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does gracious professionalism applies also to the FLL organizer

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  • Dean Hystad
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    FLL judging cannot be transparent. It is FLL policy that awards are distributed among multiple teams and the only way this can be done without stinking of hypocrisy is hiding the deliberations that decide which teams are given which awards. I pick my top robot design teams and the core values judges picks their top teams and the project judges pick their top teams and we meet and I consign myself to giving the design award to the third best robot because the best robot was designed by a team with a killer research project and the second best robot was designed by a team that teaches programming to teams in Syria. My third place robot team is a really good team, so it doesn't bother me (too much) that they are getting a research award instead of a robot design award, and I am happy that my 3rd place team is getting rewarded for their work. Their design was great. Not the very best, but it certainly could have been the best at a different tournament. The goal of FLL is to get kids to like STEM, and giving an award to my third place robot design team does a better job at that than giving two awards to my favorite. If the judging was "transparent" the design award winner would see they really finished in third, and we may as well toss that plastic trophy in the trash.

    I think regions that close off the judging room do themselves a disservice. Our judging rooms are open with the exception of core values. Core values is closed off because there is a team challenge that is supposedly a secret (though everyone knows shortly after the first few teams are judged and there is no advantage to knowing the challenge in advance). I've been judging for 19 years and have never had a problem with a parent or coach. What I have seen are hundreds of beaming parents and grand parents and lots of inquisitive little brothers and sisters and I cannot count the number of times someone felt compelled to tell me how great this FLL thing is and how impressed they were with their child and how great it is for me to volunteer my time. Only good stuff. Opening the doors to everyone does a lot to eliminate the feeling you have about the process, but does little to increase "transparency". You can watch me interview your team, think they did a great job demonstrating their robot and answering questions, and still have no idea where they land in my rankings. To know that you would have to watch all the other teams I interviewed that day and know what I think is important in robot design. You might be really impressed by your team's solution to mission 2, but I might have spotted a flaw or seen 8 other solutions that were faster or more robust or were a better fit with the overall game strategy. There's no way for you to know. Hopefully I'll say something or write something on your evaluation that helps your team improve, but I'm not going to say "Yours is the 3rd best solution for mission 6, the second best solution was team 23654 that did this, and the best solution was by team 9843 that did that." My feedback is going to be qualitative, not quantitative or comparative, but my rankings are going to be quantitative (based on qualities) and comparative.

    FLL judging can never be computerized. Yes, my FLL partner uses numerical scores (which is not recommended) and the scores are processed and used to rank teams (which is not recommended) and help us deliver awards, and yes, I enter my scores on a tablet, but that is only the book keeping component of judging. Even though all the teams need to solve the same challenges in the robot game, teams solve those challenges in different ways. I don't have a book telling me that solving mission 3 using a stick has a difficulty level of 7.3 whereas solving the mission using a box has a difficulty level of 6.5, or that mission 3 should be viewed as more important than mission 6. There is no way to do computerized scoring for robot design because each team is doing something unique. I am tasked with understanding your robot and understanding your solutions and understanding your tactics and understanding your design decisions and decision making practices and I have 15 minutes with which to do this. More importantly I am tasked with making your team think I am really interested in their solution (which I generally am, so this is pretty easy) and to point out what I think they did really well (heaping praise is also pretty easy, though I am not going to say they did better than some team or worse than others), and offer suggestions on how they can do even better (which can be really difficult because some of the teams I judge are really good). And I judge robot design which is probably the easiest to judge because it is the most constrained. Project judges have to deal with teams having completely different solutions to completely different problems that are only related (tenuously) by a theme. Tell me how to create a framework for objectively judging something like that!
    Last edited by Dean Hystad; 03-05-2019, 04:46 PM.

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  • SkipMorrow
    replied
    There is really nothing we can do here to help with your specific situation. What's done is done. I am really sorry that you and your kids did not have a good experience. I wish I had a better answer, but that's really all there is.

    I would suggest that you consider that everyone at the tournament is a volunteer. They gave up their weekend to be there because they wanted to. No one made them do it. It is a long, hectic day, with a decent amount of stress. I know when I volunteer it is important to me that every kid with whom I interact leave that interaction with a positive feeling. That's my goal, and thankfully most of the time I think I succeed. But not always. I think most of the volunteers have similar goals.

    I would also really like to encourage you to volunteer at a tournament as a judge for yourself next year. You can see how much pressure there is to keep to the schedule. How important it is for teams to do well in the judging and robot performance. How the decision is made for the teams that advance. I think it might change your perspective.

    Again, I do wish there was something I could say to make your recent tournament somehow all work out, but you and I both know that isn't possible. Try to see what could be done to make the situation better.

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  • does gracious professionalism applies also to the FLL organizer

    Please don't tell me to check the rubrics. There are no rubrics saying the FLL should be unfair.
    This is the third year the kids are in FLL. They scored again the highest in Robotic Performance. They are 60 points higher than the team qualified to the world championship. Each year, we wrote to the local organizer for a reason. Each year, there is a political right answer of "the important thing is we learn in the process"
    The kids have good core values. In the qualifier judge room, they are nominated for 3 awards in core values. The project they marked high too. Several the highest column. The kids said:" we tried our best. " "We greet the judges, they didn't even look at us. " "Our answers are being cut several times". "He glares at us all the time"
    If gracious professionalism is what we required the kids to be, should we also require the judges, the organizer? Last year, same stories. Kids grow older. They may not have the chance to be in FLL anymore. They love it. And they keep trying again and again. Each year from Sept. to March, they worked every day for hours. As a parent and also an FLL volunteer, I feel the muffled anger. May we make the whole judging process transparent? With all parents observing, with all judging process computerized. My son cried yesterday, "So nothing we tried count..."
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