[FRC Blog] Increased Woodie Flowers Finalist Awards at District Championships

Posted on the FRC Blog, 11/3/2022: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2022-increased-woodie-flowers-finalist-awards-at-district-championships

Increased Woodie Flowers Finalist Awards at District Championships

2022 NOV O3 | Written by The Woodie Flowers Award Committee

Dr. William Murphy founded the Woodie Flowers Award (WFA) in 1996 to recognize one mentor yearly whose effective communication skills motivate and inspire their students to understand the challenges, opportunities, and satisfaction that engineering and design can provide. In 2004 the award was expanded to include one Woodie Flowers Finalist Award (WFFA) recipient at each regional competition and, in 2009, to each District Championship event.

As the number of FIRST® Robotics Competition teams has expanded in areas operating under the district system, we understand that the distribution of WFFA has not remained equitable to all regions. We are making a change to improve this for the 2023 season.

WFFA District Championship Allocations for 2023

  • The FIRST® in Michigan District Championship will award 3 WFFA recipients.
  • The following districts will award 2 WFFA recipients at their respective championships.
    • FIRST Chesapeake District
    • FIRST In Texas District
    • FIRST Mid-Atlantic District
    • New England District
    • Ontario District
    • Pacific Northwest District
  • The remaining District Championships will continue to award 1 WFFA recipient.
    • FIRST Indiana Robotics
    • Peachtree
    • FIRST North Carolina
    • FIRST Israel

The number of WFFA recipients at each District Championship was determined by analyzing the number of teams registered in each district and the number of submitted essay nominations in each district in the previous season. We understand that this is an imperfect system, but we believe it is an improvement, and we will continue to reevaluate WFFA allocations in the coming years.

The Woodie Flowers Award submission process opens on Thursday, November 3, 2022, at 12pm ET​. Please encourage your team to nominate one of your outstanding mentors for this honor. The details and requirements for the nomination are on the Submitted Awards webpage.

The Woodie Flowers Award Committee

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I’m glad there has been change, I do think it is an improvement. I don’t think it’s enough.

Before change:

After:

Using 2022 team counts since I don’t know of a data source for actual submissions.

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It is the only incentive to stay in the regional system.

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Today’s episode is brought to you by perverse incentives.

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if you want to be awarded for being good at communicating, move to North Dakota?

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This is an awesome step in the right direction IMO!

When Ontario first moved to the district model in 2017, I was extremely shocked to see that we went from sending 5 WFF (from the province), to only 1. It used to be you were competing against somewhere from 30-60ish teams/mentors at any given time for this prestigious award (often time less as not every team necessarily submitted a nomination), you’re now competing against 145 (# of teams in Ontario Circa 2017) potential nominations, for 1 single award.

In my eyes (and others I have discussed the award with over the years since), this made it much harder for anyone to obtain this award/recognition. There are some absolutely amazing people in our program who win these awards, and they’ve done some insanely awesome stuff for the community in the process, but it certainly felt that as a result of how exclusive the award became, far, far fewer mentors were being recognized.

In 2016 for Ontario, roughly 1 in 30 nominations received the WFF award (154 teams at Ontario events that year, across 5 events), whereas in 2019 (our last “normal” year before COVID) it was 1 in 173 nominations received the WFF award (173 teams across 10 events).

So again, great step in the right direction, absolutely, but still room for improvement.

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Questions regarding this award…am I correct that this award is really only for tech mentors? I think so but was curious if anyone has ever nominated a non tech mentor for it.

Here is the judging criteria for the award from the Submitted Awards section of the site:

A specific judging criterion is based upon the team’s description of how the mentor inspired each member of the team in some or all the following ways:

  • Level of student participation;
  • Creativity of effort;
  • Clear explanation of mathematical, scientific, and engineering concepts;
  • Demonstration of enthusiasm for Science and Engineering;
  • Encouragement to work on projects as a team effort;
  • Inspiration to use problem-solving skills;
  • Inspiration to become an effective communicator; and
  • Motivation through communication.

I’d imagine you don’t have to be a strictly technical mentor to win this award, but you do need to assist with the engineering process to some degree. Can’t speak to it much beyond that point.

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The description from FIRST: “The Regional and District Championship Woodie Flowers Awards celebrate effective communication in the art and science of engineering and design.”

