Guide to Judging: Award Deliberations


Award deliberation is the last vital step in the judging process. In this step Judges work with the Judge Advisor and one another to select candidates for each award and create a plan of action for gathering any follow-up information for final decisions.

Award deliberations involve comparing teams to one another. The integrity of the judging process depends on all Judges being able to speak candidly during this process. What transpires during deliberations is particularly sensitive information. Therefore, all judging deliberation notes and conversations need to be kept confidential during and after the event.

The Engineering Notebook Rubric and Team Interview Rubric are tools to assist with deliberations. A team’s score, whether a specific line-item on a rubric or the overall score, is a data point that the Judges / Judge Advisor can use as a part of the process. It is not a replacement for qualitative judgements in the deliberation process.


After Judge groups have interviewed their subset of teams, they should decide which one or two teams from their subset of interviews are candidates for each award. Judges do not need to nominate a team for every award. They should return to the Judges’ Room and share their nominations with the rest of the Judge volunteers and Judge Advisor. Often this takes the form of Judges writing recommended team numbers on sticky notes and affixing them to printouts of award descriptions, in full view of other Judge groups who are also doing the same.

Award Description sheets can be found at the end of this document and can be printed out to help visually organize judge input / candidate teams during deliberations. Color coding can help keep the nominations from each Judge group organized (see picture below).

judging deliberations with sticky notes.png

The end result of this process is a shortlist of nominations for each award from all Judge groups. When there are many nominations for each award, the Judge Advisor may ask Judge groups to withdraw weaker candidates from consideration, based on brief arguments for and against each nomination. For example, if a team was nominated for the Think Award but did not score highly in Autonomous Coding Skills, they may not be a strong candidate. Or a Judge group, upon considering the merits of other candidates, might withdraw their nomination for their initial candidate.


This step should be completed before the end of Qualification Matches. The Judge Advisor organizes Judge groups to go out and gather further information to validate the shortlist of award nominees. This may take the form of observing Skills Challenge matches, Qualification Matches, and behavior in the pits, as well as potentially conducting follow-up interviews with award nominees. The goal is to come up with a final ranking of nominees for each award being presented.

For follow-up interviews, it is recommended that the nominees are interviewed by Judges that have not interviewed them previously. If possible, put Judges together who share an area of expertise to evaluate particular awards. For example, Judges who have a background in programming / computer science would likely be best qualified to evaluate the finalist nominees for the Think Award. This guidance specifically differs from initial interviews, in which Judges with similar expertise should be assigned to different judging groups.

Teams should not be told what awards they are in contention for. This is a violation of the confidentiality principle of the Guide to Judging.


The next step is the final deliberation for each award at the event. This step should be complete shortly after the beginning of Finals/Elimination Matches. Quantitative data needed for deliberations for certain awards can be obtained from the “Team List,” “Qualification Rankings,” and “Skills Challenge Rankings by Age Group” reports from the Reports tab in Tournament Manager at the event.

If follow-up interviews were conducted, the Judges who conducted the follow-up interviews should be the ones to deliberate and create a ranking among those teams. It is best practice to have first-choice award nominees, plus three or more additional alternate candidates.

If information comes to light that a team may have violated the Code of Conduct or Student-Centered Policy, either by Judge observations or from Field Notes to Judge Advisor, that team’s consideration for the Judged Award should be scrutinized by the Judge Advisor. If there is found to be merit in that information, the award is given to the next alternate team in the award nomination ranking.

If a team’s conduct is found to be egregious, please discuss with the Event Partner or REC Regional Manager about this as a potential Code of Conduct violation. Hopefully this is a rare occurrence, but proper communication is important for transparency and to ensure that consequences for actions involving the Code of Conduct are applied fairly.

In the case of the Excellence Award, the winner should come from the list of Design Award finalists that meet the criteria for Performance Awards and other Judged Awards. Moving a team from being a Design Award finalist to Excellence Award winner may result in a reshuffling of winners for other awards to ensure that no team earns more than a single judged award at the event. The Judge Advisor should reconcile award winners to ensure that each award winner earns the highest award at the event for which they are eligible. Having three or more ranked candidates for each award is very helpful in this situation and eliminates the need for additional deliberations.

For Example: Two forms are shown below. Figure 1 represents the award nominees prior to the Excellence Award being decided. Figure 2 represents the results after the Excellence Award has been decided.

Team A has been selected to win the Excellence Award. Team A was also the top candidate for the Design Award. Therefore, the next team in the Design Award ranking (Team B) will now win the Design Award and not the Innovate Award because the Design Award has higher precedence in the Qualifying Criteria. Team D will become the Innovate Award winner. Team C, formally third place for the Think Award, is now the Think Award winner since Teams A and B are earning awards of higher precedence. In the case of the Judges Award (Team E), that award winner is unchanged.

judging deliberations final rankings.png


After award nominees have been finalized, the Judge Advisor should inform the Event Partner that the process is finished, and the Tournament Manager (TM) operator should put those team numbers into Tournament Manager under the “Awards” tab. It is recommended that the TM operator print the Award Summary Sheet or Award Script Reports so the Judge Advisor can double-check that all award winners have been entered correctly.


Prior to the award ceremony, the Judge Advisor should secure the Judges’ Room, including collecting all notes, rubrics, and ranking sheets, and erasing any whiteboard notes. Judges should not retain copies of any notes that reference individual teams, including rubrics or award ranking sheets. If pictures of teams or robots were taken, Judges should delete them.

After the event is over, the Judge Advisor should destroy all judging materials off-site. These items are not to be given to the Event Partner for destruction.

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