This article provides a description of the Judge Advisor volunteer role including expectations, skills required, recommended training, and responsibilities. Judge Advisors train and assist volunteer Judges as they evaluate student teams through interviews, review Engineering Notebooks, observe on-the-field performance, and present awards as needed. Judge Advisors facilitate the Deliberation process for judged awards, and may also serve as Judges as needed.
- Prior experience as a Judge is recommended
- Judge Advisors must be adults
- Judge Advisors must pass the Judge Advisor Certification
- Must have no conflicts of interest with any teams attending the event
- Comprehensive understanding of the competition structure and the judging guidelines
- Pay attention to detail and be impartial
- Interact positively with students
- Communicate effectively
Experience Level: Expert
Physical Activity: Moderate physical activity level, with a mix of sitting and walking
- Must be an adult (age 20 or older and not part of a VRC team; for VEX U events, must be 21 or older)
- Organizes and oversees the judging process at an event
- Solicits, assigns, and trains the Judges to prepare them for an event
- Uses the judging processes and related content for reference and to help train the Judges
- Ensures judging is done in compliance with the judging processes and related content
- Ensures every team at an event has an opportunity to be interviewed by Judges, regardless of their status for a judged award
- Facilitates deliberations and delivers final award winners to the Event Partner
- Protects the confidentiality of the judging process
Training & Preparation
- Serve as a Judge under the eye of an experienced Judge Advisor, if possible
- Learn all of the judging guidelines, beginning with the Guide to Judging: Introduction and Terms
- Learn and understand the Engineering Notebook Rubric, Team Interview Rubric, and other judging resources
- Review the one-page game description and game introduction video for your assigned competition. Full game details are available in the Game Manual for each competition, but Judges do not need to have a full understanding of the game and its rules.
Work with the Event Partner to recruit Judges 1-2 months before the event. Good sources include local professional or technical workers, employees of any event sponsors, teachers, school or district administrators, college students, and local service organizations. The two main skills required for a Judge are an interest in STEM and the ability to converse in a comfortable way with students.
- The target number is 2 judges for every 8-10 teams (i.e., 6 judges for a 24-team event).
- For local VIQRC qualifying events, adults are preferred as Judges, but high school students may be paired with Judges who are adults. Elementary and Middle School students may not be Judges at VIQRC events.
- At events that qualify teams directly to the VEX Robotics World Championship, all Judges must be adults; anyone age 18 or older and not a high school student is considered an adult for VIQRC judging.
- For all VRC events, Judges must be adults. No students, except adult college students, are to be Judges. Anyone age 18 or older and not a high school student is considered an adult for VRC judging.
- For all VEX U events, Judges must be adults over the age of 21.
Two to three weeks prior to judging the Judge Advisor should:
- Review with the Event Partner the awards to be offered at the event and verify that the
Event Partner has ordered the trophies for the event
- Ensure adequate Judges are recruited and confirm their attendance
- Manage any potential conflicts of interest that individual Judges may have with teams at the event
- Prepare a tentative judging schedule based on the number of teams registered and the agenda
for the event
- Consult with the Event Partner on the process for Engineering Notebook submission, whether physical or digital
- Formulate a clear process for how Engineering Notebooks will be collected and judged
- For in-person judging, confirm the location of the separate Judges Room and that food/refreshments are will be provided for Judges
- Confirm with the Event Partner that the Judging staff will have all appropriate and current judging materials and documents, including team lists and match sheets from the event’s Tournament Manager Operator – These documents cannot be modified or replaced with unofficial versions
Communicate with Judge Volunteers
Work with the Event Partner to ensure that Judge volunteers have the information and resources they need for the event, including location, arrival time, information about food and beverages, and all needed training materials. Ask Judges to wear comfortable closed-toed shoes and comfortable business casual
clothing that is team-neutral (i.e., does not show any team numbers or team branding).
- Link to the judging guidelines, beginning with the Guide to Judging: Introduction and Terms
- Engineering Notebook Rubric and the Team Interview Rubric
- List of judged awards for the event and/or a link to the event page on Robotevents.com
- An agenda for judging the event, including expected arrival time and estimated departure time for Judges on the day of the event
- Information about drinks, snacks, and meals that will (or will not) be provided for Judges
- The REC Foundation Code of Conduct and Student-Centered Policy
- One-page game description and game introduction video for the assigned competition. Full game details are available in the Game Manual for each competition, but Judges do not need to have a full understanding of the game and its rules.
