This one is for the teams...

I’ve been following a few threads closely, ones like this:
https://vexforum.com/t/judges-being-biased-towards-their-own-teams/20840/1
[https://vexforum.com/t/possible-award-regulation/20863/1

I told myself I was going to stay out of the conversation (as I’ve spent years on other robotics competition message board commenting on exactly the same kinds of conversations), but I’ve finally read enough that I feel compelled to say a few words.

First off, for those of you who may not know me, I’ve been involved in robotics competition and education with students for 11+ years in three separate communities, as well as having played a variety of roles in regional and national/international efforts related to robotics competition, education, and STEM in general.

I want you to know that I like awards a lot. Teams I have led/been a part of have won more then 40 of them - in all imaginable categories - and they have all created some memorable moments for some really great young people.

However, I also want you to know, I think the pursuit of awards - just for their own sake - is one of the most destructive and futile things a person, or team, or community can do. I’ve seen it in youth sports programs, I’m now seeing it in the robotics competition community, and I don’t like it - not even a little bit.

It is MUCH different to pursue improvement, consistency, excellence (the state of being, NOT the award with the same name), and high standards that all lead to giving your team the best possible opportunity at the external recognition. I’ve always wanted every one of my teams to understand the rules and prepare to the best of their ability to perform the best they can in all categories and I will never compromise that.

However, my teams will never hear me talk about the desire to WIN a specific award OR about what our “goals” are. They do hear me talk about high standards and preparing to perform at their best. At events, I’m the same. If the awards come, great … if they don’t, great. In EITHER case, afterwards at some point we’ll debrief, decide what we can improve upon, and move forward with that in mind. This year my rookie team (6 kids, 5 of six middle-school aged, one in 9th grade) entered two high school events won a build award, and was on the championship alliance both times. Those recent successes along with my previous decade have shown me that I think this approach is a pretty sound one … and it’s worked in rural and suburban settings, with both school-based and community-based teams, with all ages groups, and in all flavors of events.

Why not leave the reffing to the refs, judging processes to the judges, and the criteria to the criteria makers? If you want more of a say in it, then become one of them - I’m sure most places are dying for the help. Been there, done all of it, continue to do it when I can - rewarding in it’s own way, but most days it’s pretty thankless because your hear more complaints than you do thank yous.

Lastly, and most specifically, why on earth would ANY team, under the current 2011-12 VRC rules, ACTIVELY pursue an Excellence Award at a qualifying event AFTER they’ve already won an Excellence Award in the same year? I’ve thought about this for weeks now and I can only come up with two real reasons to do it - for the trophy itself and/or for the ego boost. Gee that’s not very flattering when you think about it, is it? Please don’t try to tell me you have concern about “lesser teams” qualifying and watering down Worlds competition because I can make an equally strong argument for not enough deserving teams getting in and thereby your winning team has less competition at Worlds. Both arguments are valid - neither can be fully proven.

Want/need more experience for your presentation team for Worlds in the judging process? Fine - go through the process the same, but inform the judges that you’ve already won an Excellence Award this year so please consider us for the other non-qualifying awards, but not this one. Orrrrrr how about visiting the other teams at the event, presenting to them to stay sharp and at the same time show them what an Excellence team does and help them to elevate their game? (PLEASE don’t tell me that these things aren’t done on this planet, because they are and I can tell you dozens of stories. No it may not be the cultural norm, but we are talking about our shining example teams, right?)

Now if your team pursues and wins a second (in a year, under the current rules) Excellence Award at a qualifier will I still shake your hand and congratulate you? ABSOLUTELY! Clearly you were a deserving recipient. However, if you ask me if I wanted to work with you or hire you, I might have a different answer.

Best wishes to everyone participating yet this year, especially at Worlds, and lets work on those internal motivators and focus on why we all REALLY do this a little bit more than the trophies themselves.

