Awards Explained Simply#

Advancing Awards#

There are 7 awards for FTC teams (excluding optional awards). For more information on the exact requirements for these awards, see Game Manual Part 1. In order of advancement priority, these are:

Inspire Award#

The Inspire Award is the top award for an FTC team. It is given to a team that consistently rises to the top in other awards categories. It is also (barring host team advancement), the first advancement slot on the advancement list. This means the winner is guaranteed to advance to the next level in most scenarios, unlike the winning alliance captain in some states.

In order to win the Inspire Award, your team should focus on every other award category, and perform well in the robot game. In the past, the Inspire Award has given much more weight to awards performance, but it seems as if the judges are now taking robot performance into consideration more.

Of all the awards, this one is arguably the most subjective, as it is about how good does a team does overall, including and how much they weigh outreach as compared to robot performance along with documentation.

Official Game Manual Description

This judged award is given to the team that best embodies the ‘challenge’ of the FIRST® Tech Challenge program. The Team that receives this award is a strong ambassador for FIRST® programs and a role model FIRST® Team. This Team is a top contender for many other judged awards and is a gracious competitor. The Inspire Award winner is an inspiration to other Teams, acting with Gracious Professionalism® both on and off the playing field. This Team shares their experiences, enthusiasm and knowledge with other teams, sponsors, their community, and the Judges. Working as a unit, this Team will have shown success in performing the task of designing and building a Robot.

Think Award#

The Think Award is based entirely on the Engineering Notebook and Engineering Portfolio. In order to have a chance at winning, should include as much math and physics as possible in the Engineering Notebook, and document the entire journey of the robot.

For the Think Award, it’s required to have a summary page in the Engineering Notebook, with many page references.

Official Game Manual Description

This judged award is given to the Team that best reflects the journey the Team took as they experienced the engineering design process during the build season. The engineering content within the portfolio is the key reference for Judges to help identify the most deserving Team. The Team’s engineering content must focus on the design and build stage of the Team’s Robot.

Additional detailed information that is helpful for the Judges would be in the team’s Engineering Notebook and would include descriptions of the underlying science and mathematics of the Robotdesign and game strategies, the designs, redesigns, successes, and opportunities for improvement. A Team is not a candidate for this award if their portfolio does not include engineering content.

Connect Award#

The Connect Award is one of the two outreach awards. This award is for teams that work with their local STEM community and corporate community. Unfortunately, the line between the Connect and Motivate award can be vague, and judges may not differentiate which outreach falls under which award.

Look at the section about differentiating connect and motivate for more advice on this. For both outreach awards, a Team Plan is required. Refer to the section about writing a team plan for advice.

Official Game Manual Description

This judged award is given to the Team that most connects with their local science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) community. A true FIRST® team is more than a sum of its parts and recognizes that engaging their local STEM community plays an essential part in their success. The recipient of this award is recognized for helping the community understand FIRST®, the FIRST® Tech Challenge, and the Team itself. The Team that wins the Connect Award aggressively seeks and recruits engineers and explores the opportunities available in the world of engineering, science and technology. This Team has a clear Team plan and has identified steps to achieve their goals.

Innovate Award#

The Innovate award is just like what it sounds like - it’s for teams with innovative parts to their robot or the robot as a whole.

The Innovate award is for hardware mainly, but some teams have been able to also present software as innovative. Some judges think it’s great for presenting software as part of innovation, but others feel that software only fits under control.

Official Game Manual Description

The Collins Aerospace Innovate Award celebrates a Team that thinks outside the box and has the ingenuity, creativity and inventiveness to make their designs come to life. This judged award is given to the Team that has the most innovative and creative Robot design solution to any specific components in the FIRST® Tech Challenge game. Elements of this award include elegant design, robustness, and ”out of the box” thinking related to design. This award may address the design of the whole Robot or of a sub-assembly attached to the Robot. The creative component must work consistently, but a Robot does not have to work all the time during Matches to be considered for this award. The Team’s engineering notebook must include journal entries to show the design of the component or components and the Team’s Robot to be eligible for this award. Entries must describe how the Team arrived at their solution.

For presenting for this award, do your best to sell a few innovative parts, and be prepared to explain the most innovative part of your robot, as that is a common question judges ask.

Control Award#

The Control award is meant to recognize a team that has a good software solution to make their robot “intelligent”. It’s known as the “software award” and is for the team with the best or most innovative software and sensor solution for the game.

Don’t be tempted to overlook the control award even though it doesn’t advance at most competitions, as every award performance counts towards the Inspire Award. Below is the official description in Game Manual Part 1. This award requires a separate submission sheet which is a condensed summary of a team’s software.

Official Game Manual Description

The Control Award celebrates a Team that uses sensors and software to increase the Robot’s functionality in the field. This award is given to the Team that demonstrates innovative thinking to solve game challenges such as autonomous operation, improving mechanical systems with intelligent control, or using sensors to achieve better results. The control component should work consistently in the field. The Team’s engineering portfolio must contain a summary of the software, sensors, and mechanical control, but would likely not include copies of the code itself.

