VEX U competitions give out three types of awards:
Performance awards are the easiest to understand, and you win them by doing well in head-to-head matches or robot skills matches. A team can win multiple performance awards at a single event, and teams that win performance awards can also win a judged award.
This award goes to the team that beats all other teams in the event’s elimination matches. Top teams compete in a seeded elimination bracket to determine the tournament champions.
Teams win this award by scoring lots of points and earning Autonomous Win Points.
Robot Skills Champion
This award goes to the team that posts the highest combined scores for the Driving Skills Challenge and the Programming Skills Challenge at the event.
Teams win this award by building a high-scoring robot that they can drive consistently, and by creating a consistent and high-scoring autonomous skills program.
Many tournaments recruit adult volunteers with varying degrees of robotics knowledge to serve as judges. Judges review engineering notebooks, and score them using the Engineering Notebook Rubric.
They also interview teams in the pits during the event, scoring interviews using the Team Interview Rubric. Judges are generally assigned to speak with a specific set of teams to make sure that every team is visited during the day. Occasionally judges will interview a team more than once, or a second group of judges will stop by later in the day. These interviews last about 10 minutes each, and are conversations—not presentations—that include just the student team members and the judges.
Judges and other volunteers observe teams throughout the day to watch their on-field performance and gauge their behavior and student-centeredness. Teams with negative behaviors like poor sportsmanship or lack of student-centeredness might not be considered for judged awards. No team can win more than one Judged Award at a single event, but a team that wins a Judged Award can also receive Performance Awards.
The Design Award is based on 2 components: the engineering notebook and the interview. Both the notebook and interview have very specific scoring rubrics; once you read the rubrics, there's really no mystery about what the judges are looking for but there are a lot of details to think about.
Judges use the scores for the engineering notebook criteria to identify the top notebooks at the event, and the candidates for the Design Award (as well as the Excellence Award, which we’ll get to next). The teams’ interviews also factor into their standings for the Design Award.
Despite the name, this award doesn’t consider the actual design of the team’s robot; it’s all about their understanding and use of an Engineering Design Process and how they share it with the judges.
To be eligible for the Design Award at the VEX World Championships, teams must have won a Design Award or an Excellence Award at their Worlds-qualifying event.
Lots of things go into the Excellence Award, which goes to a team the judges feel “best exemplifies the best overall robotics program” and who they want other teams to emulate. A team has to do well at everything during an event to win the Excellence Award. They must turn in a notebook, and will be one of the contenders for the Design Award. They have to rank high in Qualification matches and the Robot Skills Challenge. If the event is giving out technical awards or other judged awards, teams considered for Excellence are probably contenders for many of those. Their interviews, conduct, and student-centeredness are all great. The Excellence Award isn’t determined just by the rubrics; the team has to demonstrate to the judges that they are excellent.
To be eligible for the Excellence Award at the VEX World Championships, teams must have won an Excellence Award at their Regional Championship or a Signature Event.
Teams earn the Judges Award by impressing the judges during their interview. Anything that makes a team stand out to the Judges can put them on the list for this award, including a good notebook, strong interview, interesting robot, great sportsmanship, memorable stories of perseverance, or a history of community outreach.
These awards typically aren’t given out at local events, but are often given out at very large events, Regional Championships, and the VEX World Championships. All of these awards consider the teams’ interview quality, professionalism, and teamwork in addition to their specific criteria.
- Innovate Award - Innovate goes to a top contender for the Design Award that has an “efficient and effective design process.” Judges also specifically look at the team’s resource management (time, talent, materials, etc.), game strategies, robot design, and teamwork.
- Think Award - Think is all about effective and consistent programming. The winning team must have competed in the Programming Skills Challenge. Judges are looking for consistent and reliable autonomous code that is well-written and documented based on a clear programming strategy. Students have to understand the code, and be able to explain how they wrote and managed it (including version control).
- Amaze Award - Amaze goes to a team that amazes the judges with a high-scoring, competitive, well-built robot. Judges are also looking for consistent, effective, and successful autonomous code.
- Build Award - Build is about the strength and reliability of the robot. Build-winning robots are reliable on the field and hold up through the event. They’re well-built, and designed by the student team with an eye to detail.
- Create Award - This one is given to a team that has developed a creative solution to an engineering problem, uses a creative design process, or has found creative ways to play the game.
- Energy Award - This award goes to a team with infectious enthusiasm and excitement. Everything a team (including mentors and spectators) does during the event adds to this award, whether it’s a team cheer, costumes, or other things that make the event more fun for everyone around them.
- Inspire Award - Teams earn the Inspire Award by being positive, passionate, and upbeat even through challenges and obstacles. They work hard, and their love for the VEX U competition shines through in everything they do.
- Sportsmanship Award - This award is given to a team that is respectful and helpful throughout the event. They’re willing to help anyone who needs it, and their behavior and attitude are great examples for other teams.
Individual Recognition Awards
Individual Recognition Awards can be given at events by the Event Partner, and winners have no impact on their team’s or organization’s eligibility for Performance or Judged awards at the event. They’re more common at Regional Championships and the VEX World Championships than at local events.
- Volunteer of the Year is given to a person who has volunteered numerous hours to make events happen and who shows a devotion and commitment to their community.
- Other individual awards, such as Teacher of the Year or Mentor of the Year, are given at the Event Partner’s discretion.
- The 2018 Renegade Robots article “All About VEX Judged Awards,” by SuperRenegade, was the inspiration for this article, and the source of some of its content.