Namaste,
Kressly](https://vexforum.com/t/possible-award-regulation/20863/1)

I am not on any Vex VRC team, but in the past have Mentored a FRC Team, a Vex FTC Team, and more recently been on an Underwater ROV Team ( which placed 19th of 26 the year I was the Programmer, but the following year placed 3rd of 27, when I was not a member)…

Mistakes will be Made, and in the overall Odds of Things, if Truly Random, it will Balance Out. Biases can be present as well, tipping the Randomness factor, but a Good Panel of Judges will have a Mindset of being Unbiased for the sake of Fairness. It also helps to have Judges from other Areas ( both Physical and Operational ) be on the Judging Team.
Just think of any Sporting Event, the “Bad Calls” the Referees Made, or the Rule Violations that the Referees, Didn’t See… It can happen anytime there is a Competition… But in the end, it all Balances Out…

The Top Placement, or the Trophy, or the International Recognition can make you envious of the other Teams… But, as trite as it sounds, Your ALL Winners!!!

Your accomplishments as Team, just showing up with a Robot indicates that you Want More from Your Life, than sitting in front of your Big, Flat Screen, TV playing the X-Box ALL DAY LONG…

Listen to the Number of Mentors, that have stated they really didn’t know what they wanted to do beyond High School, until they discovered, FRC, FTC, VRC, Best, Botball, TSA, Trinity College Fire Fighting Contest or any of the other Event that promote Getting OFF your “Bums” and applying your Cognitive Thinking Skills to Solving a “Challenge”.
The “Challenge” might be a “Manufactured Problem”, but the Problem Solving Process and the Team Work, prepare you to look for “Real World Problems”, and using those Exact Same Skills, “Problem Solving and Team Work” to Solve “Real World Challenges”.

Can you Honestly Say, that Today, you are NOT a Better Person, than before you started Vex Robotics??? Think of all the Opportunities you have had, the People you have Met, and the Places you have Traveled, the Things you have Learned. The Ideas that you “Never Have Thought About, Before!!!”

You REALLY ARE, ALL WINNERS!!!

Disclaimer:
I don’t Work for IFI or Vex, I just “Buy their Stuff”, I work as an Embedded Programmer/Electrical Technician/Trouble Shooter/Problem Solver/Tech Support on Monitoring and Control Systems, used in Recreational Vehicles ( RV’s), and have done so for the past 10 year, more or less.
I don’t have a College Degree, but many College Credits. I recently Returned to College to pursue an Electrical Engineering Degree, after being Laid Off from my Job, to which I have been rehired, and am working on my EE Degree Part Time, now…

Hear, hear and AMEN to the all of the above!

And in order to avoid making this solely an, “I agree, me too” post, I have a suggestion.

Our team typically only competes in 2, maybe 3 events a year. However, I would consider it time well spent if one of our events was a volunteer only activity for our team – our team students and parents fully staff an event and don’t compete at all. Then, 1-2 other events, the other teams take their turn as “hosts” and we get to compete as “guests”.

Would it not make sense for leagues that have 5 or 6 events a year to request (or require) that teams pitch in as volunteers for one of them? Whether league points are assigned for volunteering or not, I think that having students integrally involved in everything from robot inspections to food sales is its own learning experience. For small teams, perhaps several of them could be paired together, while larger organizations with multiple teams could run their own show.

I’ve had students serve as “ref’s assistants” at first – they serve as a technical consultant to an adult who has the authority to be “bad guy” but less technical knowledge than the student. The students then transition to full ref when they’ve demonstrated sufficient maturity and ability to “take the heat.”

I’ve “strongly encouraged” (aka drafted) my Vex students to volunteer at the local FLL tournament (robotics for elementary/middle school students). I’ve had gracious students, and ones who were less so. The ones who are gracious are invariably those who have served as volunteers – they know what it feels like to stand in the other shoes.

