Why is Engineering Inspiration viewed as second place to the Chairman's Award?

In no way does this post reflect my opinion of my team, the judges, or even FIRST as a whole. This is simply an observation that I thought I would share and hopefully get some feedback from the community and in no way am I trying to slander any team is affiliated with the topic below as I have so much respect for the teams within in FIRST that are making it loud within their community.

Since 2014, when FIRST began allocating judged awards at the division level except for Chairman’s I have noticed a significant trend in how FIRST awards the Engineering Inspiration award. In the last three years, 10 out of the 12 teams that won Engineering Inspiration at a subdivision level also won were honored as regional Chairman’s Award Winners earlier in the year at another regional. Many of these same RCA teams also won Engineering Inspiration at another regional within the same year they won Engineering Inspiration within a subdivision. For those who do not know, unlike the Chairman’s award winners, regional Engineering Inspiration winners do not give a formal presentation at champs as judging for this award at a subdivision level is mainly done within the pits which qualifies any team to win Engineering Inspiration despite not winning it at regional. For many teams, it is quite an accomplishment to win an Engineering Inspiration at a regional but it is in my opinion, the same teams do not have the equal opportunity as RCA teams because they are not provided a chance to give a formal presentation. While a lot of information can be relayed to judges within the pits I do not feel that it is sufficient or personal enough to talk about the team’s initiatives and outreach efforts. In the current system at champs I believe that it does not favor teams to win Engineering Inspiration despite them being awarded the same award at a regional. This makes it seem that FIRST sees Engineering Inspiration as a “second place CA”. I have the utmost respect for Chairman Award Winning Teams and completely understand the level of caliber required to become a CA team. I also understand, how prestigious it is to win CA at Champs. But It seems that many teams that qualify for champs by winning Engineering Inspiration have to compete with the CA for the same award which qualfied them for champs in the first place.

Now this post would not be of any use if I did not mention how to fix this issue and while I am not certain any of these options would be a perfect solution it might be a combination of ideas to change this.

  • I am not sure if this occurs at other District Champs but at MAR Champs, the Engineering Inspiration winners from each district receive a 10 minute Q & A session regardless if they also won Chairman’s at a district. Provide this opportunity to just the Engineering Inspiration winners from each regional at Champs or a similar presentation opportunity.

  • Only judge Engineering Inspiration in the pits based off the teams that qualified for Champs by winning Engineering Inspiration at a regional

  • Exclude RCA from winning subdivision Engineering Inspiration awards

I look forward to the hopefully healthy and productive discussion that will take place in this thread and to understand the opinions of others.


Many times, within FIRST it is possible for EI to be seen as a second place Chairman’s Award, while EI is prestigious for its own reasons, I believe that teams that win Engineering Inspiration at a regional deserve that same opportunity to win that award at a subdivision level.

I’m surprised, because I’ve always thought that the Gracious Professionalism award was ‘Chairman’s runner up’.

I’m with a team that’s won eight RCA’s, but never won an Engineering Inspiration. But the last two years, no RCA and two regional GP’s. In 2012, an Einstein GP. Really honored, but not as much as Chairman’s. But you can see how we associate GP with not winning RCA.

It’s my impression that the criteria to win Engineering Inspiration is the creation of engineering classes and engineering curriculum in your school, to encourages future engineers.

Chairman’s criteria is much harder to put into one sentence. But it does involve inspiring engineers and gracious professionalism too.

Probably a venn diagram would intersect these two at ‘chairmans’.

A team that receives the GP Award is nominated by other teams via a form handed out in the pits, I believe.

Could be wrong, though. I just remember a form being handed out for the GP Award at the pits for the OC Regional.

I would agree with what you said that because Chairman’s team need to incorporate not only inspiring engineers but making an impact in their community as well as practising GP. While EI and GP are a part of Chairmans, I just do not think it is always a two-way street in terms of EI

As far as it goes in the championship, there is nothing to do between EI and CA.
The judges are an entirely different panel, and they do not even communicate regarding what team’s they see as potential winners of an award.

In theory, it is even possible to win the EI at a sub division and also win the CA on Einstein.
This goes to prove that the EI is not a second place of the CA. It’s judges with different criteria.

The EI judges talk to all the teams at the divisions they are in. The teams only get the pit talk, and have to make it as good as they can. The 12 min CA interview has nothing to do with that.

In my opinion, this isnt necessarily true.
I have seen teams that try for the CA, win EI a lot of the times, but never both awards.
I can also tell you from 1st hand knowledge from judges in the past that they indeed communicate with each other.

In my opinion, a lot of teams trying for the RCA or CCA have a better chance of winning EI, because as they try for the Chairman’s Award, an interview takes place, giving that team an additional formal opportunity to showcase their program. This provides an advantage that a non-participating RCA team does not have.
EI-RCA/CCA goes hand in hand, even if indirectly.

Regardless of whether or not it is said explicitly or not, awards are spread around given to as many different teams as possible. Fact according to…:slight_smile:

This is what I am trying to convey. That non RCA and even REI winners are at disadvantage to win that award. For me it seems a little backwards that a team who might have only won a RCA can win EI at Champs. It’s like saying a veteran team should be able to be chosen as RAS because they were a rookie once too

In week 2, in NH, our team won EI award without presenting for CA. So these are not necessarily connected.

I am going to have to disagree with you on this because atleast one third of the teams that have won Champs EI were solely RCA before they came to champs

this has happened a few times in MAR as well but many times District EI winners are usually taken from the pool of teams that applied for CA

From my experience in the judging room? No. I’ve been in both MAR and Regional judge rooms and Chairman’s is a separate process from everything else.

Are teams that are strong candidates for EI usually strong candidates for Chairman’s? 85% of the time, yes.

