General Questions about Submitted Awards, Outreach, and our Impact going into next year

Hey all,

This is my second year working on awards and my first year doing Impact and Woodie Flowers! I wrote both essays for the submitted awards this year and have a couple questions for other awards people:

  1. Do you guys rewrite your essays every year or just update and resubmit the one you have? Neither of our submitted awards won, however, both are fairly well written in my opinion and wouldn’t need any major changes unless we do something new to add to our Impact essay.

  2. We’re really struggling to find our team “why” for Impact. We do a lot of stuff as a team (lots of hosting events, food drives, elementary school outreach, etc…) but it’s all over the place. We don’t really have a “why” for our team or a problem we’re trying to solve, and the winning teams I’ve seen personally have a reason for what they’re doing which helps focus their outreach into a more specific area or a problem they can solve. My question is, if your team has one, how did you find your “why”? Or what problem are you guys trying to solve and how did you get there?

  3. Would anyone be willing to read through our Woodie Flowers and Impact essays and provide some feedback going into next year?

Thanks!

2023_2815SubmittedAwards.pdf (154.4 KB)

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You might like to review this archive of WFA essays. I’m unaware of corresponding archives for other awards.

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hi, i can really only speak to impact but heres some thoughts!
essay wise we rewrite every year. The essay and submission overall are not just a list they tell a story. We rewrite to help tell the story in a better way. I highly recommend reading the essays of the regional/dcmp winners here to see how they strive to do this.

how we found our why: we asked ourselves to identify a few things 1. who we strive to help in identifying your community you strengthen your pitch 2. your goal in serving them often for teams this is something along the lines of getting more people involved in STEM our why is to “inspire and prepare the next generation of stem leaders in philadelphia”

after reading your impact essay: end your essay on the positives; while identifying future plans is important pointing out flaws that exist and aren’t actively being solved is not viewed favorably an organization tip is to split your essay into sections and label them often teams split it up by initiative but these subheadings can help bring your submission together.

I would also recommend watching past chairman’s chats / impact chat’s quite a few are on youtube

best of luck!

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Thank you for your response! Very informative and very helpful.

We’ve been planning on keeping the essay and just updating it every year but we’ll now consider rewriting. I’ve read a few winning essays and tried to really emulate the feel of them, but I’ll definitely look into that more.

For the why, how should we go about coming up with a unique idea? Something that sets us apart and doesn’t look like we’re just copying other teams, because I do feel like a lot of team’s whys are similar.

Thank you for your critique on the essay, we’ll look at that!

Personally, I feel like it’s more important that the “why” is genuine rather than unique. If it’s something that students can speak to with true personal passion and genuine engagement, that will come through loud and clear and will say much more than a contrived uniqueness.

For 6328’s written Impact submission and presentation, we don’t usually start fully from scratch each year but do heavily adapt and sometimes fully restructure. It largely depends on the students working on it that year since it reflects their voice and their priorities. The last five years of our submissions are available on our website.

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Thank you so much or your reply! We will likely have to do some major restructuring from this year, but it is nice to know that we won’t necessarily have to rewrite the essay every year.

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Hi there! I broke my feedback down into blocked parts so as to not obliterate the readability of this thread. Really love that you’re taking the initiative to improve in this category and get better. It’s a hard element of FIRST, but I’m thrilled to see you tackling it. I wrote a bigger post about our own process here that includes our entire Impact essay. Good luck next year!!!

Rewrite vs Recycle

We have done both throughout the years. Sometimes the appetite isn’t there to rewrite the whole impact award because of any number of reasons, while sometimes we have students really willing to dive in. This year we rewrote it entirely and I believe it was a worthwhile experience.

Personally, I tend to believe rewriting is always the correct move if possible. It’s very likely the judges will be largely the same from year to year at a given event and would thus know it’s a recycle. Similarly, if your essay didn’t win and you’re recycling it, you’re basically just playing the “I hope everyone else’s essays got worse” game instead of the “what can I do to make ours better?”

One change we made this year for written awards is requiring participation in the writing/ideation process in order to be a member of pit/drive crew. This brings more students into the fold and makes the essays be a lot more reflective of different experiences. I think that change alone made our essays 1000% stronger since it wasn’t just a few students doing the heavy lifting and instead incorporated ideas from across the Program.

Finding your Why

“Why” is a very hard question to answer because it’s different for every student, every mentor, and every team; every year. We always try and create a novel theme for a given year that encapsulates our general team core values and experiences and gives us a basis for writing our essays. This year we went with “Passing down STEM” and focused on all the education outreach and equity initiatives of our team to showcase our commitment to the future of the team. Last year we wrote about “glow ups” and how much our team has evolved over the past few years with the pandemic and the restarting of FRC 112 Plus One. Looks like your “blue shift” idea is similar.

