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.

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

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.

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 and 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 – Acronym for 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.

New For 2022-2023

The following items are new to this season’s Judge Guide:

  • The Judges Award is now a required award for any event that includes judged awards
  • Slight changes to award descriptions and criteria verbiage
  • Changes made to Engineering Notebook and Team Interview Rubrics for ease of use, understanding, and to be more in alignment with Award criteria
  • Consolidated all Remote Judging information into a single section
  • Additional judging tools provided to aid in Judge deliberations
  • Added a form to assist with note taking during interviews

Note: This document may be updated on August 15 and December 15. Any significant changes will be listed below.

August 15 Update Changes

  • Name of document changed from “Judge Guide” to “Guide to Judging” in order to be more indicative that this document is for use by both Judges and Teams
  • Modified the Engineering Notebook Rubric to clarify the Notebook Format Criteria. It is no longer called a “bonus” and is format neutral for both Digital and Physical Engineering Notebooks
  • Changed graphics and descriptions where appropriate
  • Precedence of Awards for consideration during deliberations has been added
  • Clarified volunteer staffing recommendations for Engineering Notebook judging
  • Added a note about cultural norms in communication for team interviews
  • Added a note about proper attire for Judging
  • Judges Award moved to the right-hand side of Initial Award Candidate Ranking Sheet and Final Award Nominee Ranking Sheet for clarity
  • Formatted volunteer age requirements for clarity
  • Made a change in Field Note to Judges to require the signature of the Event Partner, Division Manager, or Head Referee as appropriate
  • Various edits for clarity

December 15 Update

Added content to the following sections:

  • Section 1: Judging Principles - Regarding retention of materials used in judging
  • Section 4: Awards - Regarding two Excellence Awards at blended events
  • Section 5: Judging Engineering Notebooks
    • Added graphic to help illustrate the Engineering Design Process
    • Added guidance for calibration of judging styles by judges
    • Clarification of the rubric as being only quantitative assistance to the final determination by qualitative assessment by the judges
    • Added guidance that teams are responsible for their notebook format to be ready for judging, regardless of the format selected for the event
  • Section 6: Team Interviews
    • Additional guidance on usage of the Team Interview Rubric
    • Regarding how to obtain quantitative data at events
  • Section 8: Remote Judging
    • Guidance to ensure viewable notebooks by judges
    • Regarding the non-allowance of additional requirements that are not in the Guide to Judging to engineering notebook submissions
    • Regarding acceptability of dynamic changes to Digital Engineering Notebooks
  • Team Interview Rubric
    • Clarified Proficiency Level verbiage for ‘Game Strategies’ and ‘Robot Build’ criteria
  • Engineering Notebook Rubric
    • Clarified the presence of citations in the ‘Brainstorm, Diagram, or Prototype Solutions’ criteria
    • Clarified the ‘Notebook Format’ criteria
  • Judging Single Page Reference Sheet – Added superscript numbers next to award names to indicate precedence for event qualifications.
  • World Championship Judging Information will be found on the 2023 VEX Robotics World Championship website

Note: For events occurring between December 15-22, 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 22 must use the most up to date judging materials and verbiage found in the Guide to Judging.

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