Guide to Judging: Judging Principles


The following judging principles, when taken as a whole, outline an ethos that Judges, Judge Advisors, and Event Partners should follow. The judging role is a very important one that can make a tremendous impact on the students involved. Judges work together as a part of a larger group in evaluating teams against given award criteria. The ability of all judging volunteers to interact with students and fellow Judges rationally and respectfully is of the utmost importance.

All judging volunteers should keep the following principles in mind:


The judging process includes both discussions concerning teams as well as written notes and rubrics. These must remain confidential. Judges should take precautions to ensure that any discussions are not overheard by—or shared with—teams, other event participants, or event staff. Informing a team about their standing in award deliberations or rubric scores is a violation of this principle.

Written judging materials, including Judges’ notes, rubrics, and awards worksheets are to be given to the Judge Advisor for disposal after the event.

Those with access to Engineering Notebooks are not to retain them after the event is over in any form, neither physical nor digital, nor retain photos taken for deliberation purposes at the event.

If the Judges notice a team recording an interview or judging notes, either for their own interview or another team’s interview, they should pause the interview and ask the recording party to cease recording. If they refuse to do so, this should be brought up to the Event Partner as a Code of Conduct violation.


Judges should strive to be impartial and fact-based. All volunteers involved in judging should take care to remove any outward appearances of conflicts of interest, including team shirts, buttons, or branded items that would appear to favor any team at the event.

Conflicts of interest occur when there is a relationship between a judging volunteer and one or more teams or organizations at the event. Additionally, that relationship could create, or appear to create, a situation where teams will not be judged fairly, and that discussions during award deliberations will not be impartial. It is the responsibility of the Event Partner to avoid these situations whenever possible by recruiting judges, and particularly Judge Advisors, who do not have these relationships.

Due to the volunteer nature of most event staff, this may not always be possible. If a Judge has conflicts of interest, it is their responsibility to declare those conflicts to the Event Partner and Judge Advisor. They must mindfully avoid advocating for or against the teams with which they have a relationship or participating directly in the judging process for those teams, such as participating in Team Interviews or Engineering Notebook evaluations. 


Engineering Notebooks and Team Interviews must be evaluated under similar conditions. This allows for a more consistent evaluation of each team. This applies to in-person judging at an event and judging for an event that includes both remote and in-person evaluation of notebooks and interviews. For example: evaluating some notebooks remotely ahead of an event and evaluating others in-person at the event or allowing some team interviews to last 30 minutes and while others are only 10 minutes long would both be considered violations of this principle, as these instances do not provide a consistent judging experience for all teams and may give some teams advantages over others in the judging process.

Qualitative Judgement

Judges are expected to apply qualitative judgment to award criteria when making final decisions on all Judged Awards. As such, a particular or overall score on a rubric is not an automatic disqualification for any Judged Award. For example, while completing the Engineering Notebook Rubric results in a quantitative score, Judges must still deliberate and apply qualitative judgement when ranking teams to determine the Design Award winner.


Only a limited number of teams at an event will earn a Judged Award. However, every team at an event must be given an equal opportunity to be interviewed by Judges even if they have not turned in an Engineering Notebook to be evaluated. A team that elects to not participate in judging by declining to be interviewed is not impacted by this decision in any other part of the competition.


No team shall be awarded more than one Judged Award at an event. Performance Awards such as Tournament Champion, or awards presented to an individual, such as Volunteer of the Year Award, do not affect a team’s eligibility to earn a Judged Award.


Awards should go to the team which best exemplifies the award description and meets the requirements of the award, while still adhering to the principle of balance by not awarding more than one Judged Award per team. Teams at an event should be judged on their merits and behavior at that event only. Judged Awards should not be reallocated based on Performance Awards or awards earned by a team at a past event. If no team at the event meets the criteria for an award, that award should not be given out.

Youth Protection

Judges must be mindful of student safety. Each Judge should work with at least one other Judge in a public space such as a pit area. No meetings should take place in a private space unless the team is accompanied by a responsible adult, such as a coach, mentor, or parent. Judges should avoid asking students personal questions that do not relate to the team, event, or robot. Judges should be mindful of the language they use, and avoid saying things that could be misinterpreted negatively by students on a team.

Student-Centered Teams

Teams who earn Judged Awards must be student-centered, which means that students have ownership of how their robot is designed, built, programmed, and utilized in match play with other teams and in Robot Skills matches. Through observation, interviews with teams, and input from event staff, Judges identify teams that are student-centered, and give greater consideration to teams that favor the enhancement of student learning over teams that favor winning at any cost by violating REC Foundation policies. Teams that are not student-centered should not receive Judged Awards. Additional information and guidance on student-centered teams can be found in the REC Foundation Student-Centered Policy.

Team Ethics and Conduct

The REC Foundation considers the positive, respectful, and ethical conduct of teams to be an essential component of the competition. A team includes the students, teachers, coaches, mentors, and parents associated with the team. All participants are expected to act with integrity, honesty, and reliability and operate as student-centered teams with limited adult assistance. Judges will consider all team conduct when determining Judged Awards. This is covered in greater detail by the REC Foundation Code of Conduct and Student-Centered Policy. Teams who are not acting in a manner which is in alignment with the REC Foundation Code of Conduct and Student-Centered Policy should not be considered for Judged Awards.

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