Last year at FIRST Worlds in Detroit, several of our team members faced insensitive comments and experiences about their race and gender. Considering FIRST’s mission to “inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership,” This was quite disappointing and concerning, considering the fact that experiences such as these can discourage students that are LGBTQ+ or people of color from participating in FIRST.
To stop this from happening again, we collected stories of such microaggressions and insensitive comments (viewable here), drafted a petition to endorse inclusivity (viewable here), and talked to the FIRST Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Shelley Henderson. We discussed the possible courses of action if such experiences ever happened again. On top of this, we talked about the possibilities for more widely known and centralized affinity groups, the youth advisory board, and a more diverse set of speakers to speak at competitions.