FIRST 2020-21 Season Update – Coronavirus Edition

After much discussion and consultation with the ST. Mary’s County Health Department, growingSTEMS has made some decisions about the 2020-2021 FIRST Season for our FRC, FTC, FLL ,and FLL Jr. programs. Given the constantly changing nature of the Coronavirus Pandemic, we will continue to review these decisions as the situation in our area changes.

First, we will not be hosting FLL Jr. for this year. We feel that we cannot adequately mitigate the risks associated with children of that age group and the postponement of that particular program causes the least impact for both students and our program.

We will also not be hosting First Lego League teams in the shop for this season. Once again, we feel that we cannot adequately mitigate the risks associated with children of that age group while allowing them to work in groups.  However, we will allow parents or mentors to borrow kits if they wish to run a small team. We will provide all the resources you need to do this as well as register the team. All FLL competitions in Maryland this year are virtual. 

Both the FTC and FRC teams will have a primarily virtual season. We do not yet know how competitions will work for these programs this year. However, it will be necessary for small groups from these teams to meet in person to accomplish some tasks. While we will not require students to meet in person, we realize that some may want to and we will need to take precautionary steps.

With this in mind, we reached out to the St. Mary’s Health Department who provided us with guidelines to safely re-open the facility to limited groups of people. We added some of our own best practices to this and have created our Coronavirus Guidelines which details our reopening plan. Highlights of the plan are below, but please review the guidelines in full if you have any plans of coming to the shop. 

  • Any activity that can be completed virtually should be completed outside of the shop via Discord or Google Meets. Sub-Team Mentors will invite students to these virtual meetings.
  • If an activity requires people to enter the shop, only those required to complete the task shall be there. 
  • No more than 10 people at once
  • No more than one sub-team at a time without prior approval.
  • No person who is sick (any illness) or had close contact with a sick person is allowed in the shop.
  • People Entering the Shop will be required to do the following
  • Wear an approved affective mask type at all times regardless of the ability to social distance. (No bandannas, masks with valves, or thin neck gaiters)
  • Maintain at least 6 feet of space between them and others whenever possible.
  • Wash or Sanitize Hands Regularly
  • All surface, equipment and tools will be disinfected between uses.
  • Any Person not willing to abide by our COVID-19 Policy will not be allowed into the shop until the pandemic ends.

While we are not yet ready to welcome students back today, we look forward to doing so in a few weeks. Before we return to the shop we will have a virtual meeting for everyone to go over these guidelines. In the meantime we will be working to get things set up and ready for a different but great season.

Expect to see an announcement sometime this week about registration for both FTC and FRC. If anyone is interested in running an FLL team at home, please reach out to our Executive Director – ejwood@growingstems.org