Did you face sexism, racism or homophobia at an FRC event this year? SHARE YOUR STORY!

I’ve been debating posting in this thread since it started. I am not really sure how to feel about some of the rhetoric being thrown around, and it feels like my feelings on that need to be suppressed for the greater cause of minorities being treated terribly, as I don’t fall into the categories of this thread.

Here are a couple of examples in recent memory that I wasn’t sure how to handle best.

I drive coach for my team, and we have a female mentor primarily do match strategy, as well as talk to the other teams. One specific match was with an all girl’s team where it specifically was an issue. After a preliminary match plan was drawn up, prior to the match I suggested to our strat lead that a different allocation of robot tasks would be more optimal in completing the rp task that year. Slight modifications are common for us, and normally go off without a hitch. Our strategy lead then went to go suggest the change to the plan to the other two teams in the alliance. The plan however when presented to this all girl’s team was not accepted, and rather than critiquing the proposed changes on merit, the lead student interpreted it as a “man telling them what to do” as the strategy lead mentioned it was at my request that the change was proposed. This team was then uncooperative to consider changing things further, and suggested that our female strategy lead was being manipulated by me with my privilege being male to change the strategy that they had agreed on, and suggested that she ignore me in the future.

I personally attempted as well in queue for the qualification match to explain the possible need for a strategy change, and to which the team aggressively explained that they were essentially wise to the plans of white men telling them what to do, and they had experience dealing with people like “me” despite this being the first time I was talking to them/it was extremely question based and not a demanding request at all. The male driver at the time stepped in and got a little frustrated as the strategic adaptation was required for the rp, as to which the lead female student called my student an “idiot boy”. At this point I knew the conversation wasn’t going anywhere and I de-escalated the situation, we played around the all girl’s team strategy to the best of our abilities, and I had to explain to my driver that all girl’s teams regularly face sexism, which is why the girl that called him an idiot was potentially frustrated.

I really don’t know what could have been done better here. The team we interacted with clearly had been prepped/coached to deal with men who want to get their way, and I feel as if they were understandably very sensitive to changing plans when a man is making a suggestion. None of the suggestions were rude or sexist, and it’s not fair to the team to not encourage the usage of tools to deal with bad actors. Yet I feel as if the pendulum swung too far in this case.

The other story of recent memory is with a team who was in our eliminations alliance for the first time, we were also paired with a low resource team with predominantly brown members. We suggested to our alliance captain that we pick them because of their phenomenal work ethic and determination with good driving skill as well despite their robot being clearly a bit cobbled together due to their low funding. The captain did end up picking them, but during a finals match this team suffered a mechanical breakdown that caused them to take a fairly large amount of fouls. After the match a mentor from the alliance captain said “do these f$@# even speak English? They got us a s$@$ ton of fouls”…

I didn’t know what to say. I wish I had called the mentor out at the time, but I was pretty stunned. I’ve thought about contacting the team post event to mention this behavior to them, but never did. I don’t envy those who get these kinds of comments all the time, I don’t know how you can even respond. I guess that’s the best part of this thread is that for those far less fortunate than I, you can know you aren’t alone, and you have people on your side.


So in Turkiye there are two of us managing FRC officially as PDP/RDs - I am male, my co-PDP is female, and despite her being the more knowledgeable one in many meetings, and the one who can even speak proper Turkish, I watch people talk to me through meetings and not make eye contact with Ayşe / look to her, they don’t even try to make it look like they’re listening, and it’s just wild to me. I really despise people like that. This happens constantly. I literally don’t even speak the language properly, and people pay attention just to me… :exploding_head:. I’m also generally less outgoing / more introverted, and try to avoid talking anyways.

Sometimes it’s even people who are saying things like "yeah, we should have more women in STEM, we should be more inclusive, etc. - and they can’t even manage to do it themselves… How do they think they’ll convince people below their level to do it?

At the same time, I am conscious of my own tendency to sometimes avert my own gaze when I am around ladies I consider pretty, because I’m a terribly shy person. I make an effort to look at whoever is talking, but I know sometimes I fail due to terror level shyness. I know at least I never fully ignore someone for an entire conversation however, as I’ve seen so many people do. (So like I wouldn’t say I don’t make eye contact / look at the person talking, just I know on average, my gaze favors men sometimes - like 60/40 - and it’s something I am trying to correct over time, but similar to my fear of swimming in anything deeper than 4’ and wider than 40’, it’s just an irrational behavior that is difficult for me.


