New Security Policies for All Events in NC


If the current measures truly produce many false flags and, similar to TSA, fail to screen for true threats, and, in addition to the above, they cause great inconvenience and potential health concerns…I argue that there is room for improvement.

What about an engineering approach to this problem? Minimize the bad, expand the good:

  • coordinate arrival time to avoid situations that produce crowds of ~1,000 people in the un-screened area (e.g., weapon concerns), regardless of whether it be indoors (e.g., added fire hazard) or outdoors (e.g., inclement weather hazard)
    – e.g., designate team arrival times, perhaps via a lottery, distributed in advance, with open lines of communication to account for changes in circumstance
  • train the screeners to be aware of what is normal and what is unusual at an FRC event – use this to inform the nature of the screening process
    – e.g., a mentor in possession of a screwdriver should not be considered a threat
  • estimate the number of attendees, the time required to screen each one in an appropriate manner, and the time available for screening, and use this to inform the amount of screening stations and/or the arrival times
  • screen the (literal) tons of equipment wheeled in through the back doors, at least some of which is enclosed in opaque containers
    – e.g., build a network of trust and chain of custody with adults on the teams to avoid needing to manually search every workbench/toolbox/container as it arrives at the venue

It looks like NC is actually doing some of these things, especially by having multiple lines and facilitating faster screening with the clear bags.


The fact that there hasn’t been a major incident a FIRST event to date does not mean that there is not a threat. As we’ve learned all too often, while many shootings are hate crimes others are very much random or trying to achieve the most damage. Imagine attending a major sporting event in a stadium without some security at the door. As unfortunate as it is, this is the reality of the society in which we live.

I am hopeful that this will not significantly adversely affect the event experience for teams (see: Minute Maid 2017). I do anticipate that we will be seeing changes like this coming from other regions and eventually from HQ in the not too distant future. Nobody likes going through the TSA line at the airport but most can appreciate the lack of weapons (and half opened bottles of water /s) on airplanes.

Will this eliminate a threat? Absolutely not. Is it an important first step? Absolutely yes.


Overall, I think policies like these are a good thing. The only thing I would worry about is students carrying knives - I always keep my Leatherman with me during FRC competitions (this actually resulted in it being seized at TSA on my way back from Houston), and I think if students aren’t allowed to bring knives/multitools in with them, that’s a bad thing.
I know there was one event (can’t remember which one), where security was checking for knives and turning them away. We just hid them and took them through - a real inconvenience to be honest.


How are they implementing this for the two events taking place in High Schools? Are they planning on restricting access to the entire HS building to all non-FRC participants?


To be honest… I’m actually more worried about some of the areas surrounding the venues than being shot in a school. Our team participated in THOR several months ago near the Charlotte airport and I was one of the mentors/chaperones on the trip. Our hotel was located about a half mile from the airport and within 3 miles of the school. For whatever reason no one packed a vacuum for journey and I volunteered to go fetch one at the nearest walmart (2 miles from the hotel) at just about 9PM. My son and another student tagged along because… I have no idea really. They were bored?

Right before we entered the walmart itself, walking across the parking lot, a handful of shots rang out from the very far end of the lot. Which caused both youths with me to start freaking out. As one does when gun shots happen near ones person. So that was fun to de-escalate. The last time that happened to me was nearly 15 years ago in downtown Reading PA right on the main drag of that city. That journey to Reading being to scope out their concert venue that we were taking my eldest to a concert the following day.

Just saying, I really don’t feel unsafe in a school. Walking in a city center, however, I’m rather just not fond of.


How are the badges and wristbands intended to help? If an event is open to the public and anyone can walk up and get a wristband, what does a wristband signify? What’s the purpose of visibly differentiating between students, mentors, and spectators? Other than that these seem like the same standard security I’ve seen at every regional I’ve ever gone to (although I guess making them standard can’t hurt). The expedited lines sound like a dream, can we get those here in California?

