COVID-19 Impact on FIRST Events (Updated June 26, 2020)


Update 6/26/20

We hope you’re as excited as we are about FIRST® GAME CHANGERSSM. We’re doing our best, like all of you, to stay up-to-date on the rapidly evolving impacts of the pandemic while planning for the future, and will continue to provide information as we have it available. Please bear with us as we navigate these challenging times and be assured: When the world is ready to reconvene, we will be too.

Please refer to the FIRST® LEGO® League and FIRST® Tech Challenge Event Experience pages for information on event formats, and stay up-to-date on FIRST GAME CHANGERS by requesting more information. Join us for the season and redefine the game.

 

Update 5/13/20

Dear friends, colleagues & partners,

On March 12, with the health and safety of our community as our top priority, we announced the difficult decision to suspend the remainder of the 2019/2020 FIRST season. Since then, we’ve worked with Program Delivery Partners and many other members of the FIRST community to evaluate the impact of the rapidly evolving pandemic and we have worked through many of the complicated issues surrounding the suspended season.  As part of this effort, we have evaluated conditions required for resuming mass gatherings, logistics for event planning, impact of school closures, ability for teams, mentors, and volunteers to participate, and what accommodations could be offered to teams that faced severe disruption in their season.  As we all realize, this is a dynamic process with new information added to our knowledge base each day.

Season 2019/2020 Status for all Programs

Based on widely varying, projected conditions of the pandemic for the next few months, all previously suspended FIRST Robotics Competition regional and district events are now cancelled. The pandemic, to a much lesser extent, also disrupted portions of the FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge FIRST RISE season in some regions, and we have concluded that resuming suspended physical events for these programs is not possible at this time. Additionally, we cannot currently support the planning or execution of off-season FIRST RISE events. We are just as disappointed as you are, but the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are beyond our control.

Refunds and Vouchers for FIRST Robotics Competition

We recognize that there are many extenuating circumstances as a result of this season’s disruption. While the Team registration fees are non-refundable after a team receives the Kickoff Kit as stated in the FIRST refund policy (as described in the 2020 FIRST ROBOTICS COMPETITION REGISTRATION PRICING STRUCTURE AND PAYMENT TERMS at the time of registration), FIRST Robotics Competition teams that had no official game play at all, due to the suspension of the 2020 season, will receive a $1,000 voucher that can be applied towards their initial Team Registration for either the upcoming 2021 or 2022 seasons.

FIRST Robotics Competition teams may have also registered for additional event plays, including District Championships, that will no longer occur.  As a result, FIRST will provide a limited exception to our refund policy for additional event fees and provide full refunds for unplayed FIRST Robotics Competition Additional Regional Events, Additional In-District Plays, Additional Inter-District Plays, and District Championship event fees to the original payers (team, sponsor, grantor, etc.). 

2021 Season Impact for FIRST Robotics Competition

The ongoing impact of the pandemic presents significant and unprecedented challenges for all, including our community.  Recognizing these challenges, including the need to minimize team total participation costs, and the fact that nearly half of the FIRST Robotics Competition Teams were unable to play the 2020 game due to the disruption of the season, FIRST has determined that the 2020 INFINITE RECHARGE game will be replayed for the 2021 FIRST® GAME CHANGERSSM, powered by Star Wars: Force for Change season.  Over the next few months the Game Design Team will be looking at adjustments to the game, all of which you will learn about at Kickoff in 2021.

Engagement Options for all Programs

While we are disappointed that we will not be able to physically come together in the coming months, we will continue to develop opportunities to stay connected and engaged remotely.  For example, we are developing solutions for the FIRST® GAME CHANGERSSM season to help teams participate in FIRST programs in the way that works best based on local conditions.  In the meantime, we’ve created FIRST @ Home to offer a curated collection of no-cost creative activities and resources for online learning, skill building, FIRST-supported activities, and more. We will continue to add, create, and feature amazing content from FIRST and our friends and partners. We’re also working on an interim engagement platform for FIRST LEGO League for use primarily in regions where the season was most significantly disrupted.

Looking to the Future

We are doing our best, like all of you, to stay up to date on the evolving impact of the pandemic, listening carefully to global, regional, and community-based guidance, while planning for the future.   We will continue to provide information as it becomes available, and when the world is ready to reconvene in person, we will be too! No matter what state we’re in for the FIRST® GAME CHANGERSSM season, we will focus on finding ways to continue delivering our programs and what we do best. It may not look the same as in the past, but we’re here for all of you to make it happen.

