What would make you leave FRC?

@Chris_is_me had the guts to say it, they’ve been pushed far enough on issues that they care about, they no longer want to stay in this program. I respect that and am torn myself. What line exists for you that, if FIRST crosses it, you’re done? I’ll tell you that as of now I wish there was a viable alternative for big sporty robots. Let me know if you know of one. I’m still working on one myself but it’ll be a couple years before it’s a real thing.

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With so much family in FIRST (and not the blood kind), it would take most of them leaving for me to leave as well.

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A couple more summer CD posts

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It’s definitely a tough question. I don’t know if anything could make me leave FIRST. Even if the organization starts to support agendas that I disagree with, the benefit to the students remains the same. I guess FRC would have to minimize the scale of the games to a point that it’s both not as fun for me and not as beneficial as other programs for students. But I don’t see that happening since we’re currently seeing an opposite trend on that end.

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This is where I struggle as well. FIRST has many good qualities and impacts in STEM that have unfortunately been linked with positions on other matters that I find tough to support. This is quickly falling into my bucket of “can we take the good parts as keepers, the bad parts as warnings, and start over please?”

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I have talked this dilemma over with my spouse, and it truly is a conundrum.
There aren’t exactly lots of great youth organizations, especially of a STEM bent. So if I take my ball and go home, I truly go home. So I prefer to make my concerns loud and argue for change from within. I have met so many great people in FIRST and particularly in FiM.

Within our district, things are awesome. I have an FTC student that uses a power wheelchair and a vent and needs nurse assistance. At every event, the EC’s bent over backwards to ensure my student could be with her team (and get the resources she needed). Likewise, I feel our district is a warm, supportive place to be for all students. It would have to radically change for me to leave FiM.

I might just nope out of the Championship, with FIRST HQ’s silence on the LGBTQIA+ safety. And If Houston isn’t Wheelchair/walker/crutches friendly, that might break me as a parent. My son had such a great time mentally (and difficult time physically) this year.

edit: add words to make sense

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No more seasons

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  1. The obvious one - FIRST, in it’s entirety, folds and no alternative is immediately available. I imagine a lot of people’s days around competitive robots would be over in that case.
  2. It is no longer viable for me to participate if, say, every local team folds or I move to an area with no FRC presence and I have no avenue to start a new team
  3. FIRST actively promotes hateful rhetoric, or platforms those who actively promote it. They’re on pretty thin ice on this one, to say the least. I understand that the Houston deal may have been a contractual thing. However, if they renew the contract again, or begin bringing in Texas politicians to give speeches about how great a job they’re doing “supporting STEM”, I’ll be seriously reevaluating if I want to continue participating. They also really need to acknowledge the concerns of over 1000 community members regarding their continued actions in Texas.
  4. A massive, program-wide scandal that involves multiple top teams, high-profile mentors, and/or FIRST staff. I have no clue what this would look like, and I really hope I never get to find out what it looks like.

I should note, pretty much all of these but the last one would likely result in me maintaining an “arm’s length” relationship with the FRC community even if I have no intent on actively participating. I’d probably continue following and posting on CD, but I would not be on any teams or volunteering.

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If VEX ever goes deep into their warehouse and dusts off the plans for their hypothetical FRC equivalent I would transfer over in a heartbeat.

I’m not keen on FIRST as it is, but I’m not gonna stop getting kids excited about building competitive robots, and I’ll do it in whichever avenue best accomplishes that goal.

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Thanks Joel. This is a hard topic. When I think about this (and I think about it often), I remember the ways FIRST has already lost me…

As an event runner: Although we still do a “Satellite Kickoff”, it is merely a depot for receipt and handoff of the phyical KOP. Since the cancellation of the Field Builder program, my event is no longer a destination for learning-- people are asked to get in and get out as quickly as possible, so I can get back to my team’s kickoff day.

As an advocate for some kind of alum program: The last alumni event I attended was I think in 2018. There seems to be no real lasting value proposition in engaging in this program as an alumni or presenting myself as an alumni in my interactions with the wider world.

As a reviewer: I still return the KOP survey because I like Kate, but that’s the only real organized feedback I’ve provided to FIRST or FIRST Chesapeake for a couple years now. For years I used to do detailed event writeups with kudos and suggestions and then deliver this feedback to exactly the right people.