Work with the Event Partner to ensure that the necessary supplies will be available in the Judges Room. In addition to printed copies of the Judging resources, common items include:
- Sticky notes
- Pit & event maps
- Event agenda
- "Private" sign for door of Judges Room
During Setup and Check-In
Wear comfortable team-neutral clothing appropriate for a school related event, closed toe shoes, and a Judge or volunteer shirt (if provided).
For in-person events, locate the assigned Judges Room at the site, and ensure it is private and has sufficient work space for your judges. Make sure there’s a sign on the door limiting access to the event’s judges. During the event, you must ensure that the Judges Room remains private, and that only the assigned volunteer judges enter the room during the day. Students, coaches, parents, EPs, and other volunteers or event staff should never enter the Judges Room.
Obtain copies of the final team list for each Judge Team, plus a few extras. If the event is Blended and is planning to award an Excellence Award in each group, mark a copy of the team list to identify teams’ age groups—this info will later play into deliberations for the Excellence Awards.
Engineering Notebook Collection
For in-person events with physical notebooks, locate the event check-in area, and ensure that volunteers will collect Engineering Notebooks from teams as they check in. As teams arrive, you or another judge volunteer should periodically collect these notebooks and take them to the Judges Room. As notebooks arrive in the Judges Room, record them on a copy of the team list.
During the Event
Ensure Judges sign in on the Volunteer Judge Check-In Sheet. Monitor and manage any team affiliations or potential conflicts of interest noted by the Judges, as Judges should not be assigned to interview those teams and should recuse themselves from deliberations that involve them.
Judge Training and Orientation
Once all Judges have arrived, you should introduce yourself and coordinate introductions of all Judge volunteers. Emphasize to the judges that they’re the friendly, positive, appreciative audience for the student participants, and will be the only volunteers who have time and access to the teams for conversations about the amazing work they’re doing. If coaches, mentors, or parents have concerns about the event or the judging process they should be referred to the Judge Advisor or the Event Partner. Before Judging begins, you should also review some key concepts and judging tools.
- Review fundamentals of the judging process, including Student-Centeredness, the Code of Conduct, and student safety
- Discuss the Engineering Notebook Rubric, Team Interview Rubric and other judging documents
- Review the Team Interview Tips and Sample Questions
- Post and discuss the judged awards for the event, and review their criteria
- Review how to sort Engineering Notebooks, and briefly discuss the goals of notebook judging
- Provide event agenda and layout, including map of pit if one is available
- Touch on other topics from the Event Preparation and Execution guide as appropriate
Assign Judge Teams
Group Judges in teams of 2 or more, keeping in mind that judges should not interview teams they identified as conflicts of interest on the Judge Volunteer Check-In Sheet. If possible, pair inexperienced Judges with more experienced volunteers. If you have high-school-aged Judges for a local VIQRC event, each must be paired with an adult.
Sort Engineering Notebooks
Some or all of your Judges should begin the process of sorting and Judging Engineering Notebooks, following all guidelines. You should use reasonable discretion to determine whether each notebook that is assessed against the rubric includes sufficient evidence to warrant the 5-point bonus for a properly and sequentially-created notebook.
Some or all of your Judges should begin the process of Interviewing Teams. Assign each Judge Team a list of teams to interview and ensure all teams have the opportunity to be interviewed. Manage time and ensure judging teams are keeping pace to interview all teams on schedule. As Judge Teams begin to identify top-ranked teams for awards and move toward Deliberations, consider assigning Judge Teams to cross-interview top-ranked teams as appropriate.
Code of Conduct Violations
If volunteers report severe Code of Conduct violations, you should consult with the Event Partner. The Judge Advisor, in consultation with the Event Partner, may decide to remove a team from consideration for judged awards where: (1) the behavior is repeated or egregious; and (2) there is sufficient reasonable evidence to support the decision. The decision to remove a team from consideration for judged awards should be done with caution and with a reasonable benefit of the doubt given to the team.
Lead Deliberations and Finalize Awards
Immediately following the final Qualification match of the event, you should lead the Judges in Deliberations for all judged awards. When all winners have been determined you should record the results of all judged awards and deliver the list of award winners to the Event Partner and Tournament Manager operator.
You are responsible for coordinating the return of Engineering Notebooks to teams, and may be asked to participate in the awards ceremony. You must also ensure that all confidential judging materials are collected and properly destroyed.