Thanks for the Kudos, and Thanks for the Additional Ideas…

That is a fantastic idea… Rather than focus solely on the Competing Part, look at the Whole Process, and realize that Organizational Skills are good for more than just knowing where the Keeps Nuts are…

Or, Smaller Teams could form a Co-Op, to function like a Bigger Team to run a show… Since they won’t be competing in the Matches, it would be like an Alliance… :wink: Plus, that fits well with going places and meeting new people…

That is like a “Mentor the Mentor” program… When I mentioned Judges from “other Areas”, I was thinking of Science and Technical People, like a Physicist from a local College, or someone who uses Machinery to Construct or Assemble things, people who would understand the General Concepts of the Game, but need the Assistance of a “technical consultant” to be effective Judges…

Does California give School Kids “credit” for Community Service??? They do in Oregon, and I would think that as a Volunteer for a FLL Tournament would meet that “credit”…

Rich Kressly, I just want to add on to your Excellence Award question you have. My team is associated with team 1200A Syntax Error. Whenever we go to a competition in Illinois or in Wisconsin, they will win the Excellence Award because if you know who they are, they are a really good team, and I mean REALLY good team. Probably one of the best in the US or World. I think if there is a really good team there and they have a cool design, good engineering notebook, good program and autonomous, then that team will most likely be nominated and/or even win the Excellence Award. It just all depends on who is at the competition and what they have going along with their robot.

thanks for the compliment Hen Janko, but teams are not ranked in the world as best or a top team until worlds is completed. we won 3 excellence awards in 5 tournaments so it is not a guarantee. some people think it is guaranteed that a certain team may win, but it is not. it goes to the team that is best qualified to win the award. we were 3 times this year and we werent 2 times this year so. the excellence award is based off of a number of categories besides the ones that you listed.

There’s no formal volunteer credit, but certain classes (like Leadership) have a public service requirement, and I’ve gladly signed off for students on that when they ask.

The students “get” a number of things for their service – free lunch, a day with their friends/teammates and fun STEM professionals, and experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Those who serve as judges learn what makes a good interview (and what doesn’t) by seeing a wide variety of teams, and learn to assess/evaluate those qualities. That’s good learning for Vex interviews, but even moreso for life. They learn public speaking/customer service/problem-solving skills, and they have something to put on their college applications/resumes. If they ask for one, they get a (usually;)) good recommendation from me.

Most of all they get that intangible satisfaction that comes from being a volunteer and making someone else’s day. That makes their day (and mine). At the end of the day, most of them say, “That was fun – when can we do it again?”

In response to the OP’s (somewhat rhetorical) question of why would someone actively pursue a second/etc Excellence Award:
Sponsorship: it looks good on a track record to have multiple “big” awards.

My personal opinion about excellence awards and who they go to varies depending on the situation; how good is the team who hasn’t qualified, how many tournaments are remaining, etc.

//Andrew

I guess that does make more sense, mbrunn.

Lots of good stuff in your post. Your argument might be stronger without
the irony of advocating not desiring to WIN a specific award as a sound and successful approach because of your decade of successes of winning awards.

dont say how knowledgable you are just let how you sound let the knowledge be assumed it is annoying and a waste to say for those of you that dont know me i do this for 11 years

[https://vexforum.com/t/possible-award-regulation/20863/1

I told myself I was going to stay out of the conversation (as I’ve spent years on other robotics competition message board commenting on exactly the same kinds of conversations), but I’ve finally read enough that I feel compelled to say a few words.

First off, for those of you who may not know me, I’ve been involved in robotics competition and education with students for 11+ years in three separate communities, as well as having played a variety of roles in regional and national/international efforts related to robotics competition, education, and STEM in general.

I want you to know that I like awards a lot. Teams I have led/been a part of have won more then 40 of them - in all imaginable categories - and they have all created some memorable moments for some really great young people.

However, I also want you to know, I think the pursuit of awards - just for their own sake - is one of the most destructive and futile things a person, or team, or community can do. I’ve seen it in youth sports programs, I’m now seeing it in the robotics competition community, and I don’t like it - not even a little bit.

It is MUCH different to pursue improvement, consistency, excellence (the state of being, NOT the award with the same name), and high standards that all lead to giving your team the best possible opportunity at the external recognition. I’ve always wanted every one of my teams to understand the rules and prepare to the best of their ability to perform the best they can in all categories and I will never compromise that.

