I’ve recently been thinking about the efficacy of the Chairman’s Award and the Engineering Inspiration Award in their current form.
Historically, we’ve seen quite a bit of discussion on some nuances of the awards: FIRST vs. other STEM activities, defining key terms like “started” and “mentored,” and how far back within a team’s history outreach can go to be credited with the award submission. While each of those discussions are important, my questions surround larger, fundamental questions (and possibly flaws) with the awards.
FIRST has already announced renaming Chairman’s to the FIRST Impact Award.
My proposal involves changing the FIRST Impact Award to better reflect its existing description by making it more like the FLL Champion Award or the FTC Inspire Award. Each of these awards celebrates a well-rounded team, requiring them to excel in all categories.
- In FLL, this is achieved by teams being strong contenders in all three judged categories, and being in the top x% of robot performance.
- In FTC, the criteria for the award requires teams to be “strong contender for several other judged awards” and have a “robot [which] performs reliably on the field.”
- Currently in FRC, the definition is a lot less specific. It sounds good on first read, but there is a clear discrepancy between FLL’s/FTC’s highest awards and FRC’s highest award. The description requires that teams build robots for the current season but mention that “this does not require the team to have ranked at a certain level during the event but does require teams to put in more than just the minimal effort necessary to field a drivable robot.” That’s a pretty low-standard for the highest award at the event.
I want to be clear: I don’t know that a specific robot threshold is good like in FLL (though, I think they moved it to top 75% to quantitively deal with the “more than minimal effort” vibe in the FRC description), but I do at least want to say language like that in the FTC description.
I also am not recognizing a problem where Chairman’s winners have bad robots – in fact, quite the opposite. Most Chairman’s winners are very well-rounded. However, I think it’s more explainable as the highest honor if the award is not given out based solely on outreach/community involvement.
Currently, the Chairman’s Award is judged based on a submitted essay, and a presentation/interview. This is a great opportunity for teams to highlight their accomplishments, but it again doesn’t evaluate a team that excels in all areas. I’d love to see the essays and interviews continue, and also factor in other award consideration.
For example, if two teams have strong essays and presentations, team A appears on the shortlist for one robot award and no team attribute awards, and team B appears on the shortlist for three robot awards and four team attribute awards, team B should win the Impact Award.
Chairman’s is decided solely by the Chairman’s judges and not the judging panel, so the 2-3 Chairman’s judges only meet 1-3 students from the team before making their decision. Receiving input from other judges that interact with a larger portion of the team could be valuable.
If there is a concern about the deliberation time, I’d argue that the non-Chairman’s judges need not do anything different. Instead. The Chairman’s judges should identify teams which appear on many lists, listen in on discussion for other awards, and ask questions about teams of interest, reaching their decision with more information.
My biggest gripe with Engineering Inspiration is the name, and I know many folks agree. It’s simply not indicative of the content of the award.
I’d think an even better name for the award would be “Community Impact,” but the word “impact” is already in use now .
I believe in keeping the description largely the same as it is now, and continuing to judge it more-or-less as-is.
The key, here, is in the change of Chairman’s:
- Chairman’s switches to a more all-encompassing overall “champion” type of award
EngineeringCommunity Inspiration can now be the primary outreach award, rewarding spreading STEM in the community, growing programs, and using engineering for good in the community.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but finally started to write some of it down with no real plan. Will maybe jump in if I think of more, but am also very curious what changes other folks want to see in these awards!