Russian FTC teams still participate

Hello! I’m Nikita, and many of you may remember me. For four years, I was an active participant and one of the pioneers of the Ukrainian FIRST community. Sadly, the war destroyed everything I was working for.

Although I’m obviously pro-Ukrainian, I still want to hear another opinion. Last March, FIRST limited the participation of Russian FTC teams, forbidding them to use their identity and compete at international events. Almost a year has passed, but I can’t say that I see a significant change. At the world championship in 2022, Russian FTC teams competed under the Romanian flag, thus avoiding the FIRST limitations. This season, some Russian teams are continuing to use the FIRST identity and FTC game rules, and some are even competing in Romania and India.

It’s true that Russian children are innocent and we shouldn’t take away their dreams. I understand that they can’t change the political situation in their country. However, I personally know Russian FTC alumni who work for the Russian military, designing weapons and other equipment. Another fun fact: I was mentoring an FTC team in Mariupol, Donetsk region. The city was absolutely destroyed, and over 80,000 people died, including the mentor of the FTC team. Sadly, I later found out that he was likely killed by a Russian missile produced at the factory where the Russian FTC alumni work. It’s a terrible reminder that some FTC participants kill other FTC participants.

I can’t ignore this. I firmly believe that we should definitely reconsider the question.
Nikita

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This is an absolutely horrendous situation in so many ways.

I don’t speak for FIRST and am not involved with FTC, but I see that the teams in the most recent FIRST Global Challenge (see FIRST Global Challenge - FIRST Global) did seem to reflect adjustments related to these horrors.

You should contact FIRST HQ and speak with someone there about this. I suspect that there may be unsupported/unsanctioned participation and that, if so, this could be hard to stop. Again, I don’t know any of this – it’s speculative.

I worked with all of these teams in FGC, and it has long been a worry when world events are such that some of these students – and people generally – are put at risk or come to harm. I wish I had the words to offer to somehow make things better, but I just don’t.

I hope that programs such as FGC help here, in the long run. But the issues you raise are very concerning. I don’t have the answers, but sometimes things cross a line and one has to take a stand and put something in place, even if just to send a “NOT OK” message and to reinforce the notion that things are well outside of bounds and accepted minimal norms for any nation.

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That’s terrible. I have to say my first impulse is much the same. But trying to move past that impulse, I have to wonder if FIRST could be a force for good in the long run. Concepts like Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition would argue against wars of aggression. Isolating and ostracizing people/groups/countries only increases tribalism, which can lead to more conflicts in the long run. Bringing people together, getting them talking, competing, helping, and understanding each other breeds compassion and empathy, and might help prevent future conflicts. That may argue more for the exact opposite, as difficult as it seems.

I think it’s worth bringing this back. Watch Woodie from 3:30-8:00 in the video, he touches briefly on some of this.

At the end of the day, a government or society intent these types of aggressive actions is going to find a way to train their workforce and produce the weapons they need, with or without FIRST. Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition may be the hidden impact that FIRST can bring to the kids and the mentors involved with the program to enact real, sustained, cultural change.

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