[FRC Blog] More Than

Posted on the FRC Blog, 9/27/2022: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2022-more-than

More Than

2022 SEP 27 | Written by Collin Fultz, FIRST Robotics Competition Sr. Program Manager

On September 26, FIRST ® announced the launch of More Than, a campaign to dismantle labels for kids and promote self-esteem through STEM.

Kids are often made to feel, sometimes unintentionally, that they aren’t good enough or the “right kind of kid” for a certain school subject or afterschool activity. In fact, our very own CEO Chris Moore experienced this very thing:

“As a child, I was discouraged from pursuing STEM fields by a teacher, and this mislabeling caused me to doubt myself and in turn, sacrifice my own potential. Parents and educators should not underestimate their power over a young person’s decisions and self-worth. We must provide students the opportunity to discover their passions and explore activities outside of their ‘box’ to help them and others see themselves as ‘*More Than*’ they are today.” –Chris Moore, CEO, *FIRST*

We talked to kids, experts, and parents all over the United States to learn about what the current barriers to success were. What we heard the most was that many kids learn to doubt themselves because of the fear of judgment or lack of acceptance.

We at FIRST want EVERY kid to believe in themselves and know that they are More Than the stereotypes or “boxes” society has placed them in. As a FIRST alum, I know firsthand how encouragement and support from mentors, teammates, and volunteers helps FIRST participants pursue paths they never dreamed possible before they joined their team. We want to make sure every kid knows those dreams are possible.

A recent survey from Allison+Partners found that, when it comes to STEM extracurriculars, 29% of kids don’t feel smart enough to join a STEM-related program. This comes despite 54% of students stating they did or would want to join a STEM or robotics extracurricular to learn a new skill. More needs to be done to help students acquire asset-based, resilient and growth mindsets and reinforce kindness, compassion, respect and trust. Adults can play an active role by focusing on allyship and helping students uncover their true talents and passions. In fact, 77% of kids aged 13-18 say they would turn to a parent, teacher, or school counselor for advice if they were considering joining an extracurricular activity. As FIRST community members, you can – and do – inspire kids to build the self-esteem and innovative spirit to build a strong future for themselves and the world.

Check out our PSA video and share the More Than movement with your team and community. View our social media toolkit for graphics, videos, and sample social posts to help spread the word – that students are ”More Than” the societal boxes designated to them.

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Wow what a wonderful video. So well produced.

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I’m upset at the absence of hydraulic arm references. Other than that, spot on. 9/10.


Really, though, this is the story we need to tell. Elements of these stories describe elements of all of our stories. This is the most compelling narrative for outsiders, it creates a sense of belonging for participants, and embodies what this is really all about.

We all joke about the hashtags (read: #omgrobots) but the More Than Robots branding has always been something that’s much more than a meme or marketing scheme. That’s really what this is about, and I’m excited to see the renewed focus.

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This PSA and overall campaign is incredibly powerful. It showcases the value of our programs and the impact we can all have on the current and potential participants. Pretty cool stuff.

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Dang someone must be cutting onions or something, brb need a tissue. /s

Jokes aside, that was an incredible powerful video. Ultimately, providing opportunities to kids from all walks of life is what keeps me coming back to this program year after year.

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The video posted in the OP of this thread is not the video attached to the FRC blog post. The “Longform” video in the OP is wonderful. I agree with everything mentioned by the replies above, assuming they are discussing the “Longform” video. The video attached to the actual FRC blog post is the “Full” video (which is actually shorter than “Longform”; I discuss the different videos briefly at the bottom of this post). The rest of this post focuses on the “Full” video (as named by FIRST).

I appreciate the intended message of the “Full” video. My first time watching it without paying attention, I thought “great message” with no gripes. Then I watched it again, but actually paying attention.

To any FIRST employees reading, please never include “I’m more than just another nerd, gay, gamer, pronoun, or I don’t knownoun.” (0:41) ever again in any form of communication. That is a sentence that, prior to today, I would have thought could only come from an Onion article about a corporate overlord trying to seem inclusive. As an LGBT gamer nerd, it rubs me the wrong way.

