Politicization of FIRST (Especially at the Long Island Regionals)

I’d love to hear from other people at NYLI and NYLI2 but this year felt like they politicized things a lot more than last year. Last year they played all the anthems of the visiting nations which was a nice show of how international things are but this year it was only 'Merica 'Merica 'Merica. Only the US Anthem (which was sung very nicely I will say), plus military recruitment propaganda, plus US soldiers walking around the arena in full uniform. While the guns might have been fake, the message was blatant, and honestly I felt uncomfortable. I personally feel like this is a terrible shift and that robotics should be kept as unpolitical as possible.

Thoughts and comments are welcome.

For the record, my thoughts and opinions are not associated with my team inherently. I speak for myself, not my team, unless otherwise stated.


Not from New York and I wasn’t there so I won’t comment directly on the happenings in New York.

It is FIRST Policy to play the national anthems of all countries with teams in attendance during the opening ceremonies. With Florida being a very popular destination we have actually had years where we start ceremonies early because of how many anthems we have to play (I think the record was 8 or 9) so if that did not happen I would be curious as to why.

For military personnel at many events I have been at some branch of the military is a major sponsor so they have set up areas like all sponsors have the right to, including rolling in a giant bus on occasion. I have never seen them with weapons (fake or otherwise) so this is another one that I would be curious as to what exactly happened.

Now that I know it was part of the Color Guard I will correct myself and state I have seen this at my events in fact at most of my events. I have never seen the Army themselves do it typically it is either the JROTC of one of the teams attending or the ROTC of the host school or one nearby.


Army Color Guard


In the past we’ve used schools’ color guards so I’m not sure how we ended up with the Army this year. I only ever saw rifles carried by the color guard, so I assume that’s what they’re referring to.

I think the Army did have a larger presence this year, partly because they were filling some key volunteer roles for us.

It was weird that not all the anthems were played. Dunno how that happened.


I can confirm that the anthems did not happen at all. Idk maybe Taiwan counts as part of the US for China reasons now but the UK most certainly did not get an anthem played nor did India.

The weapons were part of the color guard for the American Anthem. Still I didn’t like them.


FRC has always been “political” (at least in the way you’re using the term). Many teams primary sponsors are one or multiple of Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, etc or even the DoD itself through the DoDSTEM program. Many events have a military presence in the form of recruitment tables, JROTC demonstrations, etc.

If you want to take the military industrial complex out of FIRST, you’re going to take a lot of sponsorship money with it.


Taiwanese anthem was sung at L.A. Regional. (Though the team is officially from Chinese Taipei per FIRST… I have no comment on that.) So Taiwan doesn’t count as part of the U.S.


At the very least can they not try and convince me to go die in Iraq? At least the DoD and the companies wants me to work in an office not on a battlefield. I’m not a fan of the ads for them but still at least it isn’t the US Army trying to use me as the latest meatbag to sacrifice for oil.


well then I guess that’s another contraversy involving NYLI and the first for NYLI2? Because this seems like a violation of said policy.

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The military existing and recruiting people isn’t inherently political. It just sounds like you don’t like the concept and are, somewhat hypocritically, politicizing FIRST by trying to eliminate military recruitment and involvement.

For what it’s worth, I’m not a huge fan of it either, but it has never made me uncomfortable and I’ve never been pressured by the presence of an army recruiter at a folding table.

If you don’t want to be recruited, don’t go up to the table and talk to the recruiter :man_shrugging:


Military recruitment is inherently political, it’s the government signing up people to die in foreign nations. If that isn’t politics then what even is? It’s inherently contradictory to the goals of FIRST to have the Army there.


I am not contradicting, nor am I agreeing but what goal of FIRST is contradicted by having the Army present?


So I totally agree that it’s weird for them to not play the national anthem for every country in attendance. Being from upstate NY, we always played the US and Canadian anthems. As for the presence of the US military at FIRST events, they are looking for the same technical talent that every company including Defense contractors are looking for. I can understand if you’re not a fan of the military but I don’t think there is anything wrong with their involvement/sponsorship of STEM programs including FIRST and I don’t see anything inherently contradictory of FIRST for that.


To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders

This is stated as the vision of FIRST. The army, inherently, is about destruction and combat (the latter being literally banned in the rules of FIRST), not celebrating science and technology, unless it can be used for murder.


So inherently the US military exists to protect the country and its interests but I think that is a very narrow view. Do u like GPS, the internet, anything powered by satellite? These are all inventions fueled by the US military. U are entitled to ur opinions and I amd not going to try to change them, just don’t know that this is the right venue for this.


There are many jobs in the military that do not involve travel to a foreign nation to participate in a war. In fact, the vast majority of military jobs involve no combat at all. Not to mention, certain portions of the military are responsible for essential civil aid, like the Army Corps of Engineers. They handle essential disaster engineering and civil engineering for many projects throughout the country, like over 500 critical dams.

A nation must have a military to exist, or at minimum a protectorate military from another nation. It just isn’t possible to not have one. Militaries are inherently “political” because they exist to advance political goals, but that is a very loose and meaningless way to apply the definition of the word.

The goals of FIRST are primarily described by the namesake acronym. The military does a great job at inspiring science and technology. Maybe better than anyone else, seeing as they fund massive portions of science and technology research, and are responsible for critical inventions like… the internet that you are using to communicate with me right now.


One of the most inspirational conversations I had was with a judge who worked on the tech behind the SR71, B2, U2, and F22 (and more I cant remember)


^ STEM and the military have been intertwined since forever, part of the reason land grant universities were created was to help with military innovation. In the cold war, public education was revamped to focus more on STEM to compete with the USSR. It’s hardly surprising the military values and works with FIRST.


While I understand your frustrations and dislike of the military, I think your scope here is very narrow.

Does the military and the scientists/engineers who work for/with them make items with the explicit intent of killing people. Yes.

That being said there are projects involved with the military that do not have to do with this. For example the current company I work for does not make anything related to weapons or harming individuals we make tracking units for food transportation safety. One of our rival companies has a contract with the department of defense that currently involves making said units and then training their personnel on how to properly fix, maintain and use the tracking software for food transported in humanitarian aide.

When that contract is up I will feel 0 moral dilemma about fighting for my company to get said contract because our units will be used for helping people, and the people who will be helping people will be military personnel.


It appears that the Long Island Regionals do not play the Taiwanese national anthem whenever a Taiwanese team is in attendance. They did not play it (nor did they play any other international anthem) when 7673 Formosan Sika attended the 2019 regional, but they did play all of the other national anthems when there were no Taiwanese teams in 2022.

It appears that it’s a FIRST policy, but it seems inconsistent if they were able to sing the Taiwanese anthem at L.A. Regional. It’s probably for reasons relating to the United States’s One-China policy.