Unfair Judged Awards at Worlds?

This week my team attended 2017 Vex Robotics 10 Year Anniversary World Championships. Before getting into it I would like to say that personally, my team had a very positive experience at Worlds, especially compared to TSA Vex events, as the competition was run well, as it usually is. This year was my team’s final year competing and I would have to say it ended on a very high note. With that being said, we, as well as many other teams, felt there were issues in terms of the allocation of judged awards.

After seeing many of the award results I will admit, much of the Vex community is disappointed. I am not here to argue that we deserved an award we didn’t receive or anything of that nature; I’m just concerned that awards weren’t necessarily given out to the most deserving and well qualified teams.

There were many examples of this from across all divisions and awards, so I don’t exactly want to go into too much detail, but there are a few examples that really stood out.

One of many examples found from within my division was the Think Award. According to Awards Appendix:

According to this definition, how did the recipient of this award only earn 4 APs (with a possibility of 40) over the course of 10 matches? I don’t understand how an autonomous that only worked one time is “consistent and reliable”. At first I was shocked, considering we were at a competition where teams had some very impressive autonomous codes, and many had as high as 32 APs. To look for an explanation I checked skills scores, and came to find out said team didn’t even run programming skills, and only had a season high score of a whopping 6 points in programming skills (you read that right). Giving away trophies to such unqualified teams really takes away the awards value, making them seem more like participation awards. This really disincentivizes the need for teams to make an effort towards the awards if they’re just given away frivolously.

The next point I would like to bring up is about the clear cut favoritism to girls teams. This year at worlds there was a clear focus placed on “Girl Powered” and girls in stem, which I think is great way to attract girls into a male dominated competition. However, after sitting through a very long winded feminism speech by the president of RECF, many teams are beginning to ask if having female participants on their team, or all girls teams have an advantage going into judging. If Vex Robotics and the RECF were truly about equal opportunity, they would give the awards to the most qualified teams, not just ones with females in attempt to increase female involvement. RECF has mentioned a goal in which they hope to achieve a 50/50 split and eliminate the gender gap by 2020; they will achieve this at the rate they are demeaning males.

This point provides a possible explanation to how the excellence award was handed to a team ranked 68th in skills and lost in division quarterfinals. Not to undermine the accomplishments of this team, but I sympathise for the many teams who have grinded all year, to go to worlds and not be recognized, and to lose to a team who placed 17th in their division. For example there are teams I feel were very deserving of the award, including but not limited to 6135 (who won Excellence at Create U.S. open), and 6430 Trinity Dragons out of my home state of Florida. Both these teams had a very strong showing at worlds, ranking high in all categories. The Bruins made it all the way to round robin, as well as skills finals. Trinity Dragons also made it into skills finals, and ranked first in their division. I am aware that there are many other factors to the Excellence award (notebook, online challenges, etc.), but I hope you can understand how from an outsider’s perspective this just doesn’t add up.

As I reach the the end of the long road of my VRC career, I would like to say that this competitive platform has taught me a lot of lessons I will use for the rest of my life. I would like to add that I am grateful for all the opportunities provided to me through competing in robotics over the years and all the long lasting friendships I have made as a result. I hope Vex and the RECF is listening to what we as a community have to say, and takes it into account in the future. In the future I hope to see awards given based on team ability, and not have such a weight on gender bias or the team’s background.

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I agree

For the Think Award, these winners of the award could have still had clearly written, well organized code that performed perfectly every time and been considered consistent.

As it takes two to tango, it typically takes two to win an autonomous at the World playing field. It may not have been their fault, but they may have still deserved this award.

For this portion, I could agree. Even at a local level teams are now being prompted to let judges know how girls are involved in their team, and we have been instructed to make sure girl involvement is clear at the judging interviews. I also heard about teams on the wait list that were female-dominated being picked over other teams to participate at Worlds, though that could have been a rumor.

This was just one of many examples, but contrary to what you’re saying I feel 10 opportunities is plenty to prove yourself

I feel like this is more a symptom of our drive to encourage girls to participate in the STEM Field rather than something that is exclusive to VRC. Similar to how an all girls team can win an award simply because of their demographic rather than quality. It seems there are higher institutions who will let in an unqualified female student over a qualified male student simply to raise diversity statistics.

Now that’s not to say this isn’t fair. I, personally, am willing to bite the bullet if it means that girls feel they have an equal chance at winning and succeeding in the STEM world (whether this is true or not is up for debate).

