The main problem of the FIRST Russian-speaking FTC camp in Ukraine

Hey guys!

My name is Nikita and I’m outreach and PR lead in the first Ukrainian FRC team!

We are now actively planning to develop the FTC program here in Ukraine. Therefore, now, together with the Russian representatives of the FTC program who have simiar experience, we want to launch a large Russian-language FTC camp in zoom (most of Ukrainians are fluent in Russian and Ukrainian). But due to the political situation, some teachers and companies condemn the fact that we work with Russians. I believe that robotics has no borders but now we have to solve the problem. What could we do? What do you think about it?

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I personally don’t like to get robotics and politics mixed together. I do know that there have been conflicts between both Russia and Ukraine, but as to what level its at I have no idea.

Please understand that what I’m saying is a personal opinion, but this might be something that should be left untouched. Political conflicts can get messy even here in the states. I would maybe talk to your teachers and whoever is in charge and explain what you want to do and go off of that.

I’m curious as to what others have to say.

Congratulations and welcome to FRC.
Your best advice for your situation is going to come from local people familiar with your situation. I would be really careful taking internet advice on something like this.

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Yeah, I totally agree with you, but unfortunately, politics directly affects the standard of living of society. Thus, many Ukrainians blame the Russians for their problems. It is these moods in society that determine the attitude of the Ukrainian society to such issues. And the saddest thing is that we cannot change anything!

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I believe that robotics has no borders, but this situation calls into question the confidence of our sponsors in our projects. Therefore, the only thing we need to understand is whether it is possible to cooperate with the Russian FTC teams in such a way that it would not cause any ethnic differences.

Hi, thank you very much!

I ask this here precisely in order to have the most objective solution to the situation, since Ukrainians or Russians are not always able to objectively assess the current situation.

I agree with @FrankJ, be cautious of your posts here. We all know why we’re suggesting that.

I think STEM and education are meant to break boundaries, just look at worldwide cooperation between scientists when tackling diseases and worldwide issues. Or students being able to study in places like the US from almost all over the world for university.

However, you are most likely best served by documenting all communications to make it extremely clear your cooperations with Russian colleagues is purely in the pursuit of STEM advocacy and robotics. Best of luck, I’m not sure if the advice here will be the most helpful.

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Agreed here but I’ll give some of my thoughts: The last few years many teams from the USA, Canada and Australia (and other countries) have gone to China to help build FIRST programs and grow teams. China and Russia seem to be the answers of many when asked what the biggest threat to the USA is (yes there are a couple other countries too and no I don’t care to start a discussion). I went in 2017 and there were all sorts of people with me from different political backgrounds who also attended both conservative and liberal alike. None of this seemed to matter when it came down to helping individuals succeed. To me, you just have to separate the pillar of state/government versus people and look at them as individuals and not defined by the country they live in.

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US-Russia or China relations are very different, almost incomparable IMO, to Ukraine-Russia relations. I’m guessing it’s hard to separate state/government versus individuals during an active war with thousands of civilian casualties.

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Not a comment directly about Ukraine/Russia, but I find it interesting that when talking about the US, the consensus on this site was “human rights aren’t political,” while when it applies to other countries it’s “robots and politics shouldn’t mix.”

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I’ll try to offer some very generalized practical questions to help guide your problem-solving:

  • Do you think there’s a chance you (or another leader in the program) can talk to the concerned sponsors and teachers and convince them that working with Russian teams is a positive or neutral thing?
  • If you can’t convince them that it’s a good thing, are they going to pull their support from the program? Or will they stay with it even if they’re unhappy about that particular aspect?
  • Whose help do you need more? Would your team have to disband if you lost those particular sponsors or teachers? If you cancelled the Russian-associated camp, could you do a different kind of virtual program instead, or is that your only option?

I’m not familiar enough with the situation or culture in Ukraine to give you specific advice on how to convince them; other members of your team or community would be much more qualified. But your practical options are simple: try to convince them, and if you can’t, decide whether or not it’s worth doing anyway.

I’m sure that’s very true, but I can’t provide that experience first hand. I can say that I know others in the USA/Canada that have helped with the Afghanistan FRC team (including FUN who crowd sourced a $1000 donation to their team) and relations and war have been very tumultuous between these countries.

Yes. When we hosted a high school age foreign exchange student, there were some students from “adversarial” countries such as Russia. Those who met them learned that they were people too. One of the goals of that organization was to build bridges across cultures. Hopefully, when these young people are in positions of power and influence, they will see each other as friends and allies rather than adversaries.

@nikita.usatyuk it appears that the FTC program is still fairly new in Ukraine. While your objective of building bridges with Russian youth is very noble and worthwhile, it may be better for you to focus on building up the program in Ukraine first. The political sensitivity you mention may cause your program some difficulties. It may also be a good idea to reach out into other neighboring countries where there is not the political sensitivities. By focusing on developing the program in Ukraine and easier destinations first, you will have more experience to offer when reaching out into Russia meets with less resistance.

I don’t think the consensus is that robots and politics shouldn’t mix. As an international organization and one that relies heavily on government funding in multiple countries, i think separating FIRST from politics is impossible.

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what part of Ukraine are you located?

My opinion is that since one of the main reasons for your war is the relationship with Russia, is clear to me that if you want teams from all Ukraine regions to be involved you should not involve Russian FTC as an organizer (nothing against using their help in a non official or public way)

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This is an example that’s more similar to Ukraine/Russia. I didn’t see that this got much mention on CD.

Hopefully when your event happens the attendees will forget that they’re Ukrainian and Russian because they’re spending all their time focusing on robotics. When they look back at the event they’ll remember that they learned/taught something, they had fun, and maybe they’ll also remember that they had something in common with someone from the other country and that the people from the other country aren’t that different from themselves.

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And as of about a week ago Israel and the UAE have announced normalized relations with the intent of allowing citizens to travel between the countries. It seems likely that this was a show of good faith as a precursor to this deal (which has been in the works for years now), but who’s to say that it didn’t help foster a sense of understanding between the two countries

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FRC teams are, effectively, small businesses. Just like profitable small businesses, there are always political pressures - the bigger the team, the more pressure there seems to be. It doesn’t have to be “state” politics either - parents squabble, school admins jockey for advancement, etc.

For the longer-term success of the team, you will need someone who shares your team vision and can navigate the political pressures put onto the team. Typically, that “someone” is a mentor, or cohort of mentors. As a team lead, find that mentor! They can probably teach you a lot about how they navigate these times in their day to day lives.

As an example of manipulating the political situation, just think about the term Coopertition. Describe what it means to your critics. Sure, you may help or collaborate with the Russian FTC teams now, but ultimately your Ukranian FTC teams will compete against them later and win (right?).