Please don’t use “gay” as a noun in scripted D&I videos. Admittedly, I, an LGBT-identifying person, use “gay” as a noun occasionally, and I’m typically unoffended by its use, but phrases like “a gay” or “the gays” are dangerously close to saying something like “a black” or “the blacks” (or, in the same LGBT space, “a trans” or “a transgender”). Referring to a marginalized person by nominalizing the adjective that describes their marginalized trait can be (and often is) very dehumanizing. It’d still be borderline if it was used candidly by a member of the LGBT community, but it is absolutely not acceptable in a scripted video produced by a corporation.

Please don’t say “I don’t knownouns”. Cutesy portmanteaus can be amusing when used in the right context. Doing it with the word “pronouns” while FIRST is still holding champs in Texas is insensitive. It doesn’t help that we’re in a political climate where a large portion of people in the country are pretending as if pronouns don’t exist and joking about pronouns in a variety of demeaning ways. On its own, “I don’t knownouns” reads to me as potentially patronizing and dismissive. As with before, it’d be different if you had a nonbinary person saying it candidly on screen. That isn’t the case when you script it and have enough people say it that you can (and did) layer and harmonize their voices in the final audio edit.

If I close my eyes I can hear my right wing family members saying “what is it with the gays and their ‘I don’t knownouns’ these days”.

The specific grouping of LGBT/Nerd/Gamer makes me slightly uncomfortable on its own, but that isn’t really a major thing. It’s just off-putting to hear several singular “more than x” statements and then hear “Nerd, Gay, Gamer, Pronoun, or I don’t knownoun.” Processing it caused me to do a double take and actually rewind the video. Gave me some apprehensive “What’s that supposed to mean, huh?” vibes. It might not bother me so much if the other issues with those items weren’t a factor.

The other big thing that stuck out to me as strange was the segment beginning at 0:33 where they have a “black” identifying person and a “brown” identifying person say “black kid” and “brown kid” followed by a seemingly articulate and non-overweight person saying “fat kid, dumb kid” all in a list, preceded by and followed by more singular “more than x” statements.

I’ve spent virtually all of my life as a heavier person, bullied for my weight from Kindergarten to 6th grade, to the point of severe depression and many of the things that come along with that. I’ve even spent some time above the 99th percentile for BMI. One time as a teen, I had a doctor tell me they couldn’t do my surgery in a pediatric facility if my BMI was 99th percentile or higher. Must’ve gotten lucky that day because I came in at 98.9th. It isn’t a fun way to live. I’d rather have my experience represented by someone who’s also had a similar experience.

Also, the pattern of (at least semi-plausible) “identity matching” in the surrounding statements is concerning. I don’t want some kid out there to watch this video and say “wow, this person thinks they’re fat, and I’m heavier than they are, so what does that make me?”.

I’ll give “dumb” a pass as a pretty generic insult that could be applied to anyone.

Honestly, this part bothers me a lot less than the LGBT-focused language issues I brought up. It just feels like FIRST didn’t try very hard. We’ve got a 20% childhood obesity rate in the US. It can’t have been that hard for FIRST to have a person that is plausibly “fat” say “fat kid” on screen. Even better, remove “fat” and have someone say something like “more than my (weight/body/size/etc)”, which would be more inclusive to people that have EDs or issues with being underweight.

Overall, I really do like the rest of the “Full” video and the message they were actually going for is clear. I especially like the poetic line delivery at 1:04. FIRST managed to include a lot of aspects I wouldn’t typically think to mention in this style of D&I video: parents, guilt, school dynamics, etc.

The video in the FRC blog post is the “Full” version. There are also 15-second, 30 second, 60-second, and “Longform” versions (“Longform” is the version linked in the OP of this thread). “Full” is 2 minutes long, and “Longform” is about 4 minutes long.

As I said at the start of the post, the “Longform” video is wonderful. Couldn’t ask for much better. The 60-second video is a cut-down version of the “Longform” video, and I give it the same praise. Similar praise for the ad placement in the New York Times.

On the other hand, much to my dismay, the only substantial spoken line in both the 15-second and 30-second videos is “I’m more than just another Nerd, Gay, Gamer, Pronoun, or I don’t knownoun.” Seeing that sentence be the focal point in 2 out of the 5 videos produced for this campaign is really upsetting, substantially more upsetting than when I thought it was just a small fumble in a longer video.

