Design Award Disappointment

Will do! Thanks so much for the advice. I guess after three years stumbling through coaching this stuff I need commit to this vex thing.

This is not necessarily true in all areas. Perhaps the judges award has evolved to this in your area, but where I am from, the judges read the description of the award and use that as a guideline. Nowhere in the description of the judges award does it say anything about being a second place design award or even that a team needs an engineering notebook to get one.


Thank you for this new information, in my area it normally appears to be a second place winner.

The description of the judges award leaves it wide open to the judges interpretation. I really like giving the judges award out as a kind of inspiration/aspiration award. For an up and coming team to let them know they have a special attribute that the judges noticed and that they should stick around and continue to improve.


That is the same as my area. It is basically just a second place notebook, and really good driving, and just all around excellence, but not good enough for the excellence award.

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It can be very disheartening for the coach and the team. My first year as an assistant coach, I focused intensively on the design process which yields a better robot. That is why the awards are there to encourage it. The journal is a process that is documented and yes, a good robot helps but it is not the only requirement. My first year, students wrote in pencil which was my fault, but that alone could have prevented them from winning. Remember, Excellence, is supposed to be decided before finals, so the best team may well not win Excellence. It requires a great journal and a competitive team/robot. Our teams have routinely won Excellence at all the past two years competitions in our region, including states. The process, follow the rubric. It helps judges check off the boxes. Remember, design is iterative. Reflect on problems, think of solutions, build the new design, and test it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. No secret to a good design process or documentation.


Echoing much of what is here in the thread, but encouraging you to see it from the judges perspective. They go into a room and look at notebooks first. They pick out the most developed 25% or so (scored by rubric) and those teams become the candidates for the Excellence and Design Awards. If there are multiple judges, these chosen teams are given to a specific pair of judges, and then the rest of the judges divide up the remaining teams for interviews. Because interviews are in the pits mostly, judges don’t see many teams actually play matches. It is stressful to try to get all the interviews done before the time deadline.
Once the judges have the candidates ranked for Excellence and Design based on notebook and interview, they look at their performance in Robot Skills and wherever they are currently ranked in teamwork challenge. There is a cut off percentage for each of these categories. (So if the skills cut off is 8th place, and your team is in 15th, you move to the bottom of the Excellence/Design ranking). If there are any notes from referees for behavior, this would be considered here too. The Excellence and Design ranking is adjusted again. Usually, but not always, teams with the best notebooks rank somewhere near the top Qualifying Match results. To me, this means the notebook must really help the design process.
To summarize, if your notebook is not impressive, you are cut out of consideration very quickly.
Not all regions have the same system, but Worlds (2 years ago when I judged) had a somewhat similar system.
Best way to figure out how to teach the notebook is to volunteer to judge at an event. So enlightening!!
Hope that helps.


Thanks so much for this. I didn’t want to make a stink. I only wanted to learn so I can help my kids next year.

Very helpful to consider things this way! I was sure I didn’t have the full picture. I’ll have to do some reading or even better, volunteer as a judge!

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Also keep in mind that participation is based on age. Check the manual for age requirements. If they have not aged out, they can continue to participate even into HS. And if they have aged out, consider VRC as the next step in their development.

You should also plan on being successful at multiple levels. There are many awards and sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way you were expecting. In the finals, any alignment can win. Widen your scope. Prepare for the Skills Challenge. You have a pretty good idea of what you need to win by looking at past results. Provide an awesome notebook for Design and Excellence. Drive like a pro for Teamwork Challenge. Do your best in all and while keeping your eyes on the rubrics. Or better yet, make the kids read the rubrics! Older kids know how to read! They should learn how to win. There is a road map to success and they should be using it. You do not have to spoon feed them every bit of knowledge. If they want it, they’ll put the work in. But you can show them where they need to look.

The awards system has changed so one team cannot win everything. It’s not like a couple years ago when our 2 teams pulled in 30+ awards. Prepare MULTIPLE teams in all aspects of the program including online challenges and you will see success spread to more children.

And most importantly, don’t do it all yourself. You’ll get burned out. Don’t let everything ride on your shoulders. Pass on responsibilities to others - especially the kids. Let the parents get in on the fun. This is a great activity for parents and kids to share in the joy of everything in this program. But make sure to train them to step back. Parents (me included) want to help their kids with everything. This program is about getting them started, letting them go, and watching as they learn. At least that’s my understanding.

Take the leap and put on your own event. Go through the training. Have parents go through the training. Get help from your neighboring clubs. Your club’s success is better for all others in the state and in the region. If you need direct help, I’m here for you. LD from ROV