For winning this award, teams are recommended to work on making their robots intelligent. The Control award doesn’t just focus on autonomous though, and extends into the driver controlled period. Many top teams for the Control award have presented not only the autonomous period, but also features that help the drivers during the driver controlled period such as automating processes.

For the Control award, don’t put code in your engineering notebook entries, but rather an explanation of the math and algorithms used for your code. Firstly, judges don’t have much time to look over a notebook. Secondly, many judges would prefer explanations rather than having to read and interpret code which they may not be familiar with. If you want to, put all of your latest code in an appendix in your Engineering Notebook. For pit judging, you will usually be able to tell if a judge is trying to learn about the control features of your robot due to the more specific questions asked. Present your control points in an easy-to-understand way, especially as some judges are non-programmers. It is helpful to try your explanation to someone who isn’t a programmer and see if they understand. However, remember to use the correct terms as is used throughout the rest of your Engineering Notebook and Control Award Sheet, so judges can find more information in your Engineering Notebook.

Some examples of control award sheets are:

Motivate Award#

The Motivate Award is one of the two outreach awards. It’s for teams that work with their local and FIRST® community. Unfortunately, the line between the connect award and motivate award can be vague, and most judges don’t know how to differentiate which outreach falls under which award.

Look at the section about differentiating connect and motivate for more advice on this. For both outreach awards, a Team Plan is required. Refer to the section about writing a team plan for advice.

Official Game Manual Description

This Team embraces the culture of FIRST® and clearly shows what it means to be a team. This judged award celebrates the Team that represents the essence of the FIRST® Tech Challenge competition through Gracious Professionalism and general enthusiasm for the overall philosophy of FIRST® and what it means to be a FIRST® Tech Challenge Team. This is a Team who makes a collective effort to make FIRST® known throughout their school and community, and sparks others to embrace the culture of FIRST®.

Design Award#

The Design Award is one of the robot awards that primarily focuses on the hardware aspect of the robot. It is for robots that are both functional, aesthetic, and use good design practices, including CAD.

In order to be considered for the Design Award, it’s recommended that your team uses CAD and designs the robot before it is built, with engineering notebook entries about the development of the robot through iterations of the engineering design process.

While functionality is what most teams focus on, the Design Award also takes into account aesthetics, and most judges will generally be turned off by an ugly robot for this award (no cardboard on the robot!), so make sure your robot looks presentable.

Official Game Manual Description

This judged award recognizes design elements of the Robot that are both functional and aesthetic. The Design Award is presented to Teams that incorporate industrial design elements into their solution. These design elements could simplify the Robot’s appearance by giving it a clean look, be decorative in nature, or otherwise express the creativity of the Team. The Robot should be durable, efficiently designed, and effectively address the game challenge.

Connect vs Motivate#

Both outreach awards can be hard to differentiate, as the official descriptions are super vague, and most judges don’t know the difference perfectly. Since the descriptions are very vague, it is up to you to determine what goes towards which award. Oftentimes, teams will put more outreach in Connect than Motivate, as Connect is fairly high up on the advancement list unlike Motivate, so putting more into Connect and winning Connect may advance, though make sure to do your research before trying a strategy like this.

What Falls Under Connect?

  • Developing relationships with companies

  • Getting external mentors (not parents)

  • Fundraising from companies (other methods may fall under motivate on a case by case basis)

What Falls Under Motivate?

  • Starting/Mentoring FIRST® Teams

  • Community Demos

Tips for Both

  • Present numbers, but only emphasize them if they’re large with a wow factor

  • Present stories to the judges, not just overviews. Tell personal stories

  • Log all your outreach events, with who went and how many hours each person did in its own place separate from the engineering notebook. This makes it easier to compile total numbers and shows the judges every outreach activity/event in one place

Optional Awards#

There are some awards that events are not required to present; these do not advance teams.

Judges Choice Award#

The Judges Choice Award is meant to recognize a team that doesn’t fit into any of the existing award categories, but the judges still felt the team deserved to win an award for their outstanding effort or other experience. This award is very subjective, and doesn’t advance teams. It is also optional to give at every competition, but in some regions given at every competition unless the judges don’t find a deserving team.

Promote Award and Compass Award#

The Promote and Compass awards are optional awards that are usually given only at state championships and world championships. These awards do not require an engineering notebook to win, but do not advance teams. They are submitted as a video no longer than 1 minute. The Promote award is for creating a PSA for FIRST® with a specific video prompt. This prompt changes every year, and is found in Game Manual Part 1. The Compass award is for recognizing an outstanding mentor. Submitting these awards is usually done on a case-by-case basis, where the event organizer sends teams instructions on how to submit.

Some good Promote award submissions include:

Some good Compass award submissions include:

For more information on these awards, take a look at the specific section for each award in Game Manual Part 1.