WFFA limits at District CMP

I agree that FIRST is good about listening to the community, but most District areas are managed by volunteers. My point is that there’s ways to honor these nominees (and the main complaint seems to be that they’re not honored enough). As someone who helps to organize and manage the events in IndianaFIRST, I know that sometimes there’s just not enough time to do these extra things. So I’m simply saying that if people have ideas, bring them to your area’s management and see if there’s a place where you can personally make an impact to make it better. Yes, it’d be nice if this was done in a more unified/standard manner across FIRST. In order to do that, these different geographical ares will need help though.

I’m not dwarfing anyone’s concerns. Like you pointed out: this thread was lacking suggestions. I just offered a few that individuals and teams can do in order to make people more aware of the nominees in your areas.

How is one winner for 470 teams “plenty”? Pardon my bluntness, but at that rate, most mentors in FiM won’t be alive long enough to stand a chance at winning a WFFA.

As a WFFA winner at the age of 27, that just feels wrong.

Simply put, how come WFFA’s don’t scale at the rate of every other award in FRC? Isn’t Chairman’s Award supposed to be the highest honor in FRC? In districts, the WFFA is an order of magnitude more exclusive than the Chairman’s Award. This strikes me as backwards. Along the same lines, only recognizing one WFA across two championships, while we have 2 CCA’s and an additional 4 CCA Finalists, also seems backwards.

I posted some opinions on this award last year as well:


Another nice aspect of this for WFFA in particular is that it should self-relieve its own strain. Increasing the number of WFFAs per district per year grows the pool of potential judges much faster than it currently is. This is key from a logistical perspective, because as team density rises in districts, the number of WFFA nominations likely is and will grow far faster than the pool of WFFA judges available to read them. If we keep the current ratio of WFFAs to teams in districts, the strain on our WFFA judges will increase nonlinearly. It might be survivable now, but imagine when someplace like Michigan is at saturation for teams?


You make a good point. However, I don’t think past WFFA winners act as judges for future WFFA nominations. From this page:

Professor Flowers will lead the past Championship Woodie Flowers Award (WFA) recipients as they judge and select the Finalists and the Championship recipient based on student essays.

It looks like all WFFA and the WFA are decided by only past WFA’s.

Someone correct me if this is wrong.


Wow, that is a lot of essays. I didn’t even imagine they did it that way (limiting it to WFAs). Thanks


On behalf of the Championship Woodie Flowers Award (WFA) committee, I will attempt to address the passionate input on this subject.

As many know, the existing Championship WFA winners are the judges for the Woodie Flowers Finalist Awards (WFFA) presented at the Regionals and District Championships. There are currently over 500 WFFA winners.

We take this task seriously and appreciate all of the suggestions we receive about this award through thoughtful discussions, emails, and even posts here on ChiefDelphi. We are listening and reading. Also, you should know that we discuss this topic often, every year, within our committee.

We want to focus on recognition of mentors and prestige for the WFFA winner.

We appreciate that the community has noticed more attention in 2017 for the recognition of the nominated mentors. Since this nomination is an award in itself, we are putting more of an effort in signaling out those WFFA candidates at the District Events and the District Championships.

At the same time, the prestige of this award is the overriding reason why there is one WFFA winner at each District Championships. It is not because of the cost of the trophy, nor the workload. Actually, we always encourage more teams to nominate their wonderful mentors and celebrate them in unique ways.

We wish everyone the best as we finish up the 2017 FIRST season.

Andy Baker
2003 Championship Woodie Flowers Award Winner

Paul Copioli actually chimed in on a very similar discussion last year:

Edit: And Andy chimed in above just as I was posting this.

While I agree that the WFFA and WFA are prestigious, by limiting the number of WFFA’s given out you have made it more prestigious than Chairman’s.

I am all for only 1 or 2 WFA given out each year but limiting it to only 1 WFFA doesn’t make any sense.

I think I agree in spirit, but I’d like to boil my main objection down to the massive culling between nominations and WFFAs in Districts. I think I’d be okay with 1 WFFA (or 2, like DL) per DCMP if there was an intermediate step. As we’ve discussed with other awards recently and even with the benefits of the DCMP level in general, such a steep selection rate with no interim feedback gives contenders a very poor picture of where they stand and makes goal-setting far more abstract.

As a strawman, I’d suggest something like making the Nominees WFQFs and having District WFFAs judge WFSFAs for each event. There would still be 1 (or 2, or the same count as Chairman’s) WFFA at DCMP judged by the WFAs. This puts it more in line with the other award progressions and the oft-discussed benefits of this kind of tiering. As I demonstrated previously, I’d been innately assuming something like this already occurred.

As Andy said, there are over 500 WFFA recipients. That’s a lot of cats to herd.
They also don’t all stay in one place (I was adopted by a new-to-me team this year). Furthermore, they aren’t necessarily evenly spread out among the many areas FRC reaches.
How would the WFFA-as-judges model work? The WFFAs of teams attending an event are in charge of reading every essay at said event, and must work together - remotely* - to name one person out of the nominees? What about late entry teams (i.e. those that register for events after the competition season has started)? What about teams that do not qualify for events where the WFFA is given?
Currently I am aware of no organization of WFFA recipients, other than our names listed on the aforementioned Mobius webpage. I know not of any repository of addresses, emails, phone numbers, or any way to contact other WFFAs. There would need to be a hefty amount of work just to organize a means of communication between the WFFAs before even starting the nuts and bolts of reading, ranking, and agreeing upon winning essays at each event.