As a critic: My years at mentorbuilt coincided with the time in my life where I felt a passion about making FIRST better, wanting to challenge the basic assumptions. I was excited to bring criticism because I cared a lot about improving the program and the organization-- the program & org that made such an enormous positive impact in my life. Now I’m much less interested in letting that stuff go without compensation.

As a true believer.

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Lack of a job and the loss of my six weeks of vacation time to volunteer would do the trick.

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6 posts were merged into an existing topic: [Split Thread] FIRST on resumes and hiring FIRST alumni

I have the same initial thought with one addition: the impact FIRST has had on me as an individual will never go away. I’ve written about that impact before so won’t go into it here.

In an organization of this size, there are bound to be decisions you disagree with. There are also bound to be values you disagree with. For me, I can’t imagine a singular decision the organization would actually make that negates the years of positive experience I’ve had myself and been able to provide for others. Some of those decisions may stop me from financially supporting the program, they may keep me from certain specific events, or reduce my interactions with people for whom I no longer have the same level of respect. But I don’t feel that these things cause me to need to ditch the program in its entirety.

An example: during Covid I would not attend events that were not imposing (what I saw as) adequate safety measures. More broadly, I would not attend an event that doesn’t make reasonable accommodations for its student populations (e.g. gender neutral bathrooms–at least on request).

I respect those who reach a different conclusion. We all have different values, and those values are weighted differently for each of us. We all have different experiences, and those experiences create different perspectives from which we approach situations.

I think I understand the spirit of what you are saying. I think people really do care about what you did, but maybe not the program/context in which you did it. People care that you built robots, project-managed a team, or designed a marketing and business plan. Many people don’t care that you did it in the context of FIRST.

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This is almost exactly where I stand as well. Note: seems like they renewed the contract with Houston despite the petition :rage: I’m very disappointed about that, maybe pushing me further away from loving FRC as much as I did at the beginning of the season

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The recent Houston decision has definitely made me reconsider my position in FIRST, especially given how much cash they have on hand and the utter opacity of the decision. Couple that with HQ’s insistence on rejecting evidence-based improvements to the lives of lower resource teams and the rising competitive cost floor, and it’s a bleak outlook for the program for the next several years. I’ll definitely be cutting back my direct involvement to focus more on documentation, but that’s pretty much the extent of things.

Having done this for almost ten years now, it would be difficult to step away entirely. I have a lot of friends in the program and a lot of bonds on the teams I work with, and I enjoy mentorship too much to just quit at a moment’s notice. Short of Greg Abbott speaking at Champs, I’m not sure much could make me leave immediately.

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There are multiple tiers of “leaving FIRST”, as there are multiple tiers of FIRST involvement. Post high school, there is the

  1. I devote almost every waking moment of your life and all/majority of your PTO time to FIRST for X months of the year.
  2. I mentor 1-2 days per week, and/or perhaps a few volunteer at a few events per year.
  3. I follow along with the community and mostly watch from the sidelines, but help out at a few team events (typical parent involvement).
  4. I’ve “retired” and moved on to other activities.

I participated as a level 1 for about a decade as a student and then mentor, and than reduced to about a level 1.5 maybe 2 for a few years after that. I took a break (e.g. level 4) from mentoring FRC teams when the pandemic hit, and these past two years I’ve done a TON of skiing instead, with 2021/22 involving a metric boatload of skiing with my SO (also a FRC alumna who spent a ton of time as a level 1 intensity as a student and mentor).

Taking this solid break was massively beneficial to our physical and mental health. One of the biggest lessons learned was that IMHO, there is too much of an emphasis put on making your FIRST involvement an intrinsic part of your identity* to a lot of folks. That just… isn’t very healthy. Your personal identity, your personal sense or worth, your personal values, need to be your own. You can greatly enjoy things, and want to participate in them, but that should be something that you enjoy doing. Not who you intrinsically are.

A lot of statements Dean made over the years like (paraphrasing) you aren’t a XYZ high school alum, you are a FIRST alum! stoke a lot of this unhealthy level of making your personal identity revolve around FIRST. I personally loved my time in FLL and FRC, and I learned a lot from it, but I’ve also come to terms that a lot of the time that I spent mentoring in college and afterward was not a healthy level of involvement.

