Must do Skills to get Excellence Award?

I was under the impression that a team must make an attempt at skills in order to be considered for the Excellence Award. I always encourage my teams to do skills so they can be in the running for the award. This weekend a team was awarded the excellence award that had not made an attempt at skills. How common is that? Is my understanding that skills must be attempted wrong? The team was ranked 7th after qualifying rounds.

Our recommendations to our teams is do both skills just because you will have a better chance at winning the excellence award. There is no requirement to win excellence award other than turning in a engineering notebook.

Reading through both the Judge Guide and the Awards appendix, both list skills as a recommendation for a criterion for the Excellence Award. Furthermore, the Judge Guide also recommends using an Excellence Award Calculator, which has a point designated for skills.

It’s funny because a long time ago in my VEX Career in VA we use to not give out Excellence Awards at events if a team didn’t meet all the criteria, of which skills was a requirement.

Agree, Oscar. Perhaps the rubric makes it look like you don’t have to do skills to be eligible and other states may not do the same thing - but I could swear I have heard it announced at Virginia tournaments that teams that do not attempt skills were not eligible for the excellence award.

Excellence Award
The Excellence Award is the highest award presented in the VEX Robotics Competition. This award is
presented to a team that exemplifies overall excellence in building a high quality VEX robotics program.
This team is a strong contender in numerous award categories. Excellence winners must have an
engineering notebook. Key criteria:
 Design Award ranking
 Tournament Qualification Matches ranking
 Robot Skills Challenge ranking
 Other Judged Award rankings
 High quality VEX robotics program
Some events may offer two Excellence Awards, one for the top overall Middle School team and one for
the top overall High School team, if they have at least ten (10) teams in each group.
A team does not have to win the competition to receive the Excellence Award, but must at least be
competitive in the Judge’s rankings.

This is from a pdf found at

We have gone through this before at tournaments in AZ, but at a certain point you are giving the excellence to a team with an inferior robot, judging presentation, performance, and notebook simply because they did not do skills, which may not be the best route to take when judging.

I understand your point, Justin M, but I have a feeling that there were other worthy teams at the tournament that actually did skills. My team got a perfect score on their engineering notebook with notes from the judges on how great the did in their interview, how knowledgeable they were. etc (and we were the only team that scored even one point in programming skills - we got 8). I’m not saying my team should have gotten it, but I’ll bet that if we got that feedback there were others just as good.

I can confirm that you do not need skills. At the last competition, we didn’t even attempt skills due to our sister teams freaking out and demanding all of our trans-match time. However, we still were awarded he excellence award.

There is a matrix that SHOULD be used but often is not used. If the matrix is used, it is possible, but not likely, for a team to win the excellence award without having a skills score. Depending on the size of the tournament, you get the same points in the matrix for skills so long as you are in the top certain number of scores in skills. That number varies depending on how many teams there are.

we got excellence at the last tournament we went to and we got like 14th in driver skills, and didn’t do programming.

Excellence is supposed to be the complete package.

If you are using the RECF rubric, not doing skills is a large point deduction and hard but not impossible to overcome.

It is really in looking at what the competition around you on that day was doing. Did they even have design notebooks? Did no one do programming skills? So if the top set of teams qualifying did not do an interview/skills, those points are a wash.

Were skills not open long enough to let everyone run? Sometimes that throws the skills out the window in judging and allowances can be made there.

I am the coach of the team in question and I would like to present a few facts.

Looking at the judge’s guide:

The Excellence Award is the highest award presented in the VEX Robotics Competition. This award is
presented to a team that exemplifies overall excellence in building a high quality VEX robotics program.
This team is a strong contender in numerous award categories. Excellence winners must have an
engineering notebook.

Teams are given points towards the Excellence Award in the following categories:
 Design Award (up to 1 point possible)
 Tournament Qualification Matches Ranking (up to 1 point possible)
 Robot Skills Challenge Ranking (up to 1 point possible)
 Judged performance in all other award categories (up to 4 points possible)
Using this wide range of criteria, the Excellence Award will be presented to the team who excels in all
areas of VEX Robotics. With many tournaments offering a state or regional championship qualifying
spot to the Excellence Award winner during the current season, we recommend the following
calculations be used to narrow down the field of Excellence Award contenders at larger local events:

How to Use the Calculator
Team numbers of the top 5 candidates for the Design Award (or top 25% of teams with Engineering
Notebooks, if greater than 5) are entered in the first column. Teams are then assigned points using the
categories below based upon their performance. The total points for each team are then added to
determine the top 2-3 teams.

