The Judging Process Demystified

Why Do We Judge Teams at Competitions?

The REC Foundation Judging process gives students an opportunity to practice written communication skills through the Engineering Notebook, practice verbal communication skills through the Team Interview, and demonstrate the values of the REC Foundation Code of Conduct and Student-Centered policies. 

Judging recognizes and celebrates what teams have learned and the hard work they have put into the robotics competition as an educational activity. Judged awards can qualify teams to higher levels of competition.

The Ethos of Judging

Core Principles for Teams

The REC Foundation believes that:

  • A team that earns an award should be Student-Centered
  • A team that earns an award should abide by the REC Foundation Code of Conduct
  • The Team Interview is a conversation between students and judges—it is not a prepared presentation
  • The Interview and Notebook are genuine reflections of student work
  • The Engineering Notebook is developed by the team, for the team—it is not a “presentation notebook” designed for the judges to look at
  • There is no magic formula for winning an award 
  • Each award is a worthy accomplishment in its own right—no award should be seen as a consolation prize

Core Principles for Judges

  • Confidentiality: Discussions & notes are kept confidential
  • Student-Centered Teams: Judging recognizes student-centered teams
  • Team Ethics and Conduct: Teams must abide by the Code of Conduct
  • Youth Protection: Safety of students is top priority
  • Impartiality: Judges disclose any conflicts of interest and avoid impropriety
  • Consistency: Teams evaluated under similar conditions using the same materials
  • Inclusion: ALL teams must be given an opportunity to be interviewed
  • Balance: No team can earn more than one JUDGED award
  • Integrity: Awards should go to the teams that earn them
  • Qualitative Judgment: Judges use their judgment to evaluate teams

Judging Roles

Event Partner

  • Has overall responsibility for event success
  • Recruits a Judge Advisor who can effectively manage the judging process, and sufficient Judges for the number of teams at the event
  • Provides space and supplies for deliberations


  • Evaluates teams to determine eligibility for judged awards
  • Conducts one or more activities at the event, as assigned by the Judge Advisor
    • Evaluate Engineering Notebooks
    • Interview teams
    • Observe teams
    • Present awards
  • All Judges work together to deliberate award winners

Judge Advisor

  • Organizes and oversees the overall judging process at an event
  • Prepares a judging schedule based on event size and agenda
  • Manages conflicts of interest of Judge volunteers with teams at the event
  • Facilitates deliberations and delivers final award winners to Event Partner

Mechanics of the Judging Process

  • The Event Partner and Judge Advisor develop a judging schedule to match event agenda
  • Judges review and rank Engineering Notebooks according to overall quality
  • In order to interview every team, Judge volunteers are assigned to subsets of teams to interview 
  • Each Judge group selects top candidates for each award from their subset of teams
  • Small Judge groups come together to deliberate and nominate the final candidates for each judged award
  • There may be additional interviews and observations of finalist teams
  • At the end of Qualifying Matches, performance data is factored in for some awards
  • Awards are usually presented at the conclusion of the event, during or after finals

Quick Judging Overview

This illustration provides a team-centric view of the Judging process during an event.

How Teams Can Prepare for Judging

  • Read and understand the Code of Conduct and Student-Centered Policies
  • Read and understand the sections of the Guide to Judging
  • Review the Team Interview Rubric, the Engineering Notebook Rubric, and the Award Descriptions
  • Understand the two components of Judging at events
    • Engineering Notebook evaluation
    • Judged team interview (10-15 minutes)
  • Self-evaluate the notebook throughout the season
  • Conduct mock interviews and notebook reviews with trusted adults
  • Do the Skills Challenges at events; match rankings (qualification and Skills Challenges) factor into the Excellence Award
  • Manage expectations; it is possible to do everything ‘right’ and still not earn an award

What Are the Judged Awards and Criteria?

Design Award

  • Engineering Notebook required
  • Be at or near the top of Engineering Notebook Rubric rankings
  • Exhibit a high-quality team interview
  • Team demonstrates effective management of time, talent, and resources
  • Team interview demonstrates their ability to explain their robot design and game strategy

Excellence Award

  • Engineering Notebook required
  • All Design Award criteria, plus:
  • Be ranked in the top 30% of teams in Qualification Rankings
  • Be ranked in the top 30% of teams in Robot Skills Rankings
  • Be ranked in the top 30% of teams in the Autonomous Coding Skills Challenge
  • Be a candidate in consideration for other Judged Awards

Judges Award

  • Team displays special attributes, exemplary effort, and perseverance at the event
  • Team overcomes an obstacle or challenge and achieves a goal or special accomplishment at the event
  • Earned by a team that distinguishes themselves in some way that may not fit in other award categories

Innovate Award

  • Engineering Notebook required
  • Recognizes an effective and well documented design process for a unique or uncommon design aspect
  • Teams self-select which aspect to be evaluated on and provide information for judges to find that aspect in their Engineering Notebook
  • The team who earns the Innovate Award should be among the top contenders for the Design Award

Think Award

  • Recognizes the most effective and consistent use of coding techniques and programming design solutions to solve the game challenge
  • Must score points in the Autonomous Coding Skills Challenge at the event

Amaze Award

  • Recognizes a consistently high-performing and competitive robot

Build Award

  • Recognizes a well-constructed robot that is constructed with high attention to detail to hold up to the rigors of competition

Create Award

  • Recognizes a creative engineering design solution to one or more of the challenges of the competition

Energy Award

  • Recognizes outstanding enthusiasm and excitement at the event

Inspire Award

  • Recognizes passion for the competition and positivity at the event

Sportsmanship Award

  • Recognizes a high degree of good sportsmanship, helpfulness, and positive attitude both on and off the competition field

Award FAQs

Q: What are the types of awards a team can earn at an event?

A: Teams can earn performance-based awards and Judged awards at an event; individual coaches, mentors, or members of the team may earn individual recognition awards.

Q: How many awards can a single team earn at one event?

A: A team can earn multiple performance awards, a single Judged award, or a combination of the two. No team may ever earn more than one Judged award at a single event.

Q: My team earned multiple awards at their last event, and qualified for our Regional Championship event. Can they earn the same awards at the next event, even if those awards are regional qualifiers?

A: There is no “look back” to previous events when determining which teams have earned awards at an event. Teams who meet the criteria for an award are eligible to be considered for that award at every event, regardless of whether the award qualifies teams to a championship.