Thankfully, as a mentor I did not experience any sexism at any FIRST events this year, but I would have to say that it is because I am apart of a team that puts in A LOT of effort to make sure our team is safe for everyone. I cannot say the same for when I was a student on an FRC team. The list is too long, and some of the memories are too painful. It makes me sad to see that we are still facing the same issues today.

Though, I want to put out a gentle reminder to all those who are reading these stories, that if you are apart of a historically privileged group (white, cisgender, male, etc) try and think about how you can be an example and speak up against behavior like this. This behavior will change when the person of privilege calls it out. As a woman, my voice does not carry very far in issues involving sexism, but as a white cisgender person it does when I call out racism, homophobia and transphobia. Understand your privilege, acknowledge your privilege, and use your privilege to speak out and help others.


My daughter’s all-girl FLL team got comments like this 20 years ago. One could only hope that attitudes would have changed in 2 decades; I guess not. One of the girls on the team said that when someone asked, “Don’t you have any boys on the team?”, she would have liked to respond, “Why? Don’t you think we can do it?”

In FRC, two males on the drive team got into grade trouble and weren’t allowed to travel. They happened to be replaced by 2 females. They were asked at least once, “Do you go to an all-girls school?”


When I encounter this I try to redirect the question towards the appropriate person. It is a small thing, but often it is the small things that fix the larger problem.

I need to preface this post by saying I bear a lot of guilt for looking the other way at a lot of racism over the years, especially directed to me or other South Asians. I’ve definitely ignored comments in our community like the ones Brennan heard. So maybe this post is just advice for myself, but I think it belongs in this thread.

We cannot let racism (or any other hateful comments/actions) like this go unchecked, especially if we have the privilege to be able to safely call it out. I understand that it’s easy to freeze in these moments; sometimes you’re just so shocked that you don’t know how to react, other times you just don’t want to deal with the potential conflict. But each time we let something like this go, we send a silent message to the victims that we don’t care (even if we do), and another silent message to the attacker that we have no issue with their conduct (even if we do). And thus the cycle perpetuates.

I took a course recently on how to best intervene in these sorts of situations. It was specifically about street harassment, but I think it really applies to these types of interactions that are being described in this thread. The concept is the Five D’s of Bystander Intervention.

I’m copying and pasting snippets directly from the website because this is important. If you want to learn more, please check out the website for full details and consider signing up for a free online training session. The 5 D’s are as follows:

Distract - Distraction is a subtle and creative way to intervene. Its aim is simply to derail the incident of harassment by interrupting it.

Distraction is a subtle and creative way to intervene. Its aim is simply to derail the incident of harassment by interrupting it. The keys to good Distraction are:

  1. Ignore the person who is harassing, and engage directly with the person who is being harassed.

  2. Don’t talk about or refer to the harassment that’s happening. Instead, talk about something completely unrelated.

The power of Distraction is that no one has to know you are actually intervening in harassment! If you’re someone creative or shy, or if it seems like the person doing the harassing might escalate their behavior if you speak out openly against it, then Distraction can be a great, subtle option for you.

The power of Distraction is that no one has to know you are actually intervening in harassment! If you’re someone creative or shy, or if it seems like the person doing the harassing might escalate their behavior if you speak out openly against it, then Distraction can be a great, subtle option for you.

Delegate - Delegation is asking a third party for help with intervening in harassment.

Delegation is asking a third party for help with intervening in harassment. The keys to Delegation are:

  1. Look for a Delegate who is ready and willing to help. Often, a great choice is the person right next to you.

  2. When you Delegate someone to help you, try to tell them as clearly as possible what you’re witnessing and how you’d like them to help.

Document - Documentation involves either recording or taking notes on an instance of harassment.

Documentation involves either recording or taking notes on an instance of harassment. It can be really helpful to record an incident of harassment, but there are some keys for safely and responsibly documenting harassment:

  1. Assess the situation. Is anyone helping the person being harassed? If not, use another of the 5Ds. Recording someone’s experience of harm without ensuring they’re already receiving help can just create further trauma for them. If someone else is already helping out: assess your own safety, and if you are safe, begin documenting.