As it stands, the “Full” version video and the 15/30-second cuts make me uncomfortable. As a person and as a mentor. (And not the good kind of uncomfortable you should feel when challenging biases and whatnot.) I know it wasn’t the intent and I really hope these oversights were just that – oversights.

Knowing what I know about FIRST, either the “Longform” version or “Full” version (or both) will be played at every competition this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they play every morning of every competition this year. If FIRST picks the “Full” version, it’ll be a little kick to the metaphorical shins every morning. It’ll be relatively minor, and it won’t ruin my day, but I’m not looking forward to it.

To add insult to injury, FIRST is running this campaign nationwide in the US until the end of November. To me, the 15-second and 30-second videos are irredeemable, but they’ll probably see the most promotion due to their length. You don’t make a 15-second cut if you aren’t planning to push it out to a wider audience as a cost-saving measure instead of paying the increased ad rates for longer cuts.

I’m far from the most politically correct person on Chief. That is to say, no one is perfect, and I don’t expect FIRST to be either. However, I expect a lot more of something that is released as D&I material. D&I materials demand high standards and reviews from multiple people identifying with mentioned groups before they are released. This applies triple if those materials are going to be released publicly as a nationally advertised PSA campaign. I’m not offended, but I am disappointed and hurt.

It’s worth acknowledging that it is possible that I’m off-base here. Everyone interprets things through their own lens. My lens tends to be pretty lax on stuff like this, so I’d like to think I’m not the only one that will respond this way to those versions of the campaign.

The “more than robots” language has always been a favorite of mine, but this iteration of “more than” has started to spoil it for me.

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As a follow-up, who is the best person at FIRST to get in contact with so I can send this feedback directly?

Next campaign: More

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The general FRC support email is a good first start. They should forward to the best person.
firstroboticscompetition@firstinspires.org

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I thought the full version was my preference. I am less endorsing about the short versions, probably because point is hard to get across in that period, and along the lines you express, but maybe for different reasons. I did see the ad run yesterday during CBS “Price is Right”. I didn’t catch it all, so don’t know if it was the 15 or 30 second (or longer).

I was going to post something like this yesterday, but figured it wasn’t relevant (enough). But after reading your post, I think it is.

I personally think the biggest audience for this message is the adults (teachers, mentors, parents) involved in first that are reinforcing the negative stereotypes that give students pause before even considering joining, well, anything, let alone a robotics team. If the adults can lead the way, the students will eventually follow suit. Maybe… just maybe, the folks at FIRST who made this campaign are from an older group of unsure-what-to-say adults, and are making this video for more of the unsure-what-to-say adults involved in the FIRST programs. That’s no excuse for being too blunt (or insensitive, etc.). But I think you can’t improve a message or a campaign until its out there. You need a v1.0 before you can update. And feedback from affected people will help improve the campaign.

The BIGGEST issue I have with all this is: got training? As a teacher, I went through several hours of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) training last year. At the end, most teachers felt like the message was: don’t be a jerk. Very little was presented in the way of useful tools to help handle specific situations between students, or what to do when a student comes to you with an issue. Hopefully FIRST realizes that most of the adults in their programs, who are having regular interaction with students, are volunteers, who are working full time jobs, and have almost ZERO idea (and likely don’t want to know) what the culture is like on the school campus they are visiting. Most want to show up, help robot, and go home.

Next step is for FIRST to show how they are going to help teams help students. Because I’m sure a lot have no idea what their first step is other than saying “You’re more than ____. Welcome to robotics.”

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No DEI training is perfect, and it’s hard to find one that really resonates with most people. I think the training FIRST provides for mentors is reasonably empathetic and informative. They do go down the “tell them they’re welcome and they’ll be welcome” route, but they also go into specific tangible examples of how to run an equitable team.

Your student needs to take public transit to get home from your team meetings? Work your meetings around the bus schedule or help them find a buddy who can give a lift.

Have students from a cultural background you’re not familiar with? Don’t just tell them they’re welcome, but see if you can find a mentor who looks like them. And, ask questions and learn to become more culturally competent.

For those who haven’t seen the resources, expand “Coach/Mentor training” here: Training on Equity, Diversity & Inclusion | FIRST

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FIRST has an ED&I team. Their email is diversity@firstinspires.org

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Great representation of why I mentor kids. Excellent video.

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