  1. A Design Award Ranking point is earned for finishing in top 5 Design Award finalists. (one point
  2. A QR Ranking point is earned for finishing in top 8 of qualifying matches (one point available)
  3. A RS Ranking point is earned for finishing in the top 10 of the Robot Skills challenge. Each
    team’s top score from the Programming Skills and Driving Skills challenges will be added
    together to determine Robot Skills Score. Events with less than 15 teams participating in the
    robot skills challenge should only award a RS Ranking point to teams finishing in the top 5 of the
    robot skills contest (one point available)
  4. Judge Ranking points awarded for every Judged award for which team is finalist (up to 4 points
    available, one point given for each Judged award for which a team is considered finalist)

No where does it say that Skills are required to win the excellence award, only that an engineering notebook is required. Skills are 1 point on the calculator out of 7 possible.

The team you are questioning did an outstanding job at Saturday’s competition.

They finished in 7th place and had a perfect score on their engineering notebook. Their notebook is superb. I coached a team that won the Design award at Worlds for middle school last year and I believe this particular team in question has done an even better job than that team. I had multiple teams at the event that received perfect scores on their notebooks and interviews so there is no way of knowing who received the design award ranking points on the excellence calculator for being in the top 5. Perfect scores alone do not guarantee this point.

The team had 20 autonomous points out of 24 possible, that doesn’t happen by chance at an early event where so few middle school teams even had an autonomous program working. It is true, this team missed skills, if they did they would have easily been in the top 10 based on their performance on the field. It was an oversight on their part, but that doesn’t say that are any less than an excellent team. Obviously they were able to overcome it by being considered in other judged areas for the excellence award. I believe the judges saw their on field performance when they watched their matches and took that into consideration.

I am extremely proud of this team and the excellent sportsmanship and professionalism they displayed at the event. I received numerous compliments from the volunteers from the Head Ref on down. To see their award being publicly and privately criticized and questioned is disturbing. As coaches we need to respect the decisions that were made by the judges at the event and know that they used the calculator as it was intended, took everything into consideration, deliberated and made the best decision possible.

To answer your original question, skills are not required to win excellence. Nowhere in the REC documentation does it state that nor was it stated at the event, only highly recommended.

As their coach, you should be very proud of all your teams. By all indications, you are an excellent coach and it shows in the quality of your teams and program. My original post was not was saying that your team was not deserving of an award. It was simply questioning what I have learned was a given in Virginia tournaments - that teams that did not participate in skills challenges were not eligible for the excellence award. It has been stated at numerous tournaments that I have attended and I have been led to believe and have told my team as much. All I was trying to do was get clarification.

You provide some very useful insight in your email into the judges thinking. However, as a participant in the event, I had no insight into how the judges select a winning team. When the award was announced, they read from the script and provided no additional information for their award. In some tournaments I have been involved, the judges add some specific information. Since it was so unusual for this to occur, it would have been very useful for the judges to point out why the decision was made.

To be clear, I did not publicly or privately critisize the award. I was simply asking a question based on my knowledge of the process in Virginia. I am sorry that I have caused you such grief and will apologize in person the next time I see you.

Editted to add: All the kids work really hard and would like to know what they need to do to win an award or get recognition. Just to emphasize - when the judges just read the script for an award, it does not provide any useful information to the other teams on how they can improve in order to be in contention next time. It would be so useful if the judges would jot down 4 or five points that really set the winner apart to give something for the other teams to strive to. Especially since it appears that many teams get getting perfect scores on their engineering notebooks and it may come down to a qualitative decision rather than a quantitative decision in order to break ties. I always really appreciate hearing the judges say “this team’s design notebook …” and a description of what made it good and what set it apart. Lots of times when I hear that, I think “ooohh, we didn’t do that. I can see why they won.” Or in this case, if the judges had just said, " although this team did not participate in the skills challenges, the following three things set them apart from the other teams (a), (b), ©." This year, we have incorporated many things into our engineering notebooks after hearing past award feedback - so it it very worthy.

From my experience in VEX, it isn’t required that you compete in the Skills Challenge. However, teams that finish within the top teams for the skills challenge I think have a better chance at winning.