  2. ALWAYS ask the person who was harassed what they want to do with your recording and/or notes. NEVER post it online or use it without their permission

Delay - Even if we can’t act in the moment, we can still make a difference for someone who’s been harassed by checking in on them after the fact.

Even if we can’t act in the moment, we can still make a difference for someone who’s been harassed by checking in on them after the fact. Many types of harassment happen in passing or very quickly, and it’s not always possible we’ll have a chance to intervene in another way. But we don’t have to just ignore what happened and move on. We can help reduce that person’s trauma by speaking to them after an instance of harassment.

Direct - Sometimes, we may want to respond directly to harassment by naming the inappropriate behavior confronting the person doing harm.

Sometimes, we may want to respond directly to harassment by naming the inappropriate behavior confronting the person doing harm.

Use this one with caution, because Direct intervention can be risky – the person harassing may redirect their abuse towards the intervening bystander, or may escalate the situation in another way. The first key to Direct intervention is to assess the situation before you decide to respond, by asking yourself the following questions:

A note about safety: We don’t ever want you to get hurt while trying to help someone out. Always prioritize safety, and consider possibilities that are unlikely to put you or anyone else in harm’s way.

I think what I found so powerful about this system, is that it taught me that direct intervention (which can be terrifying) is not the only option. In fact, it’s the last option. There are other ways to intervene which can people safe and address the issue in the short and long term.


Honestly I will openly differ questions to Ayşe often, and still the attention goes to me. I wish it was this easy :frowning:

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I suggest you do contact them. As Karthik said, don’t let this go unchecked. As another South Asian member of the FRC community who has family rooted in Brampton, please follow through with calling out that POS.

I’ve booted people from teams I’ve run for way less than that.


As i said it is a small thing. It doesn’t always work. I like to think it moves things in the right direction. I also do not do this and think I have done my share.

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I’ve experienced the “box out” numerous times as a female mentor this year.

As a 25 year veteran of back office IT, I have experienced sexism in a myriad of forms, but this outright dismissal is very frustrating and hurtful.


I’m a bi-white female, but whose not super feminine for reference. I’ve definitely had a lot less experiences with sexism than many of my peers in the space. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t present super stereotypically feminine, (which btw, SHOULD NOT MATTER but it definitely does), because I’m fairly well known in the NEFIRST sphere, because my mom and sister are both mentors who look out for me, or some other reason. But when exchanging stories with my peers there definitely is a difference.

I really only have one competition experience that’s stood out to me enough to remember it. It’s not from this year if that’s okay. UNH 2019 I was on driveteam. The rest of our team was already in the stands or in queue, but I had to run back to the pit to grab something for the match. On my way back to the match I was stopped by a safety advisor asking where my escort was. I was very perplexed by this. The venue for reference is a hockey arena, with the stands and the pits in the same room. I could literally see my mom in the stands from where I was sitting, and she was sending me a questioning look. I asked what she meant, and she said that I should have a male teammate escort me and use the buddy system at all times, because I could be sexually assaulted if I didn’t. She then went on to describe statistics and go through scenarios about what could happen. Meanwhile I’m late for a match, with a tool my team needs. I can literally see my driveteam from here gesturing to me to hurry up. I try to explain I’m literally just going from my pit to the field and that if I left the building I’d use the buddy system, but she won’t let me leave without a male buddy. Our safety captain comes over who wants to win the safety award and asks what’s going on. I explain, and he berates me for talking back to a safety advisor. At this point I’m like “this is ridiculous” and I called my boyfriend at the time over and he came and got me while our safety captain tried to smooth things over with the safety advisor. I just thought the entire thing was a bit ridiculous. I’m a blackbelt in taekwondo who was in eyeshot of multiple mentors on our team including my mom. It was an open arena. I don’t know what exactly she expected was going to happen to me, but her little discussion is probably one of the worst things that’s happened to me in the program, not what she claimed was going to happen if I was left unsupervised.


“Ridiculous” is the exact word I thought of when reading this. Seems like a well-intentioned but ignorant volunteer. One of the worst parts of this program for me is that some of these volunteers are just completely out to lunch.


Safety advisors are a whole can of worms on their own


I was wondering if this story was going to come up. That was so ridiculous.


