The Judge Advisor's Guide

Introduction

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.

Skills Needed

  • Prior experience as a Judge is recommended
  • Judge Advisors must be adults
  • Judge Advisors must pass the Judge Advisor Certification
  • 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

Responsibilities

  • Must be an adult
  • 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
  • Ensures correct award winners are uploaded to Tournament Manager and manages presentation of awards in coordination with 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 guidelinesbeginning with the Judging Overview
  • Learn and understand the Engineering Notebook Rubric and the Team Interview Rubric
  • 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. 

Pre-Event Responsibilities

Recruit Judges

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 VIQC 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 VIQC 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 VIQC 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.

Planning

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
  • 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
  • For in-person judging, confirm the location of the separate Judges Room and that food/refreshments are will be provided for Judges

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 guidelinesbeginning with the Judging Overview
  • 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. 

Supplies

Work with the Event Partner to ensure that the necessary supplies will be available in the Judges Room. Common items include:

During Setup and Check-In

Dress Code

Wear comfortable team-neutral clothing appropriate for a school related event, closed toe shoes, and a Judge or volunteer shirt (if provided).

Judges Room

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.

Team List

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 groupsthis 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

Judge Sign-In

Ensure Judges sign in on the Judge Sign-In sheet provided in the Judge Guide. 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.

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 Sign-In Sheet. If possible, pair inexperienced Judges with more experienced volunteers. If you have high-school-aged Judges for a local VIQC event, each should 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 sorted as Outstanding contains sufficient evidence to warrant the 5-point bonus for a properly and sequentially-created notebook.

Interview Teams

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 transmit 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. Each of these processes is described in the Deliberations article.