Reimaging the Chairman's and Engineering Inspiration awards

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.

My proposal:

FIRST Impact Award

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.

Changing the judging process

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.

Community Inspiration

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 :slight_smile: .

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
  • Engineering Community Inspiration can now be the primary outreach award, rewarding spreading STEM in the community, growing programs, and using engineering for good in the community.

Thoughts here?

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!


where pyramid scheme?

the big awards must include a pyramid scheme or the pyramid crumbles

this is awards 101 bucko

HQ better be reading this


Alive and well! Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to impact that.


Oh cool, I didn’t have to bring this up :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t dislike your Chairman’s changes. It aligns with something I’ve thought a few times.

I hate your EI changes.

I hate that we have zero judged engineering awards that punch a ticket. So I propose that EI stays as, drumroll please…

The Engineering Inspiration Award.

As a requirement I want to see teams building proper documentation for their systems. The award should be for teams that produce innovative solutions and document them in a manner that other teams could replicate them in the future. Then FIRST conveniently has a collection of resources on how teams achieved game challenges such that the next time a similar challenge pops up (how many years have we climbed or shot balls) they can pull them out and have a library of solutions on a site available to teams.

It builds a library of resources and it celebrates the thing FIRST is supposed to be about.


That’s totally valid (and a significant part of why I think robot performance should factor into Chairman’s!), but we’d need to totally throw out the EI definition and start over. If that’s the direction, that’s fine. One thing has to change: the definition of the award or the name of the award (perhaps both?).

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The award is named great for what I’ve proposed as a goal.

But realistically it would probably be best to change the name to avoid confusion… I think we both know that some more experienced judges operate on their recollection of criteria rather than reviewing the current criteria… Plus it would get real confusing for TBA real quick.

So in the interest of that the new name should be named after a pioneering educator that was instrumental to FIRST - The Woodie Flowers Award… wait, I did it again…

But really, yeah, it should probably be named something else. I’ll leave that to people that are better at those sort of things than I am.


you know what I dislike? that EI brings cash to advance to the next level of competition and Chairman’s/Impact does not.


I mean the current system equally advances 2 robot winners, and 2 non-robot winners, in the past 3 robot winners and 3 non-robot winners + usually a 4th robot winner as the wildcard. I don’t see why we would need to lean heavier on the engineering side in deciding how to send teams to champs.

The best thing about FIRST is that it is more than robots.


On-field performance is not the same thing as good engineering practice. They’re positively correlated, at best.


My line for chairman’s would be made it to elims or was in the top 50% of the event whichever is less teams and set that as the minimum robot quality line

Since Frank is retiring, I vote @jaredhk as new Frank.

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Chairman’s Award judging is usually complete well before alliance selection occurs (and before ranks have been finalized)


My logic largely stems from a desire that we provide a pathway for taking risks or doing new things.

The following thoughts are very broad generalizations. It’s hard to speak about this without making them. There are 100% exceptions to what I’m about to say, but… whatever, just give me the benefit of the doubt here, I have a point I swear.

The three robots that have traditionally qualified from a regional are optimistically the two best and the 24th best. They are the robots that were “most optimized” to play the game. What they are not is the robots that featured game changing or innovative things or that students really dug in and brought new knowledge into the community.

I want to create an award that celebrates the trailblazers, the ones who looked at a problem and found a different path and then, and this is actually the most important part, put down trail markers and drew the rest of us a map.

I don’t want to give a qualifying award to a team just because they did some neat vision pipeline. I want to give a qualifying award to the team that did a neat vision pipeline and documented it well enough that even my semi competent self can understand it.

In a sense, it is still a culture award - we are still celebrating impact in our community, we’re just looking at it through an engineering sense with a particular focus on producing useful documentation.

I’ll also admit, it is part of a longstanding goal to put more emphasis on documentation within the FRC community in an effort to prevent brain drain when that one senior leaves and produce more robust teams.

So, point of fact - this doesn’t seem to be an issue in FLL.

But also, a relatively simple solution would be to take the avg qual percentile over the last 5 years 3 years. Why 5 years 3 years? Because that’s the lifetime of Chairman’s…

(Updated with Sean’s correction)


You being up a good point I had not considered I guess you could do something like top 3 ranked in case, but I would have to think that over good point

3 years now.

See previous comment about judges working off old criteria :stuck_out_tongue:

(in my defense, I didn’t judge any events this year)

What about either or awards so it’s says chairman’s plus engineering award or chairman’s plus outreach award? That way the balance shifts with the teams there and it doesn’t change the number qualifying

How about the “MFD” award? :upside_down_face:


I’m not going to lie, I’ve read this a few times and I’m struggling to parse it. Help? (see earlier comment about my general lack of competency)

The more I think on it - Trailblazer Award seems like a pretty passable name. I’m sure we could get Jeep or Land Rover to slap their name on it. Or the Pioneer Award and really lean into it being a NASA sponsored award. (I like the trailblazer name better as it feels better aligned with the goals of find the path for those that come behind)

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Also Chairman’s is about more than 1 competition or even 1 competition season. So it seems to me very odd to gatekeep it on one particular day’s robot performance.