In recent months, debate over bathroom access has brought the issue of accommodating transgender students to the forefront of mainstream culture. This discussion, however, has yet to take a large place in the FIRST community. With up to 1.5% of students being transgender, teams should be aware of how to make a team environment where all are welcome, no matter their gender identity. This post will hopefully offer some useful advice.
Here are a few tips to help your team be accommodating to these students:
Offer LGBTQ literacy training at the beginning of the year or season:
LGBTQ literacy training teaches team members how to conduct themselves in a way that creates an open and safe team environment. This training explains commonly used terminology and also common mistakes to avoid.
This training can be conducted by a team member, coach, mentor or someone knowledgeable in the community. The training should ideally be followed by a review of expectations to ensure that everyone on the team is aware
GLSEN has some great resources for LGBTQ literacy training:
Make preferred gender pronouns a part of your team: he/she/they/ whichever pronoun they prefer.
Correct pronouns are an important part of making anyone feel welcome. They can simply be a part of team introductions. This simple step goes a long way to making your team a safe space for everyone.
Make your bathrooms accessible
In addition to being a major health concern, access to bathrooms consistent with one’s gender identity is essential to help students avoid unnecessary anxiety and feel comfortable on your team.
For more information on accessible bathroom facilities: www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/transgender/restroom-faq
If your team tracks gender statistics of your team members, offer alternative options.
Some students may identify as genders outside of the man-woman binary, such as agender, genderqueer or genderfluid. To accommodate these students, the question can simply ask students to write in their gender in a provided space.
Treat trans students as any other student
If a team member transitions to another gender identity, or confides in you that they are transgender, offer them all of the support and accommodation they need, but remember that they are still the same person they were before.
I hope this post was helpful in making your team and FIRST a safer space for everyone to pursue STEM.
This blog was written by Cole Brabec of FRC Team 1710. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule.
Hello world, it’s Claudia. After months of pestering, I finally got my roommate Crystal to agree to co-write the blog for today. We just moved out of our apartment and will be moving into a house together soon, so it’s safe to say we like each other enough to be in close proximity on the regular. When in college, whoever you room with can have an impact on your experience as a student. I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories about situations that have gotten really bad, but we wanted to share our experience of when it goes really really well.
What are you studying and why?
Crystal: I am pursuing a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a BA in Computer Science.
Claudia: I am pursuing a BFA in Graphic Design, a BS in Product Design, and a minor in Mandarin Chinese.
Did FIRST have any impact on your decision to study that?
Crystal: Yea it did. FIRST was what exposed me to the world of engineering and I never looked back.
Claudia: I actually started out as a prospective mechanical engineer but when that didn’t work out, I turned to the only other thing I was good at which was design. I did both mechanical and design work when I was in FIRST so ultimately FIRST impacted both decisions.
What’s the best part about living with someone who was in FIRST?
Crystal: Robotics is a huge part of my life and it’s awesome to have someone who immediately understands that part. For example, when I remember a robotics moment I don’t have to start with the “what are robots?” speil I can just start freaking out and Claudia just gets it. It’s also fun to have someone living with you that you can drag into your various FIRST related projects.
Claudia: Honestly having someone to rant to about robotics is the best. As a design student, most of the people I come in contact with have never heard of robotics so it’s nice to just freak out about a rule change or game release with someone who ‘gets it.’ The rides to game releases and competitions are also really really nice.
What’s the worst part about living with someone who was in FIRST?
Crystal: This probably comes with just having roommates in general but Claudia sees A LOT of my awkward and weird moments. She even is able to mock the way I freak out to a T.
Claudia: Crystal knew me since I was a sophomore in high school. Let’s just say I was still figuring myself out and it wasn’t pretty.
What’s your favorite memory of living with each other?
Crystal: Staying up late on Mondays to watch Rupaul’s drag race even when there is class the next day.
Claudia: Crystal showed me the world of bubble tea and I’ve been forever changed.
What’s something that surprised you about the other?
Crystal: Claudia is very passionate about the things she does. I always knew she was super energetic but man when she gets involved in something, she just goes all out. It’s really impressive.
Claudia: Crystal is really studious. I mean the girl wakes up at 6am on a Saturday just to do homework. I’ve lived with her for a year and I still don’t understand.
Anything else you would like to add?
Crystal: One of the coolest things about rooming with another FIRSTer has just been the change in our relationship. Claudia and I met through FIRST but living together is how Claudia grew to be one of my closest friends (even if we are constantly giving each other a hard time).
Claudia: Crystal is one of my closest friends in the sense that she is a weenie. Most people probably think we hate each other because we are always giving each other a hard time, but that’s just what our friendship language is.
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“Lose yourself in what you love; you find yourself there.” I shamelessly got from a corporate marketing campaign, but hey, sometimes inspiration comes from the most unexpected of places.
