Depending on where you live, you may have a very different experience as a FIRST® volunteer this seaon. In these uncertain times, it's more important than ever to deliver the life-changing experience of FIRST to young people around the world, and FIRST volunteers are vital to supporting our programs. As schools and regions do their best to figure out how to reopen, we know you are eager to understand how you’ll participate in the 2020/2021 season. As an organization that teaches young people how to solve problems and innovate, we are doing the same to ensure we are fulfilling our mission and enabling our community to stay engaged with FIRST programs in the challenging year ahead. We have been working on solutions for the 2020/2021 season and would like to give you some insight into the volunteer experience and what that might look like.
“What do you know about upcoming FIRST events and what I might see over the season?”
For regions that continue to be disrupted by COVID-19 and require social distancing, we are planning to offer remote event options for FIRST® LEGO® League and FIRST® Tech Challenge around the world for the 2020/2021 FIRST® GAME CHANGERSSM, powered by Star Wars: Force for Change, season.
To help transition to remote events, we are developing the FIRST Remote Event Hub, which will act as the venue for these events. It will make the experience as close as possible to a traditional FIRST program event for teams and volunteers, with the necessary modifications to accommodate a remote environment. To provide a comprehensive, remote experience for teams and volunteers, it will include*:
- Remote robot performance and match scoring
- Award submission, evaluation, and feedback
- Video conferencing scheduling for remote judging
(*Capabilities vary by program and division)
“How do I apply to volunteer at a remote event?”
For either remote or in-person events, volunteers will continue to sign up to volunteer at events through the Volunteer Registration system. New roles for remote events will be reflected in the Volunteer Registration system on the role selection screen. All volunteers (US & Canada residents) will be required to complete or update Youth Protection Screening. If you have questions about whether events in your area will be in person or remote, you can reach out to your local partner.
“What about FIRST® Robotics Competition?”
We are continuing to develop plans for FIRST Robotics Competition events and will be sharing more information about the 2021 season prior to the opening of team registration in September. We are looking at a variety of scenarios for what FIRST Robotics Competition may look like in 2021. One possibility we’re considering is scaling events to minimize the number of people in one place at one time. This could mean having one-day events with smaller numbers of teams and volunteers at each. As you can imagine, there are a lot of details to work out with this option, and we hope to have more details soon. At the latest, we will have details about the 2021 season available prior to the planned opening of team registration in mid-September. For more information, check out the FIRST Robotics Competition blog here.
“Is there a place for me as a volunteer this season?”
Yes! Volunteers continue to be critical to the success of the FIRST experience, including for remote events. Remote events will still require judges, referees, and other event admin roles. Program Delivery Partners in your region will decide if events will be remote or in-person based on regional guidelines for social distancing.
For regions that can conduct in-person events, you may see modifications such as event capacity limitations, new safety precautions, remote elements, or other changes to comply with local health and safety guidelines. While the volunteer experience may look different this season due to the pandemic, there will still be a variety of event volunteer roles needed at both in-person and remote events. Your help is crucial and vital to the success of our programs.
Please contact your local Partner for more information on planning and decisions for your region.
“How can I volunteer if my usual role isn’t needed at an event?”
If you find there are not as many volunteering opportunities in your area, one way to volunteer with FIRST is through our new FIRST Mentor Network (currently only in North America). This new platform gives you the opportunity to make a connection with teams in North America that need mentors and to provide valuable guidance through virtual mentorship – whether it’s a one-time video chat or ongoing support. As we continue to navigate the season ahead, the virtual mentoring option of the FIRST Mentor Network allows mentors to find teams locally or across the country to inspire and make an impact. Mentors and coaches may be parents, teachers, professional engineers, veterans, fundraisers, marketers, etc., and must be 18 years or older. You get to share whatever skills you have with a team to help guide them to a successful season.
“Where can I go to get more information about this season?”
We’re doing our best, like all of you, to stay up to date on the rapidly evolving impacts of the pandemic. Everyone at FIRST is working hard to anticipate and navigate the uncertainties to ensure we’ll be able to provide every student participant a valuable, enjoyable experience. We hope you will join us as we explore new and exciting ways to deliver our programs with your safety and wellbeing as our top priority.
- For the latest updates on the impact of COVID-19 on FIRST: https://www.firstinspires.org/covid-19
- For frequently asked questions about remote events, see this FIRST inspires blog post: https://www.firstinspires.org/community/inspire/remote-events
- For FIRST LEGO League event experience information: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/fll/event-experience
- For FIRST Tech Challenge event experience information: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/ftc/event-experience
- Subscribe to the FIRST newsletter for up-to-the-minute news: https://www.firstinspires.org/community/newsletter
No matter how you engage with FIRST as a volunteer this season, we value you and appreciate your contributions to the mission of FIRST. We will keep you updated as we learn more about what the volunteer experience will look like this season. You can always reach out to us with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. With the power of #FIRSTvolunteers, we truly do create a future built better together.