TLDR: Addressing the gender gap in a way that encourages girls, while not discouraging boys is something the STEM community has to face as a whole, and is not limited to the VEX Robotics Competition.

I’m not going to comment on if 323G should or shouldn’t have gotten Excellence, as I know nothing about the team or excellence judging, so doing so wouldn’t be productive, but if anyone is interested they have a webpage with info on the team:

There, they also link to their engineering notebook:

(Personally, I feel the notebook seems lacking compared to notebooks other winning teams have posted, but there might be more we don’t know about)

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Is 323G an all girls team like it says on the website (that might be out of date - been there done that, no problem)? I thought it was a boy and a girl that went up?

I certainly hope RECF isn’t favoring female teams. That takes so much away from those who won and those who worked hard and didn’t win. I sincerely feel bad for 323G that we are having this discussion and I hope there is no substance to it.

As a two man all boys team, I have long given up on judged awards. So much work is expected for the design notebook and online challenges (for worlds) that it is not possible for a small team to compete without taking away from their actual robot building.
I have also seen the bias toward all girls teams and have personally been to several competitions where no judged awards were given to teams without girls. I also have been on teams with girls before and felt a bias for awards the other way. This is a big problem because it both discourages boys entering the program as well as taking away from the success of girls teams who compete at a high level.

I believe that the judged awards have lost a lot of respect in the vex community and that they should be used more as a tool to encourage new teams (I know that build award I got at my first competition hooked me) and less as a reward for high performing teams because they are no longer awarded as such.

By the way, to 9920a, it was a pleasure competing with you at worlds. You can add yourself to that list of teams that deserved awards.

I just want to throw out the fact that there was a very clear team in our division with an extremely well written auton that was also very consistent, 1010x, who had a 2 second quickcube, blocked for a significant portion of auton, then proceeded to clear the rest of their side. I can also speak for the organization of their code, which looked pretty good as I read over their shoulder as their alliance in division elimination.

To be quite honest, and as @Highwayman sort of touched on, I do not feel that it is any of our places to be discussing who should, or should not have won awards. I believe that the VEX community should put some trust and faith in the REC Foundation, as they do encourage judges to make the best decision based on a range of criteria.

Here is what I would like to say about 323G and Cornerstone Robotics: As a student and competitor within Indiana robotics, I can certainly speak to the fact that 323G is a hard working team, who puts forth good robots and amazing competition. All of the 323(Cornerstone Robotics) teams are respectful, sportsmanlike, and have a clear dedication to engineering and robotics. I would like to congratulate 323G(R.I.O.T.) on a wonderful season ending with a World Championship excellence award.

I 100% agree. She earned it.

I believe that the original post in this thread was aimed not at bringing down 323g, or any other team for that matter, but to try to bring attention to the Vex Robotics judging system as a whole. As previously stated, Vex has been trying to bring more girls into STEM, which is a great thing; however, when bringing more girls to compete in Vex is done by favoring them in the judged awards, something needs to be said. Robots/teams should be judged by their quality, not by who is on the team.

There is many factors in this that are not necessarily known first the engineering notebook might not be the same one turned in at worlds second we don’t know how the interview went with the judges they might of seen something that made them stand out lastly please look up the criteria for excellence Award at worlds its given to the overall best program and its not given to an individual team if you check awards on robotevents the team that won it was 323 not 323g. Lets not try to over shadow the teams that deserve better they are World Championships on that note Congratulations to all 323 Teams and any team that competed at VEX Worlds 2017

Lol I know of some teams in our district that do exactly this. Teams have already thought and taken action on the idea of having girls on their team just to increase chances of winning related awards. The worst part is, it’s definitely working.

EDIT: At least it’s evident at the local and regional competitions we’ve went to. Not too sure about how it stacks up at worlds.

Not to get into politics but…

One question:
Is part of being an “Excellent” team giving equal opportunity to all?
Or in other words:
Does giving people that are not normally seen as equals and opportunity to join the biggest robotics competition in the world make your team a better team?

Maybe it isn’t just about the robot and the notebook. Maybe it has also to do with community and giving equal opportunities to others as a team. Maybe part of what makes a team great is this.

Just a thought.

