What does it look like to "network with the judges"

At all the regional/district events I’ve been to, it’s always been said by the announcer that team members should speak with and network with the judges, because they are apart of companies we may want to work at some day. My question would be how would one begin to do this? What lines should I use if I want to talk with a judge?

Edit: I am a student on the team, not a mentor

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Not sure of the context here but if you are a mentor you DON’T speak to the judges. Step back. Ask your kids later what was discussed. For students you generally need to wait for them to come to you. The thing you should work on is how to steer the conversation into areas that show your strengths, and to give them a sense that they need to come back for a follow up visit. But remember they are in charge of the judging process.

“What’s a judge like you doing in a place like this?”.

Seriously though, something like “Hey have you got a few minutes to talk about where you work?”

You know what would make this easier/better? If FIRST published a list of Judges (and other volunteers) and where they work. So you could find judges at companies you are especially interested in.

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If you’re referring to networking as a student for future employment, theres a few things.

1 be competent. You dont want to trying to network and being remembered as the awkward rude wrong information person.

2 be polite. Let them ask their questions and then ask how they got involved in FIRST. From there the conversation is fluid.

Also with that you can ask if you can take their information down if they seem like someone youre going to genuinely be trying to talk with about professional opportunities. Not all of them are going to be comfortable with it. And sometimes the conversation may never get that far. Do not push it straight to that point.

I remember events handing out booklets that had this information.

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That would be awesome everywhere!

At the regionals around me, the “program book” was all digital–scan QR code (posted at event) to get it.

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Come say hi during the breaks between eliminations matches or ask your PDP to connect you with someone specific.

I should’ve clarified that I am a student, not a mentor but those are important points you bring up, thank you

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“Networking” is an important and valuable skill to master. You should always have your 30 second “elevator pitch” ready and know when it is the right time to use it. Consider that the “judges” are only one small subset of people you should seek to network with at events. Mentors on other teams likely have really good advice to share and are eager to do so beyond just their own team. Those RIs in the yellow hats and the CSAs in the orange ones and all the other volunteers? They all likely work (or if retired have worked) somewhere and do/have done some really cool stuff and would be happy to tell to you about it as well. Don’t be shy to strike up a conversation with folks you meet at events and find out more about them and what they do outside of FIRST robotics. The fact that they are there at a FIRST event nearly guarantees they want to be helpful and it’s likely pretty safe to do so. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation, but be sure that when you do, it’s an appropriate conversation and at the appropriate time.

Looking for advice on school or career choices? There are lots of folks at events that have likely been down similar paths before and would be happy to share their insights and experience. But you will never know if you don’t ask.

Looking for a summer internship or maybe even a permanent full time job doing cool stuff, including robotics, in the real world? There are some awesome opportunities out there but you have to seek them out! Folks looking to hire students for internships like students that take initiative. That initiative often starts with a simple conversation.

I can assure you those internships and full time “robotics” jobs are out there and folks, including myself, are constantly on the lookout for talent and people to hire. I’m always happy to discuss opportunities at events and provide my contact info and/or business card so folks can send me resumes. I’m certain I’m not the only one. If you will be at Champs in a couple weeks try to catch up to me and say HI! If I’m not super busy, I’m always happy to chat! This is, of course, an open invitation to all, not just the OP!

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As others have said, it’s really as simple as asking the judges about their work and employer - in general you’ll find a pretty diverse group of technical and non-technical backgrounds. If you aren’t sure what to say, think about the questions the judges have asked you (they are trying to get to know your team and your robot after all) and turn them around - ask about their experiences, accomplishments, inspirations, etc.

That said, please remember that the judges have a full slate of teams to interview, matches to watch, and internal deliberations to conduct, so try to keep things relatively short. If there is a judge (or judges) you would like to have further contact with, ask a mentor to request their contact information from the Judge Advisor or one of the event/volunteer coordinators. Judges are discouraged from one-on-one communication with students so keeping a mentor in the loop is preferred.

All Regionals (not sure about Districts) should have Program Books published on the FIRST website. You can access them via the “Program Book” link on the Team and Event Search (example: EVENT INFORMATION | FIRST).

Most events should have a listing of judges. Some of them have employers and others don’t, depending on publish deadlines, availability of information, etc. There is also a slide shown during opening ceremonies as the judges are being introduced which lists names (and usually employers).

As a VC, I’ve been asked multiple times to connect teams to specific judges or other volunteers and often do. While we can’t give out contact information for a volunteer directly, I’m happy to email a volunteer and say “Team 1234 would love to talk to you and can be reached here” with their request/permission. If you ever talk to someone you want to follow up with and for whatever reason don’t get their contact info, you can always reach out to your PDP/VC/JA and ask.


Judges are often on a tight timeline until mid day on the last day of the event, but at the very least, most would be happy to share where they work and want they do. I also think it’s great if a student wants to introduce themselves during judging and briefly mention their career ambitions. You could always say to a judge that you want to connect with them further if they have time and see what they say. Many will give you a business card or tell you to find them after awards.

As a VC who also judges a few times a season, I often find that I’m talking to students interested in volunteering down the line (or people who are just genuinely curious how parts of an event come together). I’ll always make time for a student who wants to chat and think most judges would do the same.

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All district events I’ve attended this year have made announcements that the event program is digital and look for QR codes posted around the facility. I’ve not looked at any to see what the content is, but then I never looked at the printed programs back in the olden days either.

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FIRST has a best practices for judging guide, they certainly didnt make it easy to find on the season page. It’s buried under mentor resources I think but anyways…

It’s not specific about networking but it talks about what to expect from the judges and also some good ideas about:

Keep handouts and supports simple o Teams should consider preparing a one-page summary hand-out covering your key machine attributes. Highlight key aspects of your design & build processes, novel components incorporated and/or capabilities, as well as info on your approach to control/programming. Be sure to include a picture of your robot! o Teams should focus on the elements of their team and their robot of which they are most proud. Everyone on the team should know these focused things so that no matter who the judges speak with they at least hear these consistent items. Remember, all the awards are TEAM awards so everyone should be able to speak about them. o Make a summary sheet of your team’s accomplishments for that year

As part of the handouts you could have your own business card or a way to show off the highlights of your student leaders to give to judges at that time possibly. And yes student leaders should have business cards… Even if they are home printed! Teams can connect with judges and leave contact info this way!

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