Make sure to mark your calendars for May 15th, when we will reveal the exciting new FIRST LEGO League sets to give you a taste of what’s coming next season, with additional updates for FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition in the coming weeks and months.

Sincerely,

The Team at FIRST HQ

 

FAQs on Cancellation of 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition Play

1.            Will we get a refund for our Team Registration fee?

The Team registration fees are non-refundable after a team receives the Kickoff Kit as stated in the FIRST refund policy at the time of registration.  However, teams that had no official game play will receive a voucher for $1,000 that can be applied towards their initial FIRST Robotics Competition Team Registration for either the 2021 or 2022 season.

2.            We only got one of our two initial district event plays, will we get a voucher for 2021/2022?

Vouchers are issued to teams that had no official game play during the season.  Teams that played at one of their two District events are not eligible for a voucher.

3.            We paid for an additional play at a now-cancelled event, will we get our event fee returned?

Event registration fees for unplayed additional events will be refunded. If the event was paid for by check, purchase order, or credit card, the refund will go to the original payer. If the event was paid for by a grant restricted to event registration, the refund will go back to the sponsor (grantor). If the event was paid for by an unrestricted grant, the refund will show as a credit balance for the team in their dashboard.

4.            How will the unplayed additional event refund amount be determined?

Each team’s registration history will be reviewed to determine the refund amount.  Order of play does not matter, only the overall number of unplayed events beyond that covered by Team Registration (1 Regional event for traditional teams, and 2 District events for District teams).  In a few instances where an outstanding balance still exists, the refund will only be equal to the paid amount.

Example One: Traditional Team paid for Team Registration and One Additional Regional Event.  They only attended one regional event.  The refund to the payer would be $4,000 for the unplayed additional regional event.

Example Two: Traditional Team paid for Team Registration and One Additional Regional Event.  They did not attend any events.  The refund to the payer would be $4,000 for the unplayed additional regional event.  The team would also receive a $1,000 voucher for their 2021 or 2022 registration

Example Three: District Team paid for Team Registration, One Additional Regional Event, and an inter-District Event.  They only attended one In-District event and did not attend the Regional nor Inter-District Events.  The refund to the payer would be $5,000 ($1,000 for the inter-District event and $4,000 for the Regional event) for the unplayed additional events.

5.            Will District Championship fees be refunded?

District Championship fees will be refunded to the original payer. In a few instances where an outstanding balance still exists, the refund will only be equal to the paid amount.

6.            When will refunds and vouchers be processed?

Due to the time required to research and process payment details, it may take a few months to process all the specific refunds. Significant effort will be made to process the refunds as quickly as feasibly possible.  Team lead mentors will receive additional information regarding refund and voucher status as soon as possible.  Please note that our Customer Service and Finance support staff will not be able to provide additional refund or voucher details during this processing period.  We thank you in advance for your understanding.

7.            We loaded in at an event that was suspended before play – does that count as official game play?

Events that were suspended prior to play do not count towards official game play.

8.            How will the 2021/2022 voucher be applied?

We are still working on details on how the voucher will be visible to teams and applied to their future FIRST Robotics Competition Team Registration.  We will share more information on the voucher process before season registration opens for the next FIRST Robotics Competition season in September.

9.            What about off-season events?

Given the state of the pandemic we cannot support the planning, promotion, or execution of off-season FIRST RISE events using district-owned or HQ-owned equipment or game elements.

10.          Will rookie status for teams carry over?

Yes, rookie status for teams, regardless of whether teams played in 2020, will be extended to 2021. This means these teams will be eligible for Rookie awards and the District points available to Rookies. Also, District teams that were second year teams in 2020 will receive their 5 District points for that designation in 2021.

11.          Will new team status for grants carry over?

As in typical years, each sponsor may have different requirements for their grants.  FIRST HQ will encourage grantors to carry over Season 2019/2020 team status, but the ultimate granting requirements will follow the donor’s intent.

12.          What about awards that have not yet been determined (event judged awards)?

We have decided to proceed with awarding District Championship Chairman’s Awards. Districts are sharing more information about this. However, no other awards for the 2020 season will be presented.