At this point, I think most of the women who have STEM potential in the areas where VEX operates largely enough to have an impact are in STEM if they want to be. You can argue that our culture funnels men more into STEM fields than women, and this creates a state of inequality. I would agree with that, and perhaps it is a problem but perhaps it isn’t, if everyone involved is happy and we have enough engineers. But the solution is not something that can be artificially fixed by bias in VEX toward female teams. No offense, but you’re a little late in realizing that having more young women on your team boosts your chances for awards. We knew that at least as early as Skyrise, when 127B from our organization (a team of two young women) won Judges Award after Judges Award. They weren’t bad, but you wouldn’t expect that many awards out of them, either. We all knew (and joked about) why they got so many of those awards, including the members of that team - one jokingly repeats the mantra of “100/0 by 2020. We can’t have women in STEM!” (Her words, not mine, and just a joke.)

And maybe there is no association between gender balance and awards, and this is all confirmation bias. “Girl powered” initiatives feed into that confirmation bias heavily. Moreover, I want to pull in my experience as a student ambassador at Worlds. I may or may not do it again, because both of the members of my two-man team were ambassadors and it was definitely possible, but detrimental, to participate. At the end of the whole shebang, there was a nice breakfast. I looked around the room, and the participants definitely seemed to be ~50% female. That’s not inherently problematic, until you realize that VEX participants definitely do not have that same high proportion of women. It definitely indicates a systemic bias toward women (and necessarily, away from men). If gender is not being taken into account, there’s no way we’d see a result this skewed.

At the end of the day, if we want to put forward the message “women can do STEM, too,” the way to do it is to let competitors earn their trophies without systemic bias and to support all aspiring young engineers equally. When the RECF promotes “girl powered” initiatives, it instills irritation in men, which actually backfires. Let me be clear, I do not stand for any discrimination. If I see or hear of anyone demeaning women for being in STEM, I will call them out. It’s not okay, and none of us should stand for it. But if the goal is to show that women have the same potential in science, technology, engineering, and math, coddling them portrays the exact opposite message.

I can give an equal opportunity but I’m not going to force girls onto my team if they don’t want to join in. I don’t care about gender when considering teammates. And on the other hand, I’ve seen so many teams where young women seem to fulfill a second-class role, where they do notebooks or online challenges while boys work on the robot and code. Maybe others see those roles as equal, but I don’t. Is that really a more excellent team?

I agree. When selecting team members, I don’t care whatsoever about their genders, and once you’re on my team, everyone is equal. I hate to see otherwise bright and capable kids (boys and girls) get shut out or lose interest in teams because they were delegated to “lesser roles”

Everyone has potential, regardless of gender. If there really is bias though, my team has a problem: we won’t have any girls this year, not because we are sexist, but because there are no girls that 1. want to be in our team and 2. there aren’t many girls in our robotics program in the first place. Keep this in mind: a smart girl is a smart person, and smart people are always of use in a team. I still say that #GirlPowered is a little disproportionate on the girl emphasis, a better term is #WePowered, because people work better as teams.

I would completely agree. I am just saying that maybe the judges want to reward the girls on a team and the team itself that took the step to participate in STEM in a society that puts people into roles based on their gender, race, or identity. Of corse I would want the best on my team, but that goes back to the “you throw like a girl” part of Jason’s speech. If we only choose the experienced guys to design robots then others will never learn. To take it away from genders for just a second, my team includes my family and another. My little brother joined our team after completing Vex IQ, he came in with a little design knowledge but not much. He was not nearly as good of a designer as I was. If I never allowed him to touch the robot and just made him coach, then he would never learn to build a good robot. Instead we had him build another design that we were considering last year. He learned and still learns through experience. I will continue to give him tips and let him build robots for I know that this season is my last and he will take over after I am done. Therefore I must mentor and instruct him.

Take that over to the gender thing. Like Jason said girls “throw like girls” because they never had someone to teach them. Everyone in a team should have the right to pursue what he or she want to. If a guy loves writing and would like to work on the engineering notebook, he should be taught and mentored to do that. If a girl wants to be a mechanical designer, then she should be intruceted and mentored to do just that. Without any pressure.

To bring it all together. When a teams tries to teach girls to build or program, sometimes judges will reward that. I am not denying that there is discrimination sometimes in judging, I have seen it first-hand. And from what @nmg_99 said it does sound like the Think award was not given out to the right team. But as I said previously. Sometimes it is just a plus to have and open mind. While not going so far as to put the experienced designers or “notebookers” in a small position, but still providing equal opportunity.

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It’s not as if anyone who joins our team has any real experience. It’s about drive, dedication, and critical thinking skills.