workshops require too much personal info?

So I was trying to sign up for “MathWorks Robot Autonomy and Control Workshop”, it seems pretty simple, it couldn’t be much more than a video conference or live stream.

However, while signing up for itself, I had to provide:

  1. My date of birth
  2. Phone number
  3. Country/state

While signing up for the event:

  1. Organization (I think means school here)
  2. Gender - And the only options here are ‘male’ and ‘female’. No option for other/non-binary; no option for don’t want to say.

I typically identify as ‘male’ but I don’t think forcing people into limited categories or to reveal information they really don’t want to reveal when there’s literally no point is a good idea.

  1. Address/Zip Code

This was all on top of normal stuff like name, email etc.

All of this for an online lecture. Just … why?
Thankfully, they don’t validate most of this info, so I can put in random words for the address, for example. But then what’s even the point in making the form field required?

Note: This post might seem super critical, but I don’t mean to be; I totally appreciate the work the RECF are doing in making robotics accessible to more people in a fun, competitive way. I’m just pointing out several easy to fix problems that their website currently has.


I’m assuming a concern falls under website/forum support, if not, please let me know to change it.


wow you’re right, they just must have forgotten to put blood type on there.


I believe the form was designed for in-person workshop events, where asking for this information would make more sense.

This however is just uncool, and really needs to be changed.


I agree that there is zero reason for this not to change. My question is has anybody asked(before now) for this change and, because I don’t know, what is the proper way to communicate this. Are the forums the best way to communicate something like this? the most appropriate method? IDK so I am asking for the community.

This category is perfectly fine.


Yes I have asked and have been told RECF is working on this internally. Not sure when it will roll out. The gender question was put the because program sponsors wanted to have demographic information for the communities being served.

Also GDC is making Game Manual gender neutral. I believe that is complete.


I’ve always been hopeful for a card from RECF on my birthday, but so far, nothing. It’s this Saturday, so I’ll report back if I get one :slight_smile:


I felt best to quickly check this. Just a simple search and depending on your view it could be considered gender neutral. There are a few cases the use of “he or she” and “his or hers”. This is missing a common pronoun, “they”, that would be more inclusive for anyone who identifies as other/non-binary. The counter point is that “they” could be ambiguous and confusing, which is the reason why in the past it wasn’t accepted as proper English. But languages change.

Definition of Student

  1. Student - A person is considered a Student if he or she meets both of the following criteria

Definition of Alliance Captain

The Alliance Captain invites available Teams to join his or her Alliance until the Alliance is formed.

From < T2 >

Once the Head Referee announces that his or her decision has been made final, the issue is over and no more appeals may be made

Long story short: A quick check turned into not being quick. And the game manual not completely gender neutral.

EDIT: as of the dec 7th game manual update the game manual should be gender neutral and a quick search seems to confirm that. :smiley:


Phone numbers have been used as a form of identification as only devices associated with the number would be able to verify you are you. But its kind of sensitive info honestly for the phone number. Country and date of birth are something alot of companies ask for why I dont know but its there for a reason. Address and zip code are normally for purchase reasons, but I dont know what anyone could be wanting it other than that.

1 Like

in this release - as far as I know, based on my communication with GDC about this, these remaining passages are fixed. Wait for last revision. A lot of this has to do with copy and paste and not updating from past manuals. They are aware and I am confident in next release of Game Manual should be good.

I know editing is hard, academic theses go through many revisions. Wide audience view of Game Manual happens a few times a season.


Darn, I guess I still don’t count as a student. You hate to see it.


Love to see it.


One more area to repair is RobotEvents that does not let you register a team without specifying # of male students and # of female students on team - and no option for “I have no clue, I just have students who want to do competitive robotics”. Change is coming.


I just say 50 of each and let that fly.


to be fair, this is for their statistics to see how they are doing on including all people and not just males. this data is used to get funding for more inclusive teams and clubs, so it is with good intention.

a good solution would probably be for them to ask for # of males and total # of people, so that they are getting the data they want while still being inclusive to every one.
(edit: the reason i picked males is because people who identify as male are the large majority of people in robotics, and asking this can get them the minority statistics they are wanting without forcing two genders)

I know this can be a sensitive subject for a lot of people, this is not meant to offend anyone or belittle anyone, if this offended you in any way, feel free to message me privately and i can change it/ delete it if needed, just please keep it civil on the forums.