13.          We qualified for FIRST Championship in 2020 from an INFINITE RECHARGE event/award.  Will our qualification carry to 2021?

We are still evaluating this and will provide details as soon as they are available.

14.          We qualified for the 2020 FIRST Championship for an accomplishment in 2019. Will that get carried forward to 2021?

As with qualifications from 2020, we are still evaluating this and will provide details as soon as they are available.

15.          What will the 2021 Registration fee be for replaying INFINITE RECHARGE?

One of the goals of replaying INFINITE RECHARGE is to reduce the overall participation cost for FIRST Robotics Teams.  Registration fees for participating in the 2021 version of the game have not yet been set, but FIRST will be exploring a variety of potential actions for reducing overall team participation costs, including registration fees.  We will share more information on registration fees prior to team registration and event preferencing in the fall.

16.          Can we keep working on our 2020 robot between now and Kickoff 2021 and use some or all of it in the 2021 season?

Yes, you can keep working on your robot and you will be able to use it or portions of it in the 2021 season. The rules that had prohibited this activity in prior seasons are being re-written for 2021 and will be published shortly. 

 

FAQs for FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge

1.            How do I determine the status of events in my region?

Please contact the local Program Delivery Partner in your area to determine the status of events in your region.

2.            Does this impact remote events and online activities such as the Global Innovation Awards?

During periods of social distancing measures, FIRST has transitioned events with physical gatherings to an online event experience.  These remote events and activities are not impacted by this decision.

3.            Will refunds or vouchers be issued for FIRST LEGO League or FIRST Tech Challenge registration or events?

Team registration fees are non-refundable. Although the vast majority of events were completed for these programs, any questions about event fees should be directed to the local Program Delivery Partner in your area.

4.            We qualified for FIRST Championship in 2020 from a FIRST RISE season event/award.  Will our qualification carry to 2021?

We are still evaluating this and will provide details as soon as they are available.

5.            What does the upcoming season look like?

We are doing our best, like all of you, to stay up to date on the evolving impact of the pandemic, listening carefully to global, regional, and community-based guidance, while planning for the future.   We will continue to provide information as it becomes available, and when the world is ready to reconvene in person, we will be too! No matter what state we’re in for the FIRST® GAME CHANGERSSM season, we will focus on finding ways to continue delivering our programs and what we do best. It may not look the same as in the past, but we’re here for all of you to make it happen.

Make sure to mark your calendars for May 15th, where we will reveal the exciting new FIRST LEGO League sets to give you a taste of what’s coming next season, with updates for FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition in the coming weeks and months.

 


Update 3/20/20

FIRST/COVID-19 Impact: Frequently Asked Questions 

  • Does “suspended” mean canceled or postponed? 
    It means neither. Suspending the season allows us to pause and evaluate remaining gameplay, given the rapidly evolving pandemic. Over the following weeks, FIRST will work with event organizers and update our community on future plans  
     
  • Why did you suspend the season? 
    This decision was made based on guidance from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and state and local health officials, as well as the declaration of states of emergency across many states/countries, and the ever-expanding travel restrictions for schoolsThe safety and wellbeing of our community is our top priority at FIRST, which is why we’ve decided to suspend the season. Additionally, many of our events in the United States and around the world had been canceled or postponed, including more than half of all future FIRST Robotics Competition events  
     
  • Will there still be a cross-program 2021 FIRST season that launches in May?  ​
    We hope to have an answer in the next few weeks about the cadence of next season. We ask that you please bear with us in the spirit of community that is so unique to FIRST as we develop those plans. 
     
  • What happens to my FIRST Championship registration fee?  ​
    Due to the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19, FIRST will refund the 2020 FIRST Championship registration fee. We will provide an update on timing and process in the weeks ahead. 
     
  • Will you be refunding hotel and airfare?
    While FIRST is not responsible for team travel costs, many hotels and airlines are waiving non-refundable deposits and change fees upon request. In order to make it easier any attendees who booked with a hotel in the official FIRST Championship housing block will have their reservation automatically canceled by Experient. You will NOT need to contact FIRST or Experient to initiate that process. Attendees who did not book with a hotel in the official FIRST Championship housing block must contact their hotel/lodging directly to cancel reservations.  
     
