[FRC Blog] 2019 Awards Update


Just because that may be how it seems to operate it doesn’t make it right.

FIRST is a non-profit with a mission statement. It should not care by what means teams work towards and accomplish this mission statement.


I think its FIRST’s attempts to make sure their program has a balance between the focus of a team initiatives to spread STEM and cultivate STEM skills on their team. At the end of the day its FIRST’s highest award and they set the criteria. As someone who has been on three teams who have received the Chairman’s award at regional or district competition, I think this is a good move by FIRST.

Even though this can be upsetting to see the shift, bear in mind these efforts aren’t lost in the grand scheme of things. Inspiration is still a powerful thing for an FRC team to promote in their community. Will there be efforts that won’t directly impact the immediate criteria of the Chairman’s Award moving forward? Yes. Should teams keep doing them. YES!

At the end of the day it is FIRST’s criteria to set for teams and it falls in line with the focuses in recent years to push their brand and unify their programs.


I mean, I doubt they’ll hold VEX participation against you, more likely they just won’t weigh it as heavily as participation in other FIRST programs.


On our side of the island we run the FIRST based Lego tournaments and various early scrimmages. We have saturated the local schools with FIRST products by gifting the new Lego kits and fields we purchase every year that we use as part of our Summer STEM Camp (3rd-8th grade).

Our area is extremely familiar with Lego… and inspired but…

Lego is not as inspiring to our campers in 5th to 8th grades. Most of that due to having been working with Lego in their own schools for years. I suppose we are to blame? :yikes:

We use the VRC as well as PVC pipe ROV’s for that age level. Our student counselors create new challenges every year with our every growing stash of VRC fiields (we run the VRC tournaments on the west side as well).

I love to see the students coming to our camps anxious to use the “new” parts. Rekindling the passion is what some of these students need. This is what we found that works best for our community.

We have been honored to win the chairman’s award in the past. Will this new directive change how we work within our community?


What we are doing is changing our community in so many wonderful ways.
Modifying our working approach to meet some award category would be a detriment and not even an option.

We will continue to use and support all forms of engineering challenges for students growth and inspiration…

That is what we are here to do, isn’t it?

I hope FIRST isn’t losing their focus on inspiration for market saturation…


This echoes my feelings. There was a time when I would’ve tirelessly defended FIRST, but that time has passed.

The staff administering each of the programs is, in my experience, really invested in delivering a high-quality, effective experience for students. The upper management of the organization, however, seems far more interested in building a brand and leveraging it for corporate interests than in helping students learn how they can solve critically important problems we all face.


I think that if someone made a cynical dictionary, this would be the definition for the term “non-profit organization”. It can’t really be helped too much, that just seems to be the way things work.


I stopped caring about FIRST corporate when they told me if I didn’t support FTC I wasn’t a FIRSTer.

FRC staff are wonderful but FIRST corporate can go pound sand as far as I’m concerned. FIRST corporate is only concerned about FIRST corporate. This Chairman’s change is just more proof.


So normally I’m pretty cynical about HQ and their decisions. I really do distrust the operation at that level because the people in charge seem very out of touch with the world we live in today.

That being said, I’m curious what they were thinking when they changed the wording here to be “emphasis on promoting science and technology through FIRST programs”.

Is this really the cash-grab that it appears to be and FIRST wants us to promote all things FIRST when FIRST has some of the most expensive and unsustainable STEM programs around? Or could it be a more broad definition of using FIRST programs to promote STEM as but one example among many?

It does strike me, reading through the Chairman’s award criteria, that even MORE emphasis has been placed on starting FIRST teams and that makes me a sad panda. It needs to be placed on sustaining teams, not just starting them. This crap is expensive to run, expensive to start, eats through resources, and while it’s awesome and rewarding to students in ways I can’t always fathom and comprehend, I think we gotta broaden STEM tent to include more than just the FIRST progression of programs if we truly want to see meaningful societal change that by their own wording: "It [the Chairman’s award] was created to keep the central focus of FIRST Robotics Competition on the ultimate goal of transforming the culture in ways that will inspire greater levels of respect and honor for science and technology, as well as encouraging more of today’s youth to become science and technology leaders. "

I would have preferred to see FIRST address the ongoing sustainability issues that it faces but I’m not sure that is happening. I guess I’m a sad panda.


Could this change have something to do with the newly hired Vice President of Programs?


Yep. I notice that, too. Nice job of coopertition, eh? It’s almost like HQ doesn’t have faith that their other programs can stand on their own.



Pretty interesting observation, made me want to find a video I saw.

VEX has this concept called the “STEM Hall of Fame” and they inducted Woodie into it in 2017, and had no issue discussing FIRST or any of FIRST’s programs. Quite the difference in treatment.