Splitting your personal identity from FIRST also allows you to have a much more nuanced view of things. I hate this ideological purity test that seems to have erupted on both extreme sides of the political isle. There are some good things in Texas. I have a lot of great friends in Texas. But there are a lot of things I strongly dislike about Texas, with those contributing to why I left the state after a decade. Some of those were things that could be changed/corrected if there were different powers-that-be, but others (like lack of mountains with skiing, were not :slightly_smiling_face:). But it’s a nuanced view. I don’t base my involvement in FIRST solely over their continued hosting of Championship in Texas. But it might affect whether I decide to attend Champs or not.

After this level 4 hiatus for two seasons, I’ve decided that I want to get back involved in the FIRST community, but somewhere closer to a level 3 (volunteer at a few events in California and serve as red team to provide design review/award submission review) until if/when we have kids in the program, at which point we’d be willing to go back to a level 2 intensity for them.

The big thing for us was examining the ROI. Input versus output. I never made it past the semifinals as a student in FRC, but I’d still consider my FRC student experience to be massively positive and successful. It takes so much energy and resources to try to be ranked #1, when the students can get 85% of the same output for a minute fraction of the input. It’s not the outcome that is important, it’s the journey. The chase. The chase of excellence. As Woodie stated, the robot is the campfire that we gather around. No one cares if you had the hottest fire, or burned the most firewood. It’s the stories and growth and good times you spend with others around the fire that matters and forms lasting memories.

TL;DR. Used to be hardcore, took personal leave for two seasons, will be back at a more healthy level next season that still allows for a lot of time during the winter to get first chair on the regular and send it into Gnarnia.

*More generally, I’m not very much of fan anymore of folks who outsource their personal values and identity to outside organizations, entities, political parties or politicians, etc. Stop binning yourself based upon some outside factor. Be yourself. It’s messy, complex, difficult, and can’t fit in a Twitter bio. You probably have ideas and values that don’t fit nicely into the boxes others create. But that’s part of being a human. We’re unique, with complex values and desires. And remember that the values of the boxes others create change over time. There was once a period of time when you’d be cancelled for being against the Iraq War. Then later on there was a time when you’d be canceled if you were for that war. Don’t let others define you. There’s nothing wrong with only agreeing with 70% or 80% what another person or organization says, You can appreciate them for that overwhelming majority you agree with them, and agree to disagree on the remainder. Let’s truly appreciate ourselves and others for who they are as a human being, as messy and complicated as that may be.

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Wouldn’t lack of a job give you much more time to volunteer?

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From my 23 years of being heavily involved in FRC, I’ve seen many good mentors leave the program or change their levels of involvement. Very rarely have I seen where its because something about FIRST and its actions, directly causes someone to leave entirely.

I do hope though that in the future, FIRST actively looks to hire more people who have worked in education. There are times where I shake my head when FIRST makes decisions that dont take into account school (teacher/student/parent/sustainability) challenges to help teams successfully participate in competitions.

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Lack of a job also takes away money needed to travel to volunteer.

For me, I’ve stuck with FIRST as a volunteer for well over a decade, and helped support my daughter’s teams for 8 years prior to that. There have been times when I had to hold my nose to the stink caused by some decisions. I will admit, when Detroit was cancelled this year I made no attempts to investigate going to Houston, for a number of reasons. The optics of the decision with regards to LGBTQ+ was one of those factors, but not the only one.

Despite the reservations I have about some things in FIRST (and in FiM, to be fair), both big and small, I so far have managed to work around that concern for 2 basic reasons: I truly like being a volunteer, and I think FIRST can give many students good experiences. But there could be some change in the future that I just couldn’t stomach, something that could cause me to step away. I hope I never have to make that decision.

And in the meantime, I will try to do what I can to work within the organizations to make things better for all.

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“We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t… don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.”

This quote has resonated in my head for a long time now about when my time in FIRST will come to an end. I know it will end someday and have accepted that it will happen. When, why and how? I don’t know. When the pandemic started and the reality sunk in that FIRST may never happen again especially to the scale that it was, I made peace with myself that one day I will need to step away and that I will be okay with it and the contributions I have made.

I think if FRC stopped existing that may be the trigger for me. The big robots and the scale that it brings in comparison to any other high school event out there is what keeps me going. The overall culture of FIRST is incredible. We here the 2% tend to be loud about our issues and many are valid, but overall this program is pretty amazing and incredibly impactful.

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