[FRC Blog] COVID-19 Safety

Posted on the FRC Blog, 9/15/2020: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2021-safety-COVID-19

COVID-19 Safety

2020 SEP 15 | Written by Frank Merrick.

Safety has always been a cornerstone of the FIRST Robotics Competition experience. With the arrival of the pandemic, our understanding of what it means to be safe within our program needs to expand.

For years in our safety manual, which is located on our Safety page, we have asked teams to develop a safety program, to include a safety plan for events. We now ask that teams develop safety plans for COVID-19. Please see the COVID-19 planning guidance for teams here. You will notice the first element of the document is ‘Follow Local Guidance.’ This is very important. The plans you create should use local guidance as the starting point then build from there to customize your plans for the needs of your specific school or organization and individual team members.

The safety manual for the 2021 season is currently being revised. The guidance we are publishing today will be incorporated there. Also, soon we will be publishing some tips to help you work effectively as a team even if your ability to meet in person is limited because of the pandemic.

Stay healthy and safe!


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Really impressed with HQ kicking the can to teams. Seems really reasonable for them to ask a bunch of high school students to figure it out. They did provide some website links, so we’re pretty much all set.


It’s not really HQ’s fault so much as a consequence of the fragmented national response.

Publishing their own guidelines will expose them to political blowback [edit: and liability if anyone gets sick following their procedure], even for something as simple as “wear a mask”.

They can’t just point to CDC because the CDC has been hamstrung and muzzled by science-denying political appointees. Local rules rule the day.

A great national level resource is the Open Source C19 Medical Supplies Back To School packet, published two or three weeks ago.


Oh no, not political blowback! The morbidity rate of political blowback is as high as anything else.

Seriously, while I don’t think this is the reason FIRST’s punting on giving guidance to teams (it’s probably liability related), if fear of political blowback was the reason, that would show a profound cowardice on FIRST’s part.


What @Chris_is_me said.

If it’s really the case that FIRST HQ can’t say (and enforce) “wear a mask” because they’re afraid of political blowback, FIRST has completely failed as a “culture changer” and should just pack it up.


I don’t think I agree. FIRST as an org can always have stricter standards than what the current legislation and re-opening step on a state by state level requires. Frankly I think it’s prudent. It may all be our responsibility to wear a mask, to distance, to wash our hands and do our part to stop this, but it’s also our responsibility to build a robot within the rules; we mess that up we don’t play. We mess this up, we (and those we care about) get hurt.

As Woodie once said “At some point you must face that anti-science is pro stupid."


Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I don’t read this blog post as what FIRST is going to require for events. This reads to me as guidelines for teams to develop their own safety plans for their teams to meet, especially with language like “teams must contact your managing organization as well
as local health offices to determine the guidance for your area.

In that regard I don’t think this is safety theater, nor do I think FIRST is shunning their responsibility. It’s not their perogative to prescribe what teams are required to do when meeting, or deciding if and how they should meet. This is a set of resources for teams to help them develop those safety guidelines for their team, which will look very different in different parts of the country and world.

I fully expect FIRST as an organization to have minimum standards for events which includes wearing a mask, just like they have requirements for where participants and volunteers must wear safety glasses, hair ties and closed-toed shoes. I will be disappointed and upset if they do not provide that regardless of the reason…but I don’t think that’s what’s being provided here.


Maybe FIRST should stop promoting indoor team gatherings with intermittent mask use and high fives?

The above instagram post, a picture posted by an FTC team in OK, USA, was shared by FIRST’s Instagram account. I count at least two students not wearing masks, and a high-five in progress with at least one non-masked student. All indoors.

This is wildly irresponsible, regardless of what state/county in the USA you are in. FIRST should not be promoting this behavior.



Earlier in the year, they did say that killing people is bad and that got some people riled up, so I guess they wanted to remain neutral on killing people this time around.


2363 started working on our plan weeks ago.

Yes, this is a teaser. More details later this evening…

Update: Post with details is here.


COVID is an airborne virus, so Triple Helix is taking the battle to COVID’s home base.


it’s important to show the virus we aren’t afraid of it


In all seriousness, I hope FIRST is working with medical experts on the “revised Safety Manual”.


This sums it up for me.


One lesson of science: during a pandemic of airborne-spread disease, bloviation is deadly.


+1 to this – as a current student & someone very involved with FIRST, if this is the type of reckless and quite frankly idiotic behavior that FIRST is going to promote, I’m not sure I see a future for myself in supporting FIRST programs. I’ve seen a few teams resume meeting without any distancing or masks, and FIRST absolutely should not be supporting this kind of behavior.

In addition, while I can’t speak officially for what my team will do, if 2021 events happen without an explicit requirement for masks to be worn at all times, I can say with 99% certainty that we won’t be competing at any such events, and I can think of many other teams for whom this holds true.


Also to further add to this I think announcing that the 2020 game would be replayed in 2021 puts a bad incentive to meet and work on the robot.

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There are ways teams can meet safely (according to numerous health experts), however yeah I agree that many teams will choose to ignore those (and indeed, some already have)


Yeah I think some teams can meet in a safe manor but what I am specifically worried about teams in areas where it’s not safe to meet feeling like they are falling behind