Chairman's Cutoff Date

I have a question about the Chairman’s Award. On the FIRST website it states,

The criterion for the Chairman’s Award has special emphasis on recent accomplishments within the last 3 years.

How is the last 3 years defined? Is it calendar years? Is it school years (which may vary for different parts of the world)? Is it FRC Seasons? Is it 365.25 x 3 days from today? Ultimately, our team is trying to figure out what is the cutoff date for what to include in the team’s submission. If it is calendar years, it would be January 1, 2020. If it is FRC Seasons, it would be May 1, 2019? If it is 365.25 x 3 days from today, it would be January 23, 2019. There’s a big different between January 1, 2020 and January 23, 2019. I have not be able to find a clarification in the official FIRST documentation. How has this time period been interpreted in previous seasons? I appreciate your help!

well, given that an FRC season starts very close to the same time a normal year does, I would say at the start of a calendar year. I know you mentioned that the time gap between Jan 23rd and Jan 1 is large, but kickoff day varies every year. That means anything your team did in 2021, 2020 and 2019 calendar year is good to go. That what we do at least.


Hi, @Conrad_599
I appreciate the response! I think that I may have been misunderstood. I wasn’t concerned about the difference of a couple weeks, but rather nearly an entire year (Jan 1, 2019 vs. Jan 23, 2020) depending on how “last 3 years” is interpreted. Let me provide a bit more context. Our original plan was to just document everything that we did after the 2019 FRC season (May 1, 2019 to present). However, we were told by a good (albeit unofficial) source that FIRST judges were to consider the last 3 years to be (Jan 1, 2020 - Dec 31, 2020; Jan 1, 2021 - Dec 31, 2021; and Jan 1, 2022 - present). Effectively, the last “year” would only be ~6 weeks by the time of the essay and executive summary submission. That didn’t seem right to me, but I couldn’t find an official answer on the FIRST website, which is why I wanted to get a second opinion here.

Thanks for clarifying, But I would have to take it to mean 2019, 2020, and 2021 and you get the month of January 2022 free. Or if you wanted to be more strict it could be Feb 2019 to Jan 2022.

The chairman’s award isn’t restricted to the past three years. It places an emphasis on it. If you stick to the general rule of spending more time focusing on recent accomplishments, I think you’re in the clear. No chairman’s judge is going to see that you did something amazing 3.5 years ago and discount it. It’s more about making sure your team has continued work recently and you’re not talking only about stuff that previous generations of students did.


This is our general approach too. We start with last year’s submission and look at what needs to be changed/adapted and what is new since the last submission that needs to get added. Then, when we run out of characters (because you always run out of characters!), we look first at the oldest activities to cut down or remove from the writing. But if the team did something, say, five years ago that is relevant to showing more recent growth/activities then it might be worth including, depending on space and context.


Off topic to the thread but this. So much.

Take credit for things of students past absolutely. But only if it has a lasting and continued impact on the team. If current students don’t know about an initiative or project, it’s not ongoing and not relevant. But if someone set something up years ago and that program is thriving, that’s sustainability, that’s inspiration.


Agreed wholeheartedly with your post, but I would broaden this to say “team or community”. So many initiatives setup by teams have long lasting and growing impacts beyond the team and on the various communities they support and of which they are a part.

Should it? I feel like “team” is the relevant thing.

Suppose 10 years ago an FRC team started an FLL program at a local elementary school - trained the teachers, provided initial kits & materials, helped run meetings every week for the first two years of the program. After those first two years, the FLL program became self-sufficient and has been run entirely by the elementary school teachers for the past 8 years, with no further input or participation from the FRC team. It continues to thrive and have positive impact on students at the elementary school.

Should current kids on the team get a Chairman’s pass to Champs because 8 years ago other kids who happened to go to their same school started a successful FLL program that continues to impact the community? If no one currently on the team has ever been involved in it in any way? Obviously this is a simplified example, no one wins Chairman’s for just one thing, but I think that if the lasting and continued impact of an initiative is ONLY on the community, with NO ongoing impact on the team, it’s far less relevant than more recent activities and shouldn’t be a focus of the application.

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I’m torn on this particular distinction, actually.

On the one hand, the team in some way enabled the student to do X ten years ago and X is still a big deal in the community. Therefore, the team should continue to pride themselves on this accomplishment.

On the other hand, the Chairman’s award is meant to recognize teams with an ongoing impact. If the team itself no longer has any involvement in X, should they still be taking credit for it?

These are legitimate questions – I don’t know the answer. I think there is certainly some middle ground.

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I would not look at this as a hard date. Chairman’s is also about sustained contributions. I would pick a cut off date that works well with your program and your message.

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As long as the description of the timeframe of the impact isn’t purposefully deceptive, I don’t see any reason not to. Writing an essay to emphasize more recent contributions is all I read into that particular part of the chairman’s description.

More broadly, <insert rant here how a laser-focus on the chariman’s award actually won’t create a more verdant society in all cases>. If you’ve done good things, be proud of them, and share them in a way that lets others multiply your effort. If you happen to get an award for it, good for you. But don’t let the award make your decision for you on what’s actually needed in your community.


I wish the examples of in this thread were universally true. I agree with them completely, but I’m not sure the messaging is clear from a judging side that sustained excellence is also a measure of impact - not just new shiny initiatives.

No chairman’s judge is going to see that you did something amazing 3.5 years ago and discount it.

Just for funsies, I’ll bite - once, our presenters were asked the specific date of an event we ran; and were told it ‘didn’t count’ and to ‘find something else to talk about’.

If current students don’t know about an initiative or project, it’s not ongoing and not relevant. But if someone set something up years ago and that program is thriving, that’s sustainability, that’s inspiration.

