awareness campaign of “Marshall and Co Stirring Up Stuff on CD”

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Exactly! This stuff needs to be pushed to the front of FIRST – otherwise, what’s the point?

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If I had a magic wand, I’d make a lot more of the incident reporting process transparent… including a yearly report about the number and general type of incidents reported and how they were addressed/resolved, appropriately sanitized of any identifying information.

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I’m gonna quote my opinion on NMIRs here because I think it’s pertinent

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Having had to fill out a few Non-Medical Incident Reports as a volunteer, HQ does review them. Every one. Some times things happen, some times they don’t. But that’s HQ’s discretion. I also was given feedback on one, and not on another. Just because you don’t hear something from them, doesn’t mean stuff hasn’t happened in the background.

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I cannot suggest strongly enough that if that team feels they needed a resolution from HQ and did not receive what they were hopeful for, or felt slighted in communication, contact HQ. IMO the staff at HQ are great, and the FTC staff will work with teams if possible. At this point, it sounds like this was a while ago, and so a resolution may no longer be applicable, but at least the team could feel like they were heard.

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Right before COVID hit, so I am guessing it just got dropped. But I think I’m gonna delete these posts since they are irrelevant to the topic.

This might not be the right place, but I read your posts and one that caught my attention was the one about chairmans award. I found a few articles from them and found it really interesting, as I hadn’t really seen that side of it before, coming from a team that never submitted. I just wanted to post them here, (with permission) and see some other peoples thoughts and experiences on it.


(im not really sure how to use CD very much so if there is a better place to post this please tell me)

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Those are… opinions.

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I’ve seen those, I think it goes a bit far in accusing FIRST and teams of imperialism and moral issues from taking money from questionable sources, but I do think the issues should be looked at. My view on the sponsorship stuff is that I’d rather the military be spending money on robotics teams than military stuff, and it’s similar for other organizations I have reservations about. I agree the most with the Chairman’s one, and while I’m not sure that teams getting awarded for unsustainable outreach that looks impressive on paper happens as often as the post lets on, I think it should be reformed into an award about actually improving your community and spreading STEM instead of focusing on promoting FIRST specifically in a relatively short time period.

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