Guide to Judging: Introduction and Terms


Judging is an important part of REC Foundation programs. Through the judging process, students have opportunities to practice both written and verbal communication skills, as well as demonstrate the values espoused in our Code of Conduct and Student Centered policies. Some awards may also qualify teams to higher levels of competition.

The purpose of this document is to provide the following:

  • Policies and procedures for the judging process
  • Criteria and descriptions for awards
  • Descriptions of the roles of Judges, Judge Advisors, and Event Partners
  • Additional tools and materials to conduct the judging process

This document applies to all events that include Judged Awards for VEX U, VRC, and VIQRC. The goal is to help improve the judging experience for teams, volunteers, and event organizers, as well as increase consistency of the judging process across event regions.

Questions can be asked on the official Judging Q&A. Only the current season’s Q&A responses are valid. Q&A’s from past seasons should be ignored.

Note: The World Championship judging process may differ from this guide due to the scale and complexity of that event.

Key Terms, Definitions, and Links

Engineering Design Process – The process of exploring the problem, generating, and testing solutions, and documenting results in an iterative process.

Engineering Notebook – The document submitted by a team to record their Engineering Design Process. Notebooks are sorted by Judges, and some will be evaluated according to a rubric.

Event Partner (EP) – The Tournament Coordinator who serves as an overall manager for the volunteers, venue, event materials, and all other event considerations. Event Partners serve as the official liaison between the REC Foundation, the event volunteers, and event attendees.

Finals Matches – A Match used in the process of determining the champion Alliance and occurs after Qualification Matches.

Individual Recognition Awards – Awards that are given to a particular individual rather than a team. An example would be “Volunteer of the Year”.

Judge – Person who interacts with teams at an event to help determine winners of judged awards. Those who perform this role online are known as Remote Judges.

Judge Advisor – The coordinator of all Judges at an event. They are responsible for organizing Judge volunteers, guiding deliberations, and relaying the judged award results for the Event Partner/Tournament Manager Operator.

Judged Awards – Awards that are determined by Judges at an event based on standardized criteria and descriptions. An example would be the “Think” award.

Performance Awards – Awards based solely on a team’s on-field performance. Examples would be the Tournament Champion Award or Robot Skills Champion Award.

Qualifying – An event is considered “Qualifying” if it meets all of the requirements in the Qualifying Criteria. Certain Performance and Judged award winners at Qualifying events will qualify to the next level of competition, such as a region championship.

Qualification Matches – Matches in which teams are randomly partnered and share a score – all qualification matches factor into a team’s ranking for the event and determine which teams move on to Finals Matches. The exact ranking methodology is found in the Game Manual.

RECF – Acronym for Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, the organization which oversees the competition aspects of VRC, VIQRC, and VEX U events.

Team Interview – An interview, typically 10-15 minutes in duration, during which students on a team are interviewed by Judges. Teams demonstrate their ability to explain their robot design and game strategy. The information shared in this interview and the Judge’s notes become the basis for award nominations and deliberations.

VEX U – The college/university age level robotics competition program. VEX U is played using the VRC game, with notable exceptions to game play and robot construction contained in the VRC game manual’s VEX U Appendix. The student eligibility requirements are outlined in the Game Manual.

VIQRC – Acronym for VEX IQ Robotics Competition, played by Elementary and Middle School age level students. The student eligibility requirements are outlined in the VIQRC Game Manual.

VRC – Acronym for VEX Robotics Competition, played by Middle and High School age level students. The student eligibility requirements are outlined in the VRC Game Manual.


This document may be updated on June 15, August 15, December 15, and April 15. Any significant changes will be listed below.

December 15, 2023

  • Changed “Balloted Awards” to “Volunteer Nominated Awards”
  • Clarified that teams must complete an interview in order to receive a Judged Award
  • Clarified that for Design Award winners, notebooks must meet the criteria of “Fully Developed” to be considered
  • Clarified that for the Excellence Award, ranking percentages are calculated at the conclusion of Qualification and Skills Matches
  • Clarified that the percentages for Excellence Award eligibility are calculated different depending on whether the event is offering a single Excellence Award or two grade level specific Excellence Awards
  • Added additional information on Tournament Manager Award reports for Excellence Award data
  • Altered key criteria for the Innovate Award to limit the scope of comparison to only Innovate Award candidates at the event
  • Added information regarding submitting Innovate Award information for judging using the RobotEvents Digital Engineering Notebook link upload feature found in the team’s dashboard on under “My Account”
  • Added a recommended best practice for returning physical notebooks at an event
  • Clarified that the Innovate Award Submission Form or an entry in the Engineering Notebook with equivalent information are both acceptable submission formats for the Innovate Award
  • Added Award Script for the circumstance that an award is not given out at an event.
  • Added notes in various places to provide clarity and additional information
  • Various grammatical and typographical fixes

September 1, 2023

  • Added clarification to “Confidentiality” and “Qualitative Judgement” principles
  • Added verbiage “Managing Conflicts of Interest.”
  • Added verbiage for “Volunteer Nominated Awards” – an option for the Energy and Sportsmanship awards to be decided by event staff.
  • Important notes have been moved to colored boxes for emphasis
  • Excellence Award criteria has been clarified: For eligibility, teams must have both an overall Robot Skills score and an Autonomous Coding Skills score above zero
  • Added verbiage suggesting different ways of planning initial in-person interviews, including via a schedule or sign-up system, in addition to the judge’s initiative, and clarification on how follow up interviews should be conducted.
  • Added guidance for proper steps to inform EP/REC Foundation about Code of
    Conduct issues.
  • Engineering Notebook Rubric: verbiage of Innovation/Originality Criteria proficiency level descriptions slightly modified.
  • Team Interview Rubric – verbiage of some proficiency level descriptions slightly modified.
  • Reformatted Excellence Award Criteria Checklist to fit two copies on a page.
  • Added Innovate Award Submission Information Form to facilitate the evaluation of the Innovate Award
  • “Field Note to Judges” has been renamed “Field Note to Judge Advisor.”
  • Updated “Judging Single Page Reference Sheet: Excellence Award Criteria”
  • Added “Single Page Outline of the Judging Process” reference sheet.
  • Added optional Sportsmanship and Energy award ranking sheets for volunteer staff.
  • Various grammatical and typographical fixes

June 15, 2023

  • The Judges Award can optionally be given to two different teams at an event.
  • The criteria for the Excellence Award have been modified.
  • Excellence Award requires an Autonomous Coding Skills Challenge score.
  • Teams must be in the top 30% of teams at the event for both Qualification Rankings, Skills Challenge Rankings, and Autonomous Coding Skills Rankings
  • There is no minimum number of teams to be made eligible for the Excellence Award based on performance metrics.
  • An Excellence Award Criteria Checklist is added
  • The Innovate Award description has been changed to be based on a specific aspect within a Team’s Engineering Notebook
  • The criteria for the Innovate Award have been modified.
  • The criteria on the Engineering Notebook Rubric have been modified to include additional criteria.
  • Changes made to Engineering Notebook for ease of use, understanding, and to be more in alignment with Award criteria.

The June 15, August 15, December 15, and April 15 updates will be itemized here when they are released.

Note: For events occurring between December 15-25, both this version and the previous version of the Guide to Judging as well as printable judging materials are valid for use in qualifying events. This is so as not to present an undue burden for those running events in this one-week period that may have prepared materials using the previous version. Events occurring after December 25, must use the most up to date judging materials and verbiage found in the current version of the Guide to Judging.

Continue to the next section, Guide to Judging: Judging Principles