Additionally, the Judge Advisor has the job to ensure fairness for all teams (keeping judges in line, make sure everyone has an equal opportunity at all of the awards, ect.). When the chairman’s judges make their decision, typically by the end of day 2, a team usually gets wiped out of the running of everything else. Due to fairness standards, teams are typically out of the running if they already won an award. Since Chairman’s is the big cheese, its a trump card.

If you look at the judging criteria, EI is a little more short term IE current year is more heavily weighted. Has a specific encourage engineering field component. Other than that their are a lot of similarities.

Judges that pick the EI are not the same as judges picking chairman’s, but the teams are presenting the same material to both. You cannot when Chairmans without presenting, But if you are good enough to win Chairmans, chances are you have a good story for EI as well.

You can look at our history as an example.
In 2008, we won the Hawaii RCA.
At Championships that year, we won EI (only 1 given to the entire event).
Our program has never won a regional EI ever in over 30+ regional events attended.

I think that a lot of this comes from EI and CA genuinely having a lot of overlap. EI focuses on strength of partnership within the team, school, and community. Sustainability and measurable reach are the primary components of EI, but they are also components of the Chairman’s Award. A good CA team will most likely be a good EI team as well.

As far as competing at the Championship, I believe the teams that best embody each award should win the award. Maybe these teams, who don’t win EI at the their qualifying events, win at the Championship because they are the best EI teams, but were awarded the Chairman’s Award because they were also the best at that, and that award is more prestigious.

As far as judging goes, I think EI teams are actually at an advantage. Chairman’s Award teams have an extremely limited time with the judges and their interactions are very restricted. Judged awards give teams more time with the judges and the ability to talk about their work with multiple panels of judges.

On a final note, one of the teams that best embodied Engineering Inspiration to me is GaCo 1629. They have an excellent program that is geared toward Engineering Inspiration and won multiple Championship EI’s back when only one was given. While they have earned Chairman’s Awards since then, I would look to them as an outstanding EI team.

Not a 100% sure on this, but from region to region are all CA candidates judged on the same criteria/ grading sheet? If so is there universal criteria for EI or does that vary from regional to regional?

If there isn’t an universal criteria for EI could this be a reason why a team might win CA at one regional but then give their same presentation at different regional to different judges and win Regional EI?

I know this can be usually the case when going for Chairman’s doesn’t guarantee a team to be in the running for EI. but at least from experience within the district model. the teams that usually win EI are from the chairman’s pool. In fact at least in MAR, many teams have won both EI and DCAin the same season entering the district championship

2015 Indiana DCA - 135, 234, 4272
2015 Indiana DEI - 461, 1501, 1741

2016 Indiana DCA - 868, 1741, 1747
2016 Indiana DEI - 135, 461, 2197

When I first started in FRC and up until recently I always was very upset with the way FRC judging was run. I felt that from the criteria to the judging it self there were many ways to improve it.
After having more time to think things through, I’ve found that the judging in FIRST is done in a way to foster creativity and innovation. For example if you say for the chairman’s award they said the team that starts the most teams or mentors the most teams will win, this would limit teams to whatever criteria FIRST would set and it would also distract from what the Chairman’s and Engineering Inspiration awards are all about.
Connecting this to OPs point, there is overlap with Chairman’s and Engineering Inspiration and that’s OK.
I fear the more we limit any award like this, teams may focus more on how to win, more than how to do good in the world through innovative methods. My point here is that right now yes you could argue these awards are subjective and not set up the best way but this is what acts as the insensitive for people to go out and do new awesome things. Whether they start doing these things for the right reasons or not, I believe in the end they will see what it is really all about.

I am the first one to admit that in my early stages in FIRST I just wanted to do things because it would make our team have a better shot at winning chairman’s or EI. It was only after doing some of the new and innovative things our team, like many others do, came up with that the reflection of our community impact came back and hit me (along with help from some great FIRST alum, and our teams mentors along the way) Whether it was people just saying thank you after an outreach event, seeing people that you first hand brought to FIRST thrive in the program, or meeting amazing people that do incredibility things in all parts of the community. All of this helped to show me what it was all about. This all started with me having the wrong mindset and the sometimes seeming ambiguous judging criteria (along with many passionate people on my team) brought me around and showed me that sure you can do things that sound good but the judges will really pay attention when they see your teams true passion and how it has impacted the community.
Every team has this, I can take time to learn how to express it.
The things that stick with you are not winning the awards but the impact you make on people. This is what it is all about. The awards like EI are just a cherry on top.

As a relatively new (three year) mentor, I can say that my ultimate goal in FIRST would be the Engineering Inspiration award. Well, that isn’t quite true. My ultimate goal is to inspire great engineering in the upcoming generation. I was just incredibly proud to see some of the student accomplishments on my team this year, not necessarily on the playing field (we didn’t have a great year), but on spreadsheets. In code. On drawings. Talking with teenagers about no load rpm, stall torque and stall current. Seeing kids do great things, and knowing that I had a role in it. Very heady stuff…at least for a geek like me.

Nevertheless, I would also like to win the award. Yeah, it’s just a reflection of the real work, but it would still be pretty cool.

With that in mind, are there more specific criteria for the award than “inspire engineering”, or whatever slightly longer version of that that appears in the admin manual?

What about the awards statements themselves that are read out at events? I would like to hear what other people did to win the award, and those other awards that are given out. Is there a place I can look up FIRST award citations? A lot of chairman’s videos end up on youtube, but if I don’t happen to be at the event when the Innovation in Control award or the Engineering Inspiration award is given out, is there any way I can learn what teams did to get them?

As for the specific contents of the question from the opening post, I have heard it said that EI is a second place chairman’s award. For me, personally, I would see it as a first place, but apparently, that opinion is not universal.