  • Are we getting our money back from the 2020 season?   
    The Team registration fees are non-refundable after a team receives the Kickoff Kit as stated in the FIRST refund policy at the time of registration.  We understand that this is a disappointing response to teams/participants, however, almost all our costs have already been incurred.
    Regarding the fees for unplayed regional second plays and district championships, we are evaluating this complex situation and will provide more information as it becomes available – this will take some time.  
     
  • I’m graduating in May; how will I participate?  
    FIRST recognizes current high school seniors may still like to participate in the season and we are evaluating the best options. 
     
  • What does this mean for the future of FIRST?
    We are committed to fulfilling the mission of FIRST for decades to come.   

 

Update 3/12/20

Dear friends, colleagues & partners,

It is with deep disappointment that I share an update on the immediate suspension of the current FIRST season and the cancellation of both Championship events. This decision has been made based on guidance from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and state and local health officials, as well as the declaration of states of emergency across many states/countries, the ever-expanding travel restrictions for schools, and in light of developments over the past 24 hours.  The health and safety of our community is our top priority, so we have decided to suspend all season play across all Programs worldwide, effective immediately, including the cancellation of both FIRST Championship events. Please know that FIRST Championship registration fees will be refunded.

This difficult decision was grounded in FIRST’s commitment to put the health and safety of our community above all else. During this challenging time, we have been working closely with our program delivery partners (PDPs) and event organizers around the world to navigate and mitigate the risks to our community due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As a result, many of our events in the United States and around the world have been canceled or postponed, including more than half of all future FIRST Robotics Competition events. We acknowledge and appreciate the thousands of teams, parents, mentors, coaches and volunteers who have poured their hearts and souls into this season, and we share your disappointment.

The mission of FIRST has always been to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, and we continue to be deeply committed to this mission. We know that you will have questions, and we will provide answers in the following days and weeks as we navigate what has been an unprecedented time.

Sincerely,

Larry Cohen, President of FIRST


Updated 3/11/20

For the past several weeks, FIRST has been monitoring the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and working closely with our Program Delivery Partners and event organizers to help manage its impact on our community.

In this challenging time, the fundamental guiding principle we have used, and will continue to use, is that we will follow the guidance and policies as established by community and public health officials when making decisions regarding event planning. These policies include travel advisories and other prevention recommendations, which in some cases have resulted in the cancellation or postponement of events. As always, we remain committed to the health and safety of the FIRST community.

 

FIRST Event Updates

While some FIRST partners, teams, and volunteers have been impacted by this ongoing outbreak, the majority of FIRST events continue to operate as scheduled. This includes both the FIRST Championship Houston and FIRST Championship Detroit events in April, which remain unchanged in both scope and schedule. Due to the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19, FIRST will refund the 2020 FIRST Championship registration fee if the event is cancelled by FIRST.

Following the guidance and policies of community and public health officials, FIRST has worked with several event organizers and Program Delivery Partners to support the cancelation or postponement of some events due to local concerns related to the coronavirus.

We recognize that teams have put an enormous amount of work into preparing for these events, and we regret when they are canceled or postponed for any reason. We are working closely with PDPs to determine how best to accommodate postponed events both within or outside of this current season and will follow up as details become available.

FIRST will continue to actively monitor this rapidly evolving situation and will adjust operations as needed based on guidance and policies as established by local community and public health officials.

If you have a question about the status of a specific event, please reach out to local event organizers. For questions about FIRST Championship, and other general inquiries, contact FIRST Customer Service at customerservice@firstinspires.org.

 

Travel and Event Health Precautions

When making your travel and event decisions, we recommend that you follow guidance from your local community and public health officials, as well as agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, including travel advisories and other prevention recommendations. 

CDC guidelines encourage the following preventative actions, which are also applicable to preventing the spread of many viruses:

  • Stay home if feeling unwell, developing a cough, or running a fever
  • Practice hand hygiene, including frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, and avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Practice respiratory etiquette, including covering cough and sneezes with a tissue, and then disposing of the tissue in the trash
  • Clean frequently touched surface and objects daily (including tablets and cell phones)
  • Perform self-monitoring, and seek medical care immediately if feeling unwell

FIRST has issued such guidance to its Program Delivery Partners and event organizers, including specific recommendations related to common practices such as the posting of signs promoting hand hygiene, cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, reduction of hand-to-hand contact such as alliance handshakes and the award  “high-five line”, and the procedures around sharing of safety glasses at events.