I’ve been following a few threads closely, ones like this:
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.