I am not offended - but the topic of “gender” can not be solely limited to “male” or “female”, it is far more complex than that. What is the RECF asking in this question of how many male students and how many female students? Is it “what is your biological make up below the waist at birth?” Sorry, not your business, and certainly not something public school personnel should be sharing to outside entities freely without the student’s or parent consent. Moreover, school data is recognizing that “male” / “female” is not accurate below the waist is not a simple binary data point. Maybe it was meant to be “how do your students present themselves? male or female?”, nope that is has a whole spectrum of nuance… and you can go deeper into this and you realize, it should not be the RECF’s role to ask these questions in such a stark binary only form of the students participating in competition robotics, and certainly it is problematic for coaches/teachers to provide this information freely without asking themselves what harm can be caused to the student being label male / female without being asked.

Let’s switch to the other topic:

implicit in this statement - is the assumption there are just only two gender states “male” and the other one “female” based on the question asked by RECF on robotEvents. I see no “including all people”, you are forcing people to conform to one perception gender that is flawed on so many levels about world being just “Male” and other part of the universe offered is “female”. How is this including “all people”?

There will be an argument that outreach programs, such as “Girl Powered”, is empowering and getting to “real” inclusion of all students… In reality, what happens is you can marginalize a whole segments of the robotics community who does not identify with binary label of “boy”/“girl” and feels unrecognized or does not want to be identified as a specific label of “girl powered”, because they signed up to be part of robotic competition regardless of gender issue.

To be sure the universe is complex. I would hope RECF makes it simple again with team composition “how many students on your robotics team?” - that is the info EPs need to order the right amount for food for events. Alas, sponsors want so-called demographic information and it leads us to this thread topics “ … require too much personal info?”

Back to your original statement “I know this can be a sensitive subject for a lot of people.” That is a good point, and we should be open to discuss it in a thoughtful manner. I do believe that competitive robotics is a great opportunity for all students and should be made widely available to all. RECF has done a lot to make engineering opportunities to so many, and as an organization is very reflective about how they do things and continually improve opportunities year over year. I wish more organizations were open to such discussions.

I do wish to conclude that I work in a school district that made these discussions possible without offending, and students who are able to articulate their views freely. As a part of the tale end of the Boomer generation, this has not always been the case. I am thankful we are able to shine light on these topics.


I get they probably want the male/female ratio for research & demographic purposes… Would a potential solution be leaving the M/F boxes as is, but just adding a 3rd for total students on the team? That way whoever can get whatever demographics info they want, but you aren’t forced to put someone into the male or female box, you can just add them to the total count.

1 Like

No - some students willingly define themselves as other than M/F. By making M/F only you are excluding them from representation. So no really demographically correct if you want to do it right.


What I am going to say will definitely opens up a can of worms and potentially get myself into some backlash…

Let me say that I am inclusive - I mean… your sexual orientation is your personal choice. It will make no difference to me in the area of robotics.

But I think many people mixed up the terms - Gender and Sex ?
This is website gives a very good explanation on the differences.

Like it or not, most of us are borned with the Sex of either Male or Female, and very rare cases of intersex.

But it is our choice of what Gender we want to adopt - Man, Woman, non-binary… basically the entire spectrum.

So I guess if Robotevents change the term from Gender to Sex - then it may not be that controversial.

But back to the OP - yes… I do think they are over-collecting personal info for the workshops. It is definitely not the best practice in terms of personal data protection.


should we make a new topic for this? it is a bit off topic from the original thread, and seems like it would be best as its own topic

1 Like

I was thinking about that - I think the current topic is thoughtful and conversations have been really respectful and sensitive to topics discussed in relation to OP topic title. I think it is on-topic which is “too much personal info” for data gathering to register for event or team. If it gets to really broader question of inclusion in robotics, then a new topic (or a lot of them!) would be merited.