Infinite recharge at home judged awards interview - what to expect?

My teams interview for the judged awards section of infinite recharge at home is coming up, and I’m a bit nervous. What should I expect?

Assuming that your team does not require an interpreter to conduct the interview in English, you will have a 12 minute interview.

The interview will be conducted online using Microsoft Teams. Your IRAH lead mentor should have more information for you about using Teams. You will want to practice with Teams to feel comfortable using it for a video conference.

You will have a link everyone on your team can use to log in to your interview video conference. Starting log in 10 minutes in advance of your interview time will give everyone on your team a chance to work through any potential technical difficulties.

At your interview start time, your judges should join the Microsoft Teams meeting. They will give your team up to 1 minute to start if you are not ready right at the starting time.

Up to 7 minutes can be used by your team to deliver a prepared presentation. You may share a screen from one or more computers on your side which could have presentation slides, pictures, videos, or anything else you want to share with the judges. There will be two judges online.

The judges will ask you to stop presenting if you exceed 7 minutes.

For the remainder of the 12 minutes, which could be 5 minutes if you used all 7 minutes for a prepared presentation or would be longer if you used less time, the judges will ask your team questions about anything they would like to know more about. These are going to be robot related topics like design, build, programming, fabrication, robustness, repair, etc. Members of your team will do the best they can to give good answers to these questions. At the end of the 12 minutes, your interview will be over. The judges will probably say a nice word about your effort and you might thank the judges for their volunteer service.

If your judging submission packet, interview presentation, and interview question answers put you at the top of your judging group in one of five award categories, you will find out later that your team has won an award. Otherwise, you will simply have the satisfaction of knowing that you made your best effort to describe your robot and robotics program in the best light possible.

There is not much to be nervous about. You control up to 7 minutes. There are only 5 minutes of questions if you use your 7 minutes. If you can’t answer a question well, it would be detrimental to winning an award, but most teams in your judging group aren’t going to win awards anyway. There are 5 awards and around 30 teams vying for them. There is no other consequence for a poor answer. Just have someone from your team give the best answer they can to each question. It will be over in 5 minutes.

Prepare in advance as much as possible for any robot-related questions.

Best wishes for a successful interview.

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And remember the judges are going to do their best to help your students be relaxed and make it fun.

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It generally does not matter which student answers which question. The most important rule is that only students answer questions. Adult observers may only observe. They can’t answer or coach.

It is possible that a judge may ask a specific student team member a question. If the question is not one that particular student is prepared to answer, I suggest that student politely indicate that is not their area of expertise and redirect the question to the team member best prepared to answer.

I would also suggest that your interview team be comprised only of those students who the team feels are the best able to answer questions. Four to five is probably optimal. If your team wants to have many students observe the interview, I’d suggest doing the interview in a large, central area where observing students can observe and hear from one of the computers of a student online for the interview, but that they not be online themselves. Having just the designated question answerers online will minimize any chance that judges might ask a specific person a question when that person simply intended to observe and learn.

If coronavirus restrictions make gathering impossible, even with distancing and potentially masks, and your team wants many students “in” the interview, it’s OK for a bunch to be online, but you risk confusing the judges and having questions misdirected.

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It is nice to know who is talking, which can be hard in some groups. I noticed my favorite groups in FLL for talking passed there paper to each other, and maybe having some indication of that is helpful, although FRC doesn’t have a core value component that scores inclusiveness, etc. For members in separate places, the nice thing is being able to talk without masks and maybe switching view to speaker.

In questions, I think giving answers that give depth, and maybe give judges additional ideas for questions, are best, rather than just yes and no. But also don’t be like the one FLL team that rambled on and on, about things only remotely connected to the questions asked.

As far as awards, since you aren’t going to get multiples, look at your teams best couple chances and use your 7 minutes to best sell those features. And it is going to be 4/5th of teams not getting awards, so don’t sweat it too much. The time I think will go quickly for most.

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If they are it will be obvious. In the past I’d sometimes try to get less talkative students to engage but as a general rule wouldn’t penalize a team if a student just wasn’t comfortable talking to us.

Remember, the judges are not there to make folks uncomfortable - it is also another level of getting students to engage with STEM professionals.

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I say this as a mentor, not a judge (I have no specific judge training on this): I strongly recommend observers keep their video/audio off and have their name as OBSERVER. I believe you’ll be left alone just fine then, with no lost time from misdirected questions and a good look with all presenters involved. Given that there’s no recording, I say observers could be mentors, parents, sponsors, and students—as long as they’re on mute and invisible, I think they should be able to observe all their team’s hard work!

Again, my opinion, use at your own risk as I have no horse in this one myself.

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Have people gotten their judging assignments already? I haven’t heard anything about ours and am getting a bit anxious.

What do you mean by judging submission packet? Is that just the autonomous video, photos, and robot infographic that was submitted online? Or is there a separate packet we need to make that no one told me about?

Many interviews are already scheduled. I’ve heard of some delays, but I don’t know how widespread those are. I’d personally be trying to find a email address for IRAH or just generic FIRST admin to check on things.

By judging submission packet I mean the robot photos, the auto video, and the 1-page flyer. Perhaps my use of the word packet implied too much. Sorry if it caused confusion.

Have you heard anymore? I’m with @paulonis. By the end of the week now, as a mentor I’d be reaching out to frcteams at HQ. As a judge, my first IR@Home interview is this Sunday.

Especially if you have upcoming conflicts like spring break, I’d contact them just in case it’s somehow missing you. (Can check your contact info and spam also.) Hope all’s well!