However, my teams will never hear me talk about the desire to WIN a specific award OR about what our “goals” are. They do hear me talk about high standards and preparing to perform at their best. At events, I’m the same. If the awards come, great … if they don’t, great. In EITHER case, afterwards at some point we’ll debrief, decide what we can improve upon, and move forward with that in mind. This year my rookie team (6 kids, 5 of six middle-school aged, one in 9th grade) entered two high school events won a build award, and was on the championship alliance both times. Those recent successes along with my previous decade have shown me that I think this approach is a pretty sound one … and it’s worked in rural and suburban settings, with both school-based and community-based teams, with all ages groups, and in all flavors of events.

Why not leave the reffing to the refs, judging processes to the judges, and the criteria to the criteria makers? If you want more of a say in it, then become one of them - I’m sure most places are dying for the help. Been there, done all of it, continue to do it when I can - rewarding in it’s own way, but most days it’s pretty thankless because your hear more complaints than you do thank yous.

Lastly, and most specifically, why on earth would ANY team, under the current 2011-12 VRC rules, ACTIVELY pursue an Excellence Award at a qualifying event AFTER they’ve already won an Excellence Award in the same year? I’ve thought about this for weeks now and I can only come up with two real reasons to do it - for the trophy itself and/or for the ego boost. Gee that’s not very flattering when you think about it, is it? Please don’t try to tell me you have concern about “lesser teams” qualifying and watering down Worlds competition because I can make an equally strong argument for not enough deserving teams getting in and thereby your winning team has less competition at Worlds. Both arguments are valid - neither can be fully proven.

Want/need more experience for your presentation team for Worlds in the judging process? Fine - go through the process the same, but inform the judges that you’ve already won an Excellence Award this year so please consider us for the other non-qualifying awards, but not this one. Orrrrrr how about visiting the other teams at the event, presenting to them to stay sharp and at the same time show them what an Excellence team does and help them to elevate their game? (PLEASE don’t tell me that these things aren’t done on this planet, because they are and I can tell you dozens of stories. No it may not be the cultural norm, but we are talking about our shining example teams, right?)

Now if your team pursues and wins a second (in a year, under the current rules) Excellence Award at a qualifier will I still shake your hand and congratulate you? ABSOLUTELY! Clearly you were a deserving recipient. However, if you ask me if I wanted to work with you or hire you, I might have a different answer.

Best wishes to everyone participating yet this year, especially at Worlds, and lets work on those internal motivators and focus on why we all REALLY do this a little bit more than the trophies themselves.

Namaste,
Kressly](https://vexforum.com/t/possible-award-regulation/20863/1)

I’ll agree, wholeheartedly, that robotics competitions are not “about the awards”. On the other hand, I can also say that it is nicer to win an award than not, and that awards do help raise the team’s profile in the school and community. Philosophically, the awards shouldn’t matter much… but practically they do have an impact. (That is why we are making an effort here on the west coast to hand out a few extra awards at every event this year.)

Unless VEX/RECF chooses to bring in a rule clearly stating that a team may win a maximum of one Excellence Award per season however, then I would wholeheartedly encourage teams to put their best foot forward at every competition. They should make their best effort on the court, and they should make their best presentation to the judges. If there is an issue surrounding world qualifying spots, then that is an issue for VEX and RECF to solve, not for individual teams to solve by being less than their best.

Not because it is about winning the award, but because it is about being the best that you can be.

Jason

Sometimes it helps to give your background information when trying to provide your perspective on a matter like this. Rich Kressly is a very well respected member of the robotics community, and frankly, I find it to be very rude that you would spend time just to post this. Keep it to yourself if you find it annoying.

Back on topic, I agree with a lot of Rich’s points. I don’t want to see the excellence award become what the Chairman’s Award has become in FRC. Teams just doing things to win the award, i.e. “this will look great for the Chairman’s Award” - in my opinion, that’s absolutely the wrong way to do things.

You shouldn’t participate in this competition just to win an award, you do it to learn new concepts & have new experiences - to learn as much as you possibly can. That should be your goal. Continuous learning, continuous team improvement, learning how to reason and formulate ideas into a design and refine that design into something that is real. If you do these things and document them well, you’ll already have a strong entry for an excellence award anyway.