College undergrad is a place where many people follow this mantra, where they find out who they are, what their passion is, and who their people are. All of this happens so fast that you can barely capture the current moment. I am a third year college student and that scares me. I have all of these expectations of what college is supposed to be and it is half over and now what do I do? Have I done enough? Do I even know where I am going in life? Am I ready to even think about what comes after this magical place called undergrad? Am I prepared enough for the “real world”?
Maybe I should take a step back. Yes, college is one of those periods of your life where there are endless things to do and seemingly not enough time. I entered college with what I have found to be a very common mindset, which I call the “open loop mentality”. For those unfamiliar with an open loop, it is a technical term for something that, because it is programmed to do so, keeps doing the exact same thing without any feedback. Relating it to humans and my mentality, it is the mindset of doing things, often times a lot of things, without critical thought into why you are doing them. We only have so much time in the day, and what we spend our heartbeats on is important. I loved trying new things as a first-year and even as a second-year student: I tried new clubs, I found new hobbies, I even (unsuccessfully) tried to start a club. I loved every single moment of those new, sometimes spontaneous experiences with new people and new places.
During my second year, I was taking a lot of credits, was an officer of one club, actively involved in two more, building an Oreo Soaking Robot, designing playground equipment, working a 20-hour a week job, had friends and roommates that I loved to hang out with, and was attempting to get involved in research on campus. Not too long into the year, I had a breakdown. Then I had another one. Then another. After far too long in this torturous cycle, I had the courage to ask for help. That was hard. It still is hard, and it will never stop being hard. Although in this moment I felt as though I was at my weakest, it was my greatest moment of strength. I felt as vulnerable as could be; I was admitting my faults, sharing them openly, and doing something no one likes to do – admitting I was lost.
Individually, I loved every one of my commitments – collectively though, I was ruining my college experience. I was misinterpreting the quote that I love so much, thinking it was, “Lose yourself in EVERYTHING that you love” and rather than finding myself, I was losing my passion, my drive, and my energy. I was becoming a shell of my true self because I was overcommitting, underperforming, and not able to spend time with the people I loved.
Fortunately, solace came with warmer weather and a much needed break from responsibility – known affectionately as summer. However, this break was also the time I needed to intentionally end my own “open loop mentality”. I was clearly trying to do too much and I really couldn’t fully appreciate any single one of my commitments. It was not worth the breakdowns, the stress, and the endless cycle of not enough sleep and too much to do.
I owned the fact that I needed to change and in order to change, I had to learn from my mistakes and failures. It was apparent that I had to cut back on commitments but that was the first time I realized I didn’t know how to say no. In all honestly, I wasn’t doing anyone any good by saying yes to everything and not being able to put my full heart into anything.
There are some things that I will never say no to: helping a friend in distress, calling home, spontaneous moments with friends. However, there are some things that I do need to say no to: working more hours even though the work is done, trying to make something perfect when “good enough” really is good enough, overcommitting myself to things that I am just not passionate about, and most of all doing things because I am in a made up competition to have the best resume.
Now I do say no. This does not mean that I will stop being busy; it just means that I am finding the purpose in the things I do spend my heartbeats on. This filter and reflection is what ended my “open loop mentality.” Don’t get me wrong, I probably will continue to build robots, and get coffee with friends, and take a lot of credits, and work my 20-hour a week job, and have spontaneous moments, but this time, I am going to keep my capacity in mind, because staying within my capacity keeps me sane, and my mind, body, and friends (even the ones I just said no to) will thank me.
This blog was written by Ethan Brownell, a mechanical engineering junior at the University of Minnesota and is a fan of most things. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule.
Hello world, I’m Claudia.
I usually spend my time here on FIRST Ladies talking about college and what it’s like to be a design student, but I wanted to talk about something that isn’t really addressed in the blogs: stress, depression, and anxiety.
Growing up, I always pushed myself to succeed and for the most part, that helped me excel in school and robotics. However, I spent so much of my time obsessing over grades and deadlines that towards the end of my high school career, it was destroying my life. I remember thinking that I was the only one who felt the way I did, and I was all alone. It was around this time when I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. When I was diagnosed, I realized that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. The thing about having an anxiety disorder is that it didn’t just appear in my life. I was born with a chemical imbalance in my brain and it wasn’t until I was at my absolute lowest, did I come to terms with it.
At this point in my life, I more or less have things under control. I take medication and occasionally see a therapist when my anxiety levels get too high. Regardless, I have my good days and my bad days and the bad days can be really hard to deal with. The saying that “your worst enemy is yourself” rings especially true on the bad days. I have found that there are some ways to make the bad days less “bad” and I thought I would share some resources and information I have discovered over the years.
In general, here are some good things to know, regardless of your age:
If you are in college, you have to make an extra effort, these are some helpful reminders:
Some other websites and articles with great information regarding mental health:
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