I agree with this philosophically, 100%.

I’m not sure what other teams experience, but we’ve received feedback to ‘stop focusing on old initiatives’ (even ones that are thriving, in the case you present) because the desire was to hear about ‘something new’.

For example - we’ve been running a full K-12 pipeline of FIRST programs for a full generation of kids (our first FLL Jrs are now in FRC). Our FRC kids mentor FLL at all levels (formerly Jr) & FTC as a way of sustaining our team’s footprint in the community. IMO, that’s more impact than any new initiative we form would have in its first or second year.

From the feedback we’ve received - it’s about balancing the sustained excellence with continually new initiatives. But even a 170+ student team has its limits, and that ‘balance’ can sometimes feel like an unwinnable arms race.


Sorry, sorry. I meant, you know…no well-trained, high quality Chairman’s judge.


For reference, my interpretation of the three year emphasis is to ensure that student members of your team were part of that program/initiative/event, etc. Therefore we are emphasizing activities/programs/etc. from the 2018-2019 season through the current season. We have 12th grade students on the team who participated in the activities when they were in 9th grade.

So if our team ran an outreach event 4 years ago, cool, but no one on the team currently was a part of that. Mention, but don’t lean on it.

As others mentioned, if we started something 4 years ago or longer, but current team members are annually active in this, we emphasize the sustainability of this. Personally, I feel an ongoing program or event carries more weight than a “one and done” event.

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I didn’t make my point as clearly as I should have. I meant that impact shouldn’t just be measured on how something impacted your team, otherwise we would only be recognizing self-serving initiatives.



From what I’ve seen - event volunteers seem to fall into three categories:

  1. Well meaning, but brand new, and have no context to the work that went into the season. Lacking context, they can only rely on the letter of the law (potentially leading to the behaviors you mentioned above)
  2. Drunk with power, and giddy to exercise it (also potentially leading to the behaviors mentioned above)
  3. Awesome, understanding, and genuinely invested in making sure the fruits of the season are recognized and appreciated.

IMO category 3 volunteers are the most common (thank goodness!). But a hope-for-the-best-plan-for-the-worst strategy needs to account for category 1 and 2 as well.

To be clear, this isn’t to throw any shade at the event organizers. While training and preparation helps reduce 1 and 2, I’ve literally watched as the event leaders meticulously prepare training and speeches, clearly laying out the why and what of being a category 3 volunteer, only to watch the people who received the training immediately cast it aside and go back to their old ways.

something something leading horses to water something something.

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This isn’t a thread on volunteer quality and training… though I suppose it is now, and this is worthy of discussion.

I think #1 on your list is a poor assumption. There are lots of folks who are brand new volunteers, and may or may not have context of the larger season.

That doesn’t mean they “rely on the letter of the law” and whether they do or don’t, that isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. I think it would be great if the rulebooks and training materials were universally followed by everyone. If your expectation is that “good” volunteers do something more or different from their training, there’s a problem with the training, not with the volunteers.

I also generally disagree that judges need the greater context to judge properly. The burden should be on the team to demonstrate their hard work, not on the judges to know. I think new judges are often the best, as they don’t enter with preconceived ideas about the teams. It’s inevitable for returning volunteers to have some opinions already. And most of them are able to check them at the door very well, but new volunteers don’t have this same burden. Excellent teams should tell a story that someone off the street with no background would be able to fully understand.

#2 volunteers are not common, but very disappointing when encountered. I highly recommend that folks who see what they deem an abuse of power deal with the situation with leadership at and beyond events.

This is where you lose me. If volunteers are going back to their old ways, how are they brand new? And shouldn’t effective training be measured in its impact on the people being trained? How else is it considered good training if it’s lost on the people being trained?

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I think this is a great way of framing it! “Here’s something we started X years ago that our current team members support in ABC ways.”

(I so didn’t mean to divert the thread - just to say that, it’s possible we need to frame around people with that mentality.)


Sure thing -

Sorry, I didn’t intend to make the assumption all brand new volunteers don’t have enough context to be empathetic and judge/act accordingly. There’s plenty of folks who walk in right away and get it.

In my experience, the training content is usually good, but doesn’t always sink in for folks right away (per later comments).

We very well might disagree here. I agree teams should be prepared to present to anyone. However, a lot of this thread (libby’s comments, some of your questions, OP’s initial source of concerns) to me are all instances of that presentation falling on deaf ears. From the bit I see, it feels like a lack of empathy for a bunch of high schoolers who are already trying their best. To me, the best volunteers are the ones who can encourage and elevate. I’d agree that total knowledge of FRC is not a hard-line requirement for this role… but knowing something about why these students are here seems to me to be pretty essential as a volunteer.

I don’t say this as a desire to “box out” new folks. But I do urge caution to event organizers before putting a volunteer in a student-interaction role if there is concern that interaction may not ultimately encourage the student to continue doing the program and STEM in general. And again, these concerns should be few and far between… and in my experience are indeed. Still, I’ve seen it more than once, and others in this thread clearly have too…

To reword perhaps - simply put, the training falls on deaf ears. New or old, people will often walk in with preconceived notions of how to do the job. Most are able to adapt when given new instructions. But not all.

This is a lot of words, but maybe to summarize - Volunteers are mostly good. Not every volunteer will be perfect. A thorough team presentation strategy should involve having some thick skin for those corner cases.

To wrap it back to OP’s question - when I read it, at first, my thought was “That’s a weird question, I don’t know why it would matter.” Then I read Libby’s examples of a few experiences, and it got me to reflect back on some of my own volunteer interactions. It connected the dots for me to realize “nope, it’s actually a really good question”.