Regarding knives, mentors should tell their students to pack their knives/multitools with the team tools to be brought in during load-in. Same way we get them to events we fly to. It’s a little less convenient than just being able to keep your knife on you, but it’s not a big obstacle.


Couldn’t agree more. As someone who always carries multiple multi-tools/swiss army knife, etc. on my person during events, I can safely say that we shouldn’t be allowed to do that. It’s way too easy to put something dangerous in your pocket and even forget about it. Letting teams pack the tools and ensuring that no individual enters the venue with something in their pocket or bag is an annoying but logical and necessary step.


This is confusing to me.

The venue/screeners are searching for knives with the intent of preventing those items from entering or at least greatly reducing the number that make it inside. They expend effort to do this, and inconvenience many people in the process.

The teams are intentionally subverting this, and doing so by expending additional effort.

The efforts of the screeners therefore do nothing to prevent knives from entering, so why should they confiscate the knives in the first place?


I don’t think the intent is to stop team members from having access to the same tools they do now. But any one person can enter a venue with something in their pocket right now, team member or not. If something is loaded in with a team’s robot and other tools, the team should be responsible for who gets a hold of that tool.


So, critically, what you are saying is not

“Teams should pack the tools…”


“Adult chaperones of teams should screen and take custody of the items they allow to be brought to an event”

If so, it’s a reasonable proposition, and I agree with it, but it deserves explicit statement.


That’s not what I’m saying. Teams should pack the tools they need at an event. It is a mentor’s responsibility to ensure the safety of their team. If the mentor does not place trust in their students enough to handle safety then yes, they would need to screen the items. At the same time, the mentors should only be allowing access to tools to students who have demonstrated proficiency in the safe usage of said tools. This is not an added responsibility for mentors. It is just asking them to be astute and have some control and knowledge of their team, as the vast majority of them are already.


So, first of all, the NC district leadership is wonderful. Every district should be so lucky. So, naturally, there’s a lot of trust that they’re making the right decision.

That said, there is a bit of a disconnect between (a) security screening and (b) an event where you expect people to have things that might be used as weapons.

My son fences. It’s amusing to go to convention centers with a big bag of, literally, weapons (although they’re either blunt or end in an electric button) and watch the screeners. (“5 Swords? Great. But, you can’t bring that sandwich in.”)


I’ve had district leadership that is wonderful. Let’s compare notes sometime.


Keep in mind that NC is on Districts. In my experience, high school gyms don’t really care if you bring in outside food most of the time.


So I don’t have a statistic for this but most violence isn’t random… I can’t think of a single school shooting where the shooter wasn’t tied to the school somehow.

The most likely person to attack an FRC event is someone with ties to FRC. Resources are likely better spent on mental health checks, anti-bullying campaigns, and teaching people how to recognize and report signs of a potentially dangerous individual.


Very good points.

If only a system existed to help educate adults on how to protect youth in FIRST. Oh, right. I think with a relatively small investment, FIRST can dramatically improve this resource to cover a greater breadth. Safety FIRST, after all.


As someone who has attended Worlds under the badge system I can say that team members (Adult and Student) have removed or tucked their badges when working on something where it could be dangerous, get in the way or just fall into something so this idea of badges being “clearly visible” at all times is not only unenforceable but potentially dangerous.

Also I know several teams who get their mascot a badge that just says the mascots name on it at worlds so it can be worn by said mascot. I wonder how that would work in this system.


I hope that they don’t use the lanyard-type badges. Even with the quick release on the back, I still felt like it was a safety hazard when I was leaning over something and drilling with the badge hanging from my neck. However, maybe they can use the buttons that we know and love instead. They’re already used for drive team. The only issue is keeping the badge button visible, as I know many people wear a lot of them at competitions, and it could be hard to determine whether someone is authorized to be in the competition.


Last year they had lanyard badges, that weren’t quick release at all.


Not handing out quick release lanyards is criminal in this context.