Should there be a Perseverance Award for FRC?

This season, my team has been struggling with an undefined communication issue from the moment we first touched the field. We’ve replaced everything that could possibly be causing the problem, and thought it was fixed several times, only to break again in the next match. This has been the biggest problem for two events now. Multiple controls helpers have tried and failed to find the problem, as have mentors from other teams, volunteers, guests at the events, and other students. The main feedback we’ve received so far is that our robot is extremely well made, and should by all rights be performing extremely well. However, no one can find the problem.

While discussing the event with my parents and one of our mentors this weekend, we noticed that of all the awards FIRST gives to teams, none of them reward those teams that never quite fix the problem. FIRST, and engineering in general, is built around the philosophy of trying, failing, learning, and trying again. However, the awards (at least the robot awards) seem to have as a prerequisite that the robot works well on the field. They do reward teams who prioritize certain aspects of robot design and become amazing at those specific traits. Examples would be robustness, ease of maintenance, control systems, creative (but still functional) design, and automation. This leads to teams specializing in one or two aspects of the robot and sticking with what they know. What I would like to see is an award that incentivizes trying something new, and pushing through the challenges that come with it. Realistically, the average team will not perform well the first time they try something. And many teams have experienced challenges even with design aspects that they have tried many times before without issue. Perseverance in these cases should be recognized and rewarded.

I believe that the ethos of FIRST is demonstrated more by those teams who keep trying, even when nothing goes their way, than by the teams who consistently succeed. Consistent success is certainly an achievement, and deserves recognition, but not all success is on the playing field. The ability of a team to have their performance limited by factors beyond their control or understanding, and still persevere and stay hopeful and resilient, is success in and of itself.

Last fall, we brought a swerve drivebase to a STEM demonstration for one of our sponsors. While setting up our demonstration, the drivebase suddenly stopped working, and we (the business team) had to rely on simple tools and instructions over the phone to fix it. Most of the audience was professional engineers, and after the event, several of them shared that what they were most impressed by was our ability to adapt to the situation and do our best with what we had. That’s what engineering often is, even for industry professionals.

My team is not unique. Many other teams have experienced the same inability to solve a problem, and their on-field performance has suffered because of it. By focusing awards on only those teams whose robots work well consistently, teams whom I believe are even more deserving of recognition are ignored. I propose that FIRST add a new award, the Perseverance Award. It would be a team attribute award.
Description: Celebrates a team whose attitude towards adversity demonstrates FIRST ideals and shows commendable team perseverance and culture. Awarded to a team which has faced challenges throughout the competition season and which has been recognized by the judges as deserving of recognition.

Edit: Changed “work perfectly” in the last paragraph to “work well consistently” to avoid exaggeration.

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I really love this idea!

I don’t know how to implement this within the current event judging schedule/structure.

A team at the LI regional got the judges award. The script read “ This team knows what FIRST is all about: It’s not about winning; it’s about trying. It’s not about size; it’s about spirit. And if “at FIRST” we don’t succeed, we don’t give up. We keep on trying, because that’s how we learn.”

They were definitely struggling a bit with inspection and having everything work accordingly. Many volunteers and teams were helping out, but they were more than excited to get their award.

Chatting with their kids they are already looking at taking a step up next year.

It was also great to see, it was their first award in their teams 17 year history, which is talking about perseverance.

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That is an incredible use of the Judges’ Award. Perhaps its use could be explicitly refocused to include some criteria presented in this thread? I feel like it’s often used as a catchall for a runner up for something else.

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The problem with the Judges’ Award is that while I’ve seen it used as a perseverance award, one of the criteria is that the team keeps being considered for other awards. And for judges who believe that the robot working is a prerequisite for other awards, that means that struggling teams can’t get the Judges’ Award.

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Not quite. The criteria is that there’s something that merits recognition that doesn’t quite fit existing categories. While it could be used as an all-around award, it’s generally not…

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  • Judges Award
    During the course of the competition, the judging panel may decide a team’s unique efforts, performance, or dynamics merit recognition.

Updated

• April 10, 2018

Events Where It Is Awarded

  • District Events
  • Regional Competitions
  • District Championship Divisions (for those Districts with multiple Divisions at their District
    Championships)
  • District Championships (for those Districts with single
    Divisions at their District Championships)
  • FIRST Championship Division

Description

During the course of the competition, the judging panel may decide a team’s unique efforts, performance, or dynamics merit recognition.

Guidelines

  • The team keeps appearing for consideration for other awards.
  • Other Judges have noticed and commented on the positive aspects of the team.
  • A unique happening or feature (often one that demonstrates the team has fully embraced the principles of FIRST) has caught a Judge’s attention.

This isn’t exactly how judging at events goes. Yes you should be able to demonstrate abilities on field, but that isn’t necessarily what all judges look for nor does it need to be perfect.

Also, the judge’s award still exists, does it not? I think this is already a solved problem. It is up to the team to demonstrate to judges why that perseverance is worthy of an award.

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My suggestion is that either there should be a new award for perseverance, which may or may not be given our at all events, or the judges award guidelines should specifically include teams that have shown remarkable perseverance through struggles. Currently, it’s sometimes used for that purpose, but isn’t specifically designed to celebrate teams who fail, learn, and keep going.

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And you’re right that judging at events doesn’t necessarily focus on the robots that work perfectly. I exaggerated there. But it does prioritize robots that have not been experiencing many issues.

It is a great idea. At the end of a tough event, a high-potential struggling team should be recognized for their efforts.

The DiscoBots fit that category this past weekend in Houston - Week 4 , it was brutal watching basic kitbots getting picked over the much more complex swerve/shooting robot the students built. The students could have spent a couple days on a basic kitbot but that’s not the purpose of FRC.

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What is the purpose of FRC and how does it apply to this situation?

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Huh?

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Did you mean to say:

Don’t drag others down because they executed Kitbots well and got picked for elims.

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What program are you playing in? What a wild take.

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You never know another teams situation.
Some of these programs can have limited meetings, working with many restraints. Even a title one school.
Instead of tearing others down, you should cheer all the teams that succeeded, whether an engineering marvel or someone proud of their kitbot.

It’s about inspiring the kids, maybe the kids chose to do a kitbot. But publicly bashing a team does nothing but come off childish, and not like a proper role model to the kids.

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FRC is about building EFFECTIVE robots that can accomplish a task and inspiring kids to continue their journey in STEM. If you guys are struggling with overcomplicating, I’d suggest you take a look at the strategic design presentation I do every year. This is a trap that a lot of teams fall into and miss the point of keeping things simple and specializing; instead they try to do everything and struggle to do so.

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That currently goes against the guidelines for the FRC judging process. The FRC Judge Manual is not public, but here’s an excerpt from “Philosophy of Judging” in the FTC Judge Manual.

Award scripts are written for the positive qualities the team displays, and do not recognize the hardships that a
team may have overcome. The message to the audience about each award winner should be an uplifting one.

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That’s good to know. I was talking about the guidelines listed underneath the award description on the firstinspires.com award page, which I assumed were the main ways in which judges choose a team.

Everyone has different challenges and there is nothing wrong with building a basic kitbot. I would delete my post but it has been quoted so I will take the public shaming.

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