*I don’t see how this undertaking could possibly happen at an event - WFFAs are much too busy running their teams or acting in a volunteer role to carve out hours from their schedule to read, rank, and deliberate essays.

4 WFFAs are awarded in a state that has 208 teams, and 1 is awarded in a state with 449 teams.

I don’t really feel inclined to tell the WFA committee how to do their thing (they are the people who have offered years of guidance and a mountain of resources to allow people like me to do my thing… you know, imitate a mentor who knows how to run a team). That being said, saying that both of these are the ideal solution to WFFA awarding seems… disingenuous?

The WFA committee in turn does not prescribe how many teams are in any given district, nor how district lines are drawn.

Mostly agreed, although I think many teams will miss out on seeing a WFA given out at whichever CMP is not fortunate enough to have one. I believe more mentors in districts deserve to be recognized with a WFFA, plain and simple. Obviously the WFA’s as a whole disagree, and this is where we stand.

I am not following this logic. Awards in FIRST are there to serve the teams, not the other way around.

All other awards scale up fairly well with the number of teams/events. The WFFA/WFA does not. This leaves myself and others scratching our heads.

Is the prestige of the award more important than recognizing an roughly equitable number of deserving mentors from each region? I certainly do not think so.


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That was a NJ regional planning committee created award that was lost in the transition to MAR. The goal of that award was to recognize alumni of programs who continued to contribute to FIRST in the region or went on to excel in their chosen area of study.

In turn, deciding to award WFFAs does not need to be defined by district lines or on a per regional basis, that’s just how the award is currently distributed. Obviously there was not a lot of hand wringing over the decision to only award one WFA among both half championships; I don’t see why that couldn’t trickle down to only awarding one WFFA in the state of Minnesota or inversely, awarding by allocation a la team CCAs.

The idea that the WFFA and WFA do not conform to the structure of blue shirt awards is very clearly established, we’re just yelling at the clouds over which parts of the typical award structure it keeps and which it replaces. The committee has decided that the current distribution is logical and equitable, but I am having difficulty finding the legs on which this assignment stands.

Gotcha, thanks for the clarification.

Perhaps FMAR can start a “*FIRST *Mid-Atlantic Hall of Fame” consisting of winners of the Donald Bowers Inspiration Award?

I suspect the WFFA committee probably does not want the number of winners that giving one award per regional produces. However, they have to give one award per regional since that is the only way to ensure every team has a chance to compete for a WFFA every year. If it were only some regionals, then one event teams would end up shut out. In Districts, this isn’t a problem. I can’t find a more plausible explanation for this discontinuity.

That said, if WFFA / WFA has to stay so prestigious that the awarding of them is so tightly limited, we need an additional award to recognize quality mentors. The list of deserving mentors who merit official recognition via an award is so much, much longer than one per region per year. Some lesser award, without the prestige or tightness of WFFA but with some of the celebration and recognition, should be given out. That was the idea behind me suggesting a WFSFA or something, but if it has to be totally outside the WFA system that’s fine too.

It makes sense (to me) that a district would give out as many WFFAs as they do Chairman’s awards.


I think this is really at the heart of my argument. Limiting awards to preserve the prestige is flat-out lame, especially considering that we aren’t talking about giving them out like free water ice at Rita’s on the first day of Spring.* We are simply suggesting giving them out at the same level as the Chairman’s Award. There are deserving people/teams out there that have less chance of feeling fantastically honored by winning this award just because they live in Michigan rather than the greater Pittsburgh area.

*To my surprise, Rita’s is a pretty far-reaching water ice franchise, despite its firm Philly roots.

To Andy and my other FIRST idols who represent the WFA committee…

There may not be a body of people on the planet whose collective opinions I respect more than all of you guys. You’re an inspiring group of people who have been personal role models of mine as well as I’m sure hundreds or thousands of others.

I am having a very hard time understanding the logic to the WFFA process though at the DCMP level. As it currently stands, the WFFA is immensely more prestigious than FIRSTs top honor, when comparing awards or banners given out each year. In my opinion I do think there is such a thing as being overly cautious in diluting the award meaning, and in Districts, we are over that boundary by a significant margin.

The last 4 years I’ve watched dozens and dozens of deserving mentors be nominated in NE, year after year, and watched as we award only 1 person a winner. Simultaneously the highest honor we bestow to teams, Chairman’s, gives away 4 blue banners! This isn’t splitting hairs, this is a large imbalance. The highest honor a team can receive in NE is not Chairman’s, it’s WFFA.

I guess I simply don’t understand why all other awards are balanced roughly for team representation, essentially giving teams globally an equal shot of achieving the honor, except for WFFA. I had always assumed the workload was a huge piece of this puzzle, but reading your assessment, Andy, this doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case.

FRC is only getting bigger. New England is only getting bigger. The mentors I brush shoulders with here in our corner of the country really deserve more recognition IMO. Having been nominated for the award, I believe I under the honor that comes with just the nomination. I just wish we could see more mentors walk across that field draped in a blue banner for their team.