That said, there is nothing preventing you from nominating a non-technical mentor. There are plenty of non-technical mentors who have been nominated; especially lead mentors and teachers/educators who might not work on the technical aspects of the program, but keep a team going through their administrative efforts.

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Really that one North Dakota WFFA should be classified as a Minnesota WFFA (the vast majority of teams at that event are MN teams), so you wouldn’t be doing a whole lot better than most of the districts (but of course, still measurably better).

Emphasis mine.

Want more WFFA spots? Get more teams to submit for the award. Not sure how to write a WF nomination? Amanda has your back.

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Katie,
thanks for pointing this out.
Many missed seeing the number of nominations actually submitted vs. size of districts as a factor as well.

This is definitely a way to get more students to nominate and recognize an adult on their respective team (or other teams), for their efforts. :call_me_hand:

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On the other side of this, I wonder if teams in districts have been discouraged from submitting because of the apparently low odds of winning; nominally a team in Michigan last year had a 1 in 476 chance of having their mentor selected while a team at the 2022 Arkansas Regional had a 1 in 19 chance.

I suppose I don’t understand why the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award- unlike the Dean’s List or Impact awards- would be tied to submission counts instead of district sizes.

It would be nice to have submission rate data for all submitted awards.

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Oh man, that is something to really think about. We’ve submitted Dean’s List for an event, and seen 20 names on the sheet after we get there. Other years, we’ve seen 5 names on the sheet (in both cases for 60 team events!). Submitted awards really are that variable, and really hard to predict for any specific event, especially when you can only submit for a single event and a chunk of teams are attending two.

Our team has never looked at chances of winning as a factor of submissions. Our students nominate mentors as a form of appreciation for the work that they do. Being nominated as a mentor for any team is an honor. That’s what we should encourage our students to focus on as they apply their respective mentors for the WFFA (WFA) award.

Edit: I wanted to add that in recent years, at regionals and district events, nominees were asked to either come down to the field or stand, to be recognized.

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I am a WFFA winner.

Depending on who you ask I can be categorized as either a technical or nontechnical mentor based on their opinion on how “technical” teaching how to do data analytics is. I am now on 100% digitial with my system so it is much more than it used to be however, when I won my scouting system was still pencil and paper so minimal tech there.

In the essay itself the two big “technical” points offered was my work here on Delphi and helping point students in the direction of photos/videos of previous robots who had an idea similar to what they were trying to articulate to help them better submit their ideas. Most of my essay was about my mentoring students to be good people and the work I did to make the nontechnical students still feel like the robot and it’s success was as much theirs as anyone else’s.

I do feel when I talk to other winners or hear them announced they typically do fall more so in the technical side or educator side but I also feel they as a group are a larger number of FRC mentors in general so I have never thought to much about it.

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I like this! I will share with my team because we always struggle with who is “eligible” to be nominated.

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One of my past teams nominated a non-tech mentor for Woodie Flowers (several times, if I remember correctly). She was a teacher-mentor and wasn’t really involved on the technical side of the team at all. She mainly worked with the business team, did all the logistics that kept the team alive, and was the only adult in the room several days a week. She was incredibly encouraging and kind, took an interest in every student, and made every student feel seen and valued. We knew she wasn’t likely to win because she didn’t do any “clear explanation of mathematical, scientific, and engineering concepts”, but nominated her anyway because we felt she deserved it. One year she cried at the end-of-the-year party when she read the nomination essay the students had written about her. She never won, but I have no regrets that we nominated her.

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Three of the five WFFA winners on 2220 have been primarily non-technical in their role on the team, though all of them had some sort of technical background. The broader impact of an excellent mentor is often more than just the label you put on them of “technical” or “non-technical.”

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I have known several non-technical mentors that have been nominated and won WFFA. Having a strong technical background does not always mean you are able to communicate concepts in a way that is accessible for high school students. The non-technical mentors I know have a great skill for identifying when a student isn’t understanding the technical content and working with the technical mentors to help adapt teaching styles.

An important thing that I have seen mentioned by students in Woodie Flower’s essays is how a mentor helped them to become more confident in engaging in STEM when they didn’t feel like they fit in. As an alum, I had the same experience. It was my non-technical mentors that really pushed me to explore the engineering sub teams. 12 years later, I am a WFFA winner and almost have a PhD in Electrical Engineering, and I am forever grateful to them!! Teaching technical concepts is great, but so is making students feel like they belong in STEM!

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