We realized a long time ago that our efforts to build and sustain a VEX program on our island were not helping us at all w/r/t the Chairman’s Award.

To us, it has always seemed to be about “drinking the [FIRST] Kool-Aid,” i.e., promoting and encouraging FIRST teams and programs. This change at least makes explicit what we have believed to be the actual criteria all along.

Interestingly, while VEX made some changes a few years ago that made it difficult for our teams to compete in that program, we are now building a thriving FTC program on Kauai (with the help of our fantastic league organizers/mentors on Oahu). We helped 6 teams get started last year, 4 of which continued this year along with one more new one. We’re hosting two league events on Kauai, for our teams and others from around the state. We finally have a continuum of robotics programs for our local kids, from elementary through HS, which is a huge accomplishment for our island, 7 years in the making with several ‘false starts’. However, in the interim, the ‘standards’ for Chairman’s seem to have increased to the point where we cannot realistically compete (e.g., with teams that are able to essentially create a robotics program for a whole country or continent), so we probably won’t even be submitting for it anymore (didn’t last year).


While the bar has certainly raised for the Championship level, it’s worth noting what was emphasized by the finalists and wonners by FIRST this past year. I do not know what the competition looks like for you, but would seriously caution against believing you have no chance. It took 2220 7 seasons to win our first Chairman’s Award, and when we were finalists this past year, it seemed to me the emphasis was far more on our local impact than on anything we’ve done with our friends 5883 overseas.

I don’t know much about your team, but you seem to have your head on straight about the award and some of the flaws with it. Even with these rather unfortunate changes to the Chairman’s criteria, I still believe it’s a worthy award to shoot for— because Chairman’s has never really been about the award criteria, it’s been about bettering our communities— in our backyards, in our states, in our countries. A team like yours that is making that effort in your community certainly seems on the right track in my opinion.


I am sad that the Team Spotlight is going away. We used it as a way to organize our judge materials and resources; we used it as a way to organize some of our in-season Chairman’s supporting evidence; we pointed to it as a way of showing this competition is about more than robots. I sincerely hope the prompts that were in the Team Spotlight will be included in the 2019 game manual in some way.


2614 would disagree that you have to create international programs.


Are any teams or individuals considering changing how they conduct their team’s STEM outreach and efforts in light of the new Chairman’s Award definition?

How about changing what they emphasize in their submission?


Based on some of the recipients of the Autonomous Award at Championship this past year, I would take it with the same grain of salt as all the other judged technical awards. It’s going to come down to pit interviews as much as (or more than) anything else. Some of the winners last year definitely weren’t the most reliable, consistent, or sensor-reliant autonomous routines on their fields, but instead some of the high-risk/high-scoring potential routines that were stated as not being favored by the award.

Granted, last year may also be a tougher one to evaluate compared to some other autonomous routines. The random scale plate assignments can make reliable routines seem unreliable if a team was deferring to their alliance partner on certain scale assignments. Anyone digging into scouting data last year surely noticed this.

Note: There are already some judges assigned to watching matches to test the validity of teams’ claims in their pit


Scott basically said it best here. FIRST just put into writing what has been going on for years now. It’s nice to know where they stand as an organization I suppose, but extremely disappointing at the same time. Now many teams know not to even bother putting a submission together and can just focus their energy on inspiring even more students through non-FIRST programs.


While a lot of the focus on the thread seems to be around FIRST trying to promote their programs over VRC and friends, what really upsets me is the impact this has on contributing to the community otherwise. My former team’s main community outreach has been a program where we provide a couple of STEM projects to a group of kids in an after school program. It wasn’t huge, and certainly hasn’t won us chairman’s, but now we’re seemingly ineligible for the award.

We can complain about this being something that FIRST is doing to push their corporate image above all else, but what this really does is disincentivise other ways we can contribute to our community, and that is sad.


I’m also on a team that does a lot of community outreach via independent efforts outside of any overarching competition, but I don’t read it like your bolded statement at all. While there is (and I quote) “emphasis on promoting science and technology through FIRST programs,” the award is still presented to (and I quote) “the team judged to best exemplify the true meaning of FIRST through measurable impact on participants, school, and community at large.” While some of the judging emphasis may have (explicitly) changed, it doesn’t mean that other efforts aren’t considered or that workign through the FIRST series of programs is a mandatory prerequisite.

Further still, are you planning on changing your outreach programs as a result of this definition change? Was the Chairman’s Award the primary incentive for you to conduct your outreach prior to this definition change?

I don’t like or agree with this change, but I also don’t think it will have much practical impact on how teams conduct their business and reach out to their community.