Lessons learned

2020 season was a rough year for our team, but the roughness probably created beauty. Overcoming challenges did become one of our team’s daily routines. Experienced members taught rookies how to deal with the problems as well, which raised a connection within the team. We know from the start that being a community team and having members from far off cities is harsh and challenging. As we did not depend on any institution, it was also hard to find a workplace and tools to work with. Through the season, we changed 4 workplaces, and the timings were the worst part. We got kicked from our first workplace for no reason right before the day of our first competition (Event Horizon Off-Season Event) without any prior warning. Yet, we coped with the last minute changes and even competed in the semi-finals in our first competition. Our second workplace was in one of our team member’s basement. As there was no sunlight or airflow, the place could cause some health disorders, so we needed to get out from there. After the second competition, we moved to our sister team’s workplace, but because the workplace did not have the capacity for two teams, we knew that it was temporary. Today, after all of these challenges, our success in Bosphorus Regional, and hours of discussion with advocacy, we moved to our workplace. Finding a workplace was a long and challenging process, but the most crucial part was that we knew how to deal with it, and we did not stop creating solutions until the end.

Sneaky Snakes’ was all about spreading FIRST and its message. This is the reason why we established  Sneaky Snakes as a community team, to give everyone an equal chance. We currently consist of students from 4 different cities, the cities that FIRST is either no more than a name or have not been heard of before. Sneaky Snakes aim to inspire and teach the principles of FIRST to our members for them to inspire people and establish FIRST teams in their communities. So far, we have seen the results going better and better! The members of our team are ceaselessly working to inspire more and more people. Only in a year, we have reached more than 2.5M people! Our biggest challenge was also our biggest advantage of inspiring others. As we gather from distant cities, it is hard to organize events in which we introduce people to FIRST and STEM, yet things stay on the course now. Every one of our team members is at the level of organizing and managing activities to spread FIRST’s message. One of our most significant initiatives in spreading FIRST and STEM is our SScience Kits project. We reached and introduced FIRST to over 21K students from 52 schools, and 31 cities. It is only one way we spread the FIRST’s message, but it changed thousands of kids’ perspective to science, and we are willing to continue on our initiatives.

The word that best describes our transformation is leadership. Throughout the season, without even realizing, we followed FIRST’s main mission, to prepare young people for the future, to grow student leaders. Sneaky Snakes divides the team into multiple sub-teams thus, each student is fostered to take responsibility, to be a leader. With leadership, there come responsibilities that make research the KEY. Therefore, Sneaky Snakes’ students learn how to be leaders by making lots of mistakes, yet overcoming them by making lots of groundwork.

The experience was all we expected and more. Even though it was Sneaky Snakes’ first official year, the team had plenty of members who have seen and experienced FIRST, first-hand before, yet the 2020 competitions, with its diversity of culture, innovative game theme, and impressive judging process; managed to both surprise teams and made sure we all had a great competition.

Our biggest disappointment was learning that we were not eligible for the Chairman’s Award right before our Award presentation at the 2020 Bosphorus Regional due to being a New Veteran Team. To move past this and reduce the odds of it happening again, we have written a New Veteran Team Guide which will be available for every student internationally at our website ResourcesFIRST which will launch soon! Also, we talked about this incident in Sneaky Sessions, our podcast series available in Spotify, so that everyone would be informed!

The country we live in, Turkey, is a multicultural place. Dozens of civilizations lived in the current land of Turkey. As our community has people from different cultures, so does our team. We support and implement the idea that teams should be the reflection of their communities. In our team, aside from Turkish, we have members who speak Arabic, Kurdish, Romanian, Greek as their native languages, and we wholeheartedly encourage them to live their own culture. With the members who have different ethnicities in our team, we also reached out to their ethnic communities and introduced them FIRST. 40% of our team consists of girl members. It is above average than the robotics teams in Turkey, but it is not currently enough for our team as we solely support and wish for a fully equal team in all means. From the start of our team, we continuously aim to equalize everything, and we have been acting for it. We are now able to see the fruit of the process and our actions. We are happy with the result, and we will continue doing so.

Always be outgoing, an extrovert! All teams have adopted the same exact mission as FIRST itself, we rise by lifting each others. As FIRST represents, our main mission is not winning the competitions, it is to embrace the core values. Start by embracing them yourselves then, spread it to your community. Do not forget: Each team started as a Rookie and we still look for ways to make our community a better place. So, don’t hesitate to communicate with a team, a student, a mentor to ask for suggestions. We are all part of the same big family!

Our most proud moment was not during the Regional, but after. By being the first and only community team to captain a winning alliance, we thought our success was only spiritual support to us all. But we soon realized what we have encouraged in our community, after seeing the tangible effect of 5 new community teams opening, increased by 350& according to 2019, which made this our proudest moment, saw our work paying off.

To continue the sustainability of FIRST and its teams this year, we helped starting 1 FRC team, mentored 4 FLL and 2 FRC, and assisted to hundreds of FLL and FRC teams. Throughout the season, we gave workshops for rookie teams, recorded podcasts about their prospect problems, wrote quick guides, and many more. We are currently working on a different way to help them in times of COVID-19 under the name of “Rookie Video Calls.” While making these initiatives for rookie teams, we noticed that although they need support, they do not know how to get it. They essentially cannot find people or teams to help them. However, in the FIRST community, there are teams that could and are willing to help them, but the problem is they cannot reach each other. The best way to solve the problem would be to FIRST, matching the volunteer veteran and rookie teams in need to help them get over their problems. Sneaky Snakes and every one of our members would be happy to be the pioneer volunteers.

As a team, we value FIRST ethos and spread its message by doing projects & initiatives. 

As a new community team that does not get any support from institutions, we missed some essential things like funding, workplace, hand tools, etc. Throughout the season, we raised our own funding with grants and sponsorships, and still, we continue raising more income for our team’s other needs. In terms of the workplace, in the beginning, it was troublesome, yet now we dealt with it with the support from the Government. Currently, with the help of the Municipality of Şişli, we are purchasing hand tools for our new workplace. As a team, we value FIRST ethos and spread its message by doing projects & initiatives. One of our most effective projects – Our Seasonal Workshop Series- was being done at the Regional Coordinators office, but as we broaden our outreach, the place tends to be low on capacity. To solve this problem, we are searching for possible companies who can support us location-wise.