Think about it this way - if you’re in high school, in less than four years you’ll probably be trying to go to college. A university is going to be way more interested in the process you went through and the skills you have gained by being a part of this robotics competition. They won’t care about which awards you won.

You should strongly reconsider lecturing people about being “annoying” on the forums, especially someone as well regarded as Rich Kressly.

In what world is your post not considered rude?

-John

I was merely acknowledging that people on these forums probably don’t know me as well, as I’m not as active here as I have been elsewhere. I knew I was providing some strong opinion that isn’t necessarily mainstream type of thought that would appear on these forums much, thus I offered a little background so folks might consider my point of view a little more closely because I was more or less “challenging” teams to perhaps think a little differently for the benefit of themselves and of the entire global community.

Perhaps someday you’ll have (or will someday realize you have already had) the opportunity to benefit from some of the contributions I have been fortunate enough to make to the VEX world and you may see things differently.

In the end, take the advice … or don’t. Either way, I intended no malice, harm, or even to annoy.

Namaste and good luck with all you do.

-Rich

tabor473 im sorry but i think your out of line by ripping on people like this, he is just stating the facts. if you have a problem dont read about it.

I’ve been dumbfounded by some of the negative personal comments directed toward Rich, and can only surmise that as Rich says, he’s not as visible on this forum as some of us “noisy posters.” But his lack of up-front visibility doesn’t in any way diminish his stature.

Most people in Vex are very familiar with the contributions of people like Karthik and John V-Neun, but what many people don’t know is that around the time that these guys were students, Rich Kressly was one of the pivotal mentors who was contributing to both the knowledge and the organizational structure that allowed students of that era to grow and achieve in the robotics world, which at that time was dominated by FIRST. People immersed in FIRST know Rich Kressly and the contributions he has made to robotics.

In the Vex arena, Rich continues to play pivotal roles (though somewhat less conspicuous ones). In addition to the teams he manages, he also has served in the often thankless role as ref at VRC World Championships. That role isn’t given to “just anyone” and connotes a certain level of knowledge and expertise that few of us can claim. And I’m sure that there are other leadership roles that he plays as well that I don’t know about.

Many newcomers to the Vex program (VRC/RECF) don’t know (or care) much about FIRST, but what should be known is that FIRST was the springboard that initially launched Vex, and the Vex program has greatly benefited from the expertise of the people who were and continue to be trained under it. If we were to remove the FIRST-trained and affiliated people from the Vex world, it would be a bleak and desolate landscape, and I daresay that the Vex world not exist as it does today. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and Rich is one of those.

You may not agree with his point of view, but personal attacks are uncalled for.

Well this isn’t the same at all California high schools but at my school each student has to complete a certain number of volunteer hours per year to be able to graduate.

Members of our club were able to fill a lot of their hours through robotics this year because we attended a on 11/12/11 and came back to Dublin to set up for an FLL event we were hosting on 11/13/11. A few of us stayed until about 11:30 setting up and then arrived at 6:30 the next morning to finish setting up. We didn’t leave again until about 7pm.

Even though we get volunteer hours for many of the things we do in robotics we really just spend our time doing what we enjoy. I would do it even if the we didn’t have to meet a requirement. Many, if not all, of the members of the club would do the same.

Hey Ryan, Lots of good points in your post, but this one above caused the synapses in my brain to follow the train of thought below:

An award is a metric, judged to a rubric that is defined to motivate the behavior desired by the award giver.

As a cognitive human, (rather than a rat in a maze, looking for the cheese),
you are free to set your own personal rubric for life, and only participate in those awards that align with your own goals.

On the other hand, as a player in the political process of setting organizational goals, you are equally free to lobby the organization to promote your own personal rubric.

If you are just bothered by others doing admirable actions for base motives (like awards), rather than lofty ones, it may help to consider awards as training wheels for the unenlightened; see also some discussion under google searches for “thought follows action”

I’ll make sure to do that, I understand the thought process you listed and I also understand that many teams use awards to motivate their students to aspire and achieve. I would just hope that mentors & teams that place such a strong focus on awards later help the students realize what they’ve learned while striving to win those awards. I’m often blown away by how much our freshmen students learn in a year’s time using the VEX system & competition.