We’ve also had some previous success with holding team summits and having hard, meaningful conversations around core values and culture. Those conversations have led to some dramatic changes in our team (112 being the best example) and have made our Program better. I would encourage you to speak with your team and leaders to maybe host something similar. It’s always good to involve as many students as possible in conversations about “Why” or “who are we and what are we doing?” There’s not always a clear cut answer to “why?” and that’s totally ok.

The reality is these awards are really hard to win – they are also really hard to even apply for. That’s by design. It’s a forcing function to make teams really think hard about their commitment to the ideals of FIRST and where their team can best fit into them. Much like how robot design needs to be an iterative and comprehensive process, so do these submissions. Your why will likely change every year.

Submission Feedback

I read through your submissions – I like them a lot! The Executive Summaries are all really good. They are among the hardest thing to get right due to the tough character constraints. In both the summaries and the essay itself, my biggest feedback would be to add more real-world numbers. I know these are hard to come by, but they are the easiest way to express impact to judges. How many students have used the maker space you set up? How many cans of food did you collect for the Souper Bowl and how many families did that feed? How many people have used FRCScout? Numbers like these can be really hard to accurately pin down, but their inclusion would be really meaningful in my opinion. With data, you can tell a more compelling story about the actual impact of these programs. You have the structure and narrative elements down, I think some data to compliment would go a really long way.

For the WFA essay, 1) I’d say you’re lucky to have Mr. Dan around, he sounds like a great mentor. I love the quote from the FIRST SC director – I think that’s a wonderful inclusion. 2) I would go into more detail about the work of stabilizing the team post USC and the work he contributed in that rebuilding. That’s the kind of long-term commitment that WFA really emphasizes and is unique to your team specifically. Overall though, I think this essay is really strong and I’m sure it means a lot to Mr. Dan.

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My team has submitted impact/chairmans and woodie flowers for the past 10 years or so, and we have mostly just updated to reflect the past 3 years. This year we are going to start working on a Chairman’s Binder to convey our information better in the form of a timeline that expands more than just the past 3 years, and documents the measurable impact on teams who have used our practice space and resources. (we also have had to write a new WFA essay since our lead mentor retired last season)
We have had to restructure the essay since I am literally the only person on my team who cares about judged awards that aren’t robot related, and i have to adapt it for only 2 people. it is also a good idea to maybe have a script for your presentation separate from the essay. it helps you prepare better for the interview and lets you add in some extra info that the judges may want to ask you about in the Q&A.

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I also can only really speak on Impact. As far as rewiring or reusing the essay, my team has pretty much reused a very similar version of our essay for the past few years, just adding a new section for the current season, and cutting away the older unnecessary stuff. At least in my opinion this helps to build a story of growth and development from year to year.

As far as finding the “why”, I spoke with an impact judge at Worlds, and what I got from that conversation was that the volume of outreach isn’t nearly as important as the effect it has, so having that reason why is super important, so you really want to focus on one big thing that is unique to your team. For my team that is the Wind River Indian Reservation. The reservation is our neighboring community and we noticed that on the reservation, there is a lot we can do to help, they have very low high school graduation rates and very high poverty rates, so we decided to start doing outreach to try and approach some of these problems. We started and FTC program on the reservation, and we have done a bunch of clothing drives. We don’t really have a specific reason why past just helping this specific group of people.

I hope this answers at least some of your questions.

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There is an archive of all Chairman’s / Impact Award submissions for Regional, District Championship, and World Championship winners, dating back to 2016, found here.

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Before defining your “why,” I would first start by defining your community. In what area are you trying to make an impact? Is it your school? Your city/town? Your state? The FIRST community? LGBTQ/underrepresented communities? From there, your “why” can be simply to make the most significant and measurable impact in that space. You don’t necessarily need a problem to solve, you just need to know how and where you are trying to make a difference, because nobody can do everything. And maybe you do a hundred different things within one town, then that’s great; THAT’S your “why.”

As for rewriting vs submitting the same, I don’t think either approach is wrong. Though, the Impact Award is heavily weighted on measurables, so those are going to change from year to year.

On that note, keep in mind that the award is given to teams judged to have the most “significant and measurable impact…” Note the terms “significant” and “measurable,” that really just means numbers (with context to back it up). That is not to say a team that starts 2 FLL teams is automatically going to lose to a team that starts 5 FRC teams, because the 2 FLL teams in a town of 1,000 people may be a larger impact than 5 FRC teams in other places. So it’s not a straight numbers-to-numbers comparison, but the judges still need to see the data to understand the significance.