This discussion reminded me of Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which is a fantastic piece of writing that everybody should read.

Whenever I see it mentioned or whenever I am reminded of it, I find some time to read it again despite the length, because it is always relevant.

“Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?”

I had intended to refer to the "White Moderate" passage, which discusses the White ally's reluctance to involve themselves in issues of race lest it disturb the social order, because it always comes up in my mind when I witness an injustice and have an opportunity to either watch or interject.

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

But as I reread the entire letter, I found his passage on Southern Churches to be more relevant to this discussion.

"I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists."

In particular, I found the phrase “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern” and the following discussion of King’s deep love for the church which has not supported him and in cases actively worked against him, to be especially relevant to the last years’ discussions of social issues and FRC. I suspect it may resonate with those see themselves in King’s shoes and weep over the laxity of the church which they love, those who find more in common with the white churchmen and their sanctimonious trivialities, or even those who see themselves as a minister providing guidance to their congregation.

Again, I would encourage everybody to read the letter and see what jumps out to you, I promise it is worth the time. I know that it has certainly influenced me to try to be better person and behave more in-line with King’s wisdoms - which still seem to hold disappointingly significant relevance.


why did some people laugh react at the OP - that’s very disrespectful and not a good look at all


Some people are just awful. There’s not much of an explanation beyond that. I hope the people who did that understand the full repercussions of their actions, especially considering that both have their team numbers listed.

On the other hand, a more charitable explanation is that the laugh react is right next to the heart react - this could have just as easily been an unfortunate misclick as much as a legitimate dismissal of the OP.


I owe everyone on this thread, and especially Dee, an apology. Threads like this are critical to how we progress as a community, it is heartbreaking to hear these stories and they show how much further we still need to come. I can only imagine how hard it was to share, but those that have should be thanked for doing so. We all need to be more aware of the issues around us. I made my entire team read through this thread as it is important for them all to see first from other perspectives and to start to recognize bias, microaggressions, sexism, and homophobia that go on around them.
This morning I meant to click the heart emoji to support the original post, but I must have inadvertently clicked the laughing emoji. I am really sorry about this. While not my intention in any way, this action made light of the very brave the author did in posting. I hope it has not discouraged others from sharing. I have tried to remove it, but CD won’t permit the removal of reactions. I would like to thank all everyone who has posted their stories and I hope we can grow as a community to help support others.


While not directed at myself, I unfortunately witnessed and intervened in situations that fit each of these definitions.

In both the situations related to racism and sexism I don’t believe either was intentional. With regard to the racism one a quick conversation with the offenders lead to a sincere and immediate apology. None of the individuals involved were on my team and I just happened to hear the comments as I was checking out various robots in the pits.

The sexism situation was also not an intentional thing, as I believe the majority of such are not. But it was very apparent a female speaker wanted to be heard and were being talked over. Loud environment, lots of people doing many things all at once. It was the eye roll that caught my attention, you know the one that says “is this really happening right now?” My solution was to get her attention and say “you have something to say and I really want to hear it.” This stopped the other conversations and everyone listened to her. She found me after the event to say thanks for standing up for her and giving her the floor. I let her know I didn’t need thanks for simply being human and paying attention and it was as much her floor as anyone else and I truly appreciated her input.

Unfortunately I also witnessed homophobia complete with vandalism. Nothing accidental or unintentional about this one. My hope is we acted quickly enough and strictly enough in dealing with this situation to minimize the fear and damage the act caused. It is also my hope that we can get through to the perpetrator that such actions have no place in life, let alone at and FRC event. Only time will tell on this one, but the bright side a new bond was formed with a team and their members learned of some new “safe” adults to come to if they need shelter from a storm.

It pains me to hear stories such as those posted here as it just shows how much further we have to go in accepting each other.


Remark made by an official when I asked where the bathrooms were, that was to the effect of “the bathrooms for females are to the left”
A team that seemed more interested in misgendering people while scouting than actually doing any scouting, (Despite wearing pronoun pins/correcting them) you could tell it was deliberate and many others had similar experiences with them being hostile.
Did hear secondhand about a team’s safety captain harassing/bothering/being creepy towards a friend on another team.

But otherwise, my experience at events has been very positive and welcoming.