Note this is just for IR@Home; other things have other schedules. (I just finished my first event of Dean’s List but haven’t even scheduled the second.) As a mentor for IR@Home, I’d reach out to frcteams at the end of this week, and hopefully I’m not directing too too many emails into their inbox…

We still haven’t heard anything.

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Us too. Must be a Hawaii thing. Always last at everything. >.<
Judged awards I can understand, but the other ones such as DL, etc. its pretty late considering judging started a week ago for some teams.

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If you haven’t heard anything, I would encourage your lead mentor(s) to reach out to your judge advisor to confirm. I had a couple emails bounce back to them for reasons I don’t understand (perhaps because firstjudges[dot]org is a new domain?), and reaching out helped get us linked up in time.

As for the IR@Home judging, that’s perhaps the most straightforward, as it should be somewhat similar to a prior year’s pit interview. 1712’s is tonight, so we can let you know more afterwards.

We just finished our first interview last night. One bit of advice I would offer is to have one student serve as the “host” of the chat, briefly introducing the different aspects of your design work, then inviting another student to fill in the details.

“We created a scissor lift octocanum drive; Jenny, do you want to speak about this?”

“Something we found really advantageous is to magnetize the Power Cells. Doug, could you walk us through this process?”

“Tracy was the lead for our vectored outtake wheels. Can you describe how we designed it?”

This helped our students feel more at ease, gave them a starting point for their thoughts, and being introduced by a peer let them feel natural and supported.

As a first-time user for Microsoft Teams, one thing I learned is only the person speaking will have a live camera. Everybody else will only show initials, whether they’re muted or not. If somebody is sharing a screen, no cameras will be shown at that time. At first I was embarrassed for my students, thinking they all had their cameras turned off, but this is a Microsoft Teams thing.

Definitely do a dry run before the call time. Make sure everybody is comfortable, microphones and speakers/headphones work correctly, levels are good, etc. It’s distracting to have a mouthbreather turn the presentation into an ASMR video (not speaking in regard to anything with my team, just the past year of dozens of meetings, training sessions, etc.)

From what I’ve been told/experienced, this is a quirk of the browser version of Teams. If someone has the app version downloaded to their computer, they should be able to see everyone.

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I believe our district CA and DL are all/mostly occurring this weekend.
We have been scheduled for IRaH and IC interviews but not GD.
Not sure how to figure out who your JA is for each group. We only knew when we got an email from them.

In the IRaH group I was assigned to help judge, I believe they were mostly contacted in the past few days and are mostly scheduled for next weekend.

Agree on MS Teams. The desktop app is preferable. Depends on how you are presenting and what features you want to use. Seems to be a few “quirks” for someone who doesn’t normally use it. Our challenge groups switched from zoom to teams the last two weeks so they could get used to it. We most likely will be switching back to zoom after our interviews.

If you haven’t heard anything, have the contacts the team listed in the submission check their spam folder.

Generally speaking, the JAs are trying to line up team interview times with their Judges availability. I think most of them are getting the information from the Judges before they work with the teams. If they have had trouble contacting their Judges then there could be a delay. I expect most of them should be communicating with teams already. Some of those E-mails are going to spam folders because they are being sent to BCC and have a bunch of links in them. Apparently that sort of thing sometimes gets flagged.

Teams meetings are available before the scheduled times. You will have the ability to connect early and work out technology issues beforehand. You could even run through a full practice before the Judges arrive. If you have a a view with the robot and a presentation, the presentation will basically take up the whole screen. If you want to point at parts on your robot for your Judges to see, I recommend that you stop sharing the presentation so the Judges can see the video feed with the robot.

Group assignment information is available on The Blue Alliance. I’m not sure how to figure out what JA is assigned to each challenge though. I suspect teams that don’t hear back in a reasonable timeframe will have to work back through FIRST.

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As another datapoint from a New England District team (6328):

  • Dean’s List and Chairman’s interviews are happening this weekend/coming week for us
  • GD interview is scheduled for weekend of 3/27 (exact time TBD)
  • haven’t heard a thing about scheduling IR@H, and yes we’ve checked all the spam folders, etc.
  • not participating in IC

I am a Game Design judge and my JA has my availability, but as a judge I have not yet heard when the interviews will be happening for my group.

Just heard back, they had to switch our Judge Advisor and they’re behind on scheduling. We should find out soon.

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I was contacted today; hopefully we’ll be able to reschedule to the following day, I put in my request.

Then I spent HOURS trying to get my 3 computers all running the Teams stand-alone client, and able to join together on a single meeting. To do this I believe (this is what worked for me) each computer must have a separate Microsoft account, and there are a ton of sign-ins and verifications to set those up. For example, if you try to use the same phone number on two accounts, it might reject the second (but somehow two of mine do have the same phone number). An Office 365 account, though also a “Microsoft” account, is NOT the same as the kind of MS account you need. Then, you have to make sure Teams is actually signed into the proper account (a different one on each machine). This is NOT something that is easy to work out quickly. The stand-alone client is much nicer to use, as you can see everyone (though not in a nice grid, like Zoom - your own video is tiny in a corner and the others are mushed next to each other, it’s really nasty).

I also had a long chat with the IT professionals in my family, all of whom despise Teams. I have now joined their ranks.

DEFINITELY try this a bunch before your interview. In addition to the Teams issues, we had sound issues with one computer (going to try a microphone tomorrow), and also need some more practice with our ‘question and answer’ format (we’re going to have our new team members interrogate those who actually worked on the robot last year).