I did take a quick look through your essay and executive summary. It sounds like you do a lot of work in your community and to grow FIRST, which is fantastic. However, if I was an Impact judge at your event, I’d like to see more measurables to define what that impact actually is, and give it some context. In my experience, the executive summary can be more numbers-heavy, while the essay helps back those numbers up with the qualitative information, while providing new data as well.

Overall, I think you have a great start! I’d be happy to work with you and your team more one-on-one if you’d like to do a Zoom chat with my team sometime. I was a Chairman’s mentor when we entered the Hall of Fame in 2017, and my current students won Impact this year, so we love talking Impact with teams. PM me and I’d be happy to dive deeper.

I agree with a lot of the things people have said in this thread but wanted to provide some additional information. First up, when i suggested reading submissions it wasn’t necessarily for style tips, teams with a wide variety of writing styles succeed, it is more to understand how others talk about similar things. We spent a lot of time reading submissions and talking to others about both our work and theirs to better understand verbiage and key phrases. at worlds we went to the 1511 talk and impact chat on wednesday and made presentation changes before presenting the next day. in hearing how the judges felt and hearing how others discussed things we were able to better share our work. Last year to this year much of our team’s outreach didn’t change but we went from no awards to winning so im going to attach both submissions here in the hopes that they are helpful for you or others to understand the shifts in language i’m talking about. Additionally, my team is happy to help with anything impact and outreach related!!
ChairmansSubmission2022.321.pdf (189.9 KB)
ImpactSubmssion2023.321.pdf (317.1 KB)

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For Impact, My team has generally chosen to rewrite it every year. We also usually have a theme that relates to the current year’s game. In 2022 it was a transportation theme, with a ride on the “Regal Eagle Railroad” This year it was a power grid and we explained how our energy affects the areas around us.

Short Responses are usually rewritten every year as well, though not themed as much.

The video and presentation are also remade and rewritten each year and are somewhat themed. I believe two of our presenters this year were “electricians” and last year were “conductors”.

We also have a Chairman’s Binder that is generally modified from previous years, and occasionally restructured.

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Thank you for your in depth reply! This was incredibly helpful.

Finding our “why” is very much a struggle, and I’m really looking forward to getting more feedback from the team as a whole. We tend to do a lot of different things for outreach in our community but it’s not super focused on any particular issue or topic.

Thanks again for the feedback, I really appreciate it!

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The work your team does sounds incredible! Thank you for the insight.

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Thank you for your feedback! You’re the second person to discuss the numbers so I guess it’s time for me to scrounge through our records haha

Really appreciate it!

That’s incredible! Thanks for sharing, I’ll be sure to look at that.

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Of course! If you have any questions I’m sure my team would be happy to help.

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Hello! I read through your essay and executive summaries, because I can really only speak to the Impact portion of the submitted awards. (It is also my second year to work on my team’s Impact submission.) Throughout your submission, the story telling of what your team does impact-wise is really good information! I can tell that you are doing a lot of things to help your community! However, one thing that I think you could really benefit from putting into your submission is really communicating the effect (impact!) that all of your team’s outreach has had on your community, and the change it has brought. An example of this would be something like “we noticed that only x amount of kids were involved in STEM within our school system, so we started x program in (whatever year). Since then, the program has grown, and now x amount of kids are involved with and have ready access to STEM everyday!” (This is kind of a generic example) Something like this, but make it your own for the different types of outreach that your team does. A big thing with the submission is to be able to effectively communicate the measurable impact your team has. An easy way to do this is obviously through numbers, but that can be hard sometimes. If your team has a different ruler for measuring impact, that’s great! Just make sure that you can effectively communicate that ruler to the judges.

When thinking about finding your team’s “why”, definitely remember to look at the needs of the community that you are serving through your outreach. For example, when my team was thinking about our “why” for this year, we thought about the needs of our state. But, we also thought about the various strengths of our team. By identifying the needs of the community we serve, along with identifying our team’s specific strengths, it helped us to know how we could best serve our state. Anyway, I guess remember that your team ultimately does have a “why”, and that the “why” can be found in what the community that you serve needs, and the way you are already serving that community.

My team and I would be happy to help you and your team in any way that you need! You can reply to this comment or PM me if you like!

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Thank you so much for the input! We’ve been working on trying to quantify our impact with both the FIRST official definitions and numerically :slight_smile: again thanks again for the reply, I appreciate it!