Saturday, November 17, 2007

Advice for Teams being Interviewed by Technical judges

This is an excerpt from the FLL International forum and requires teams to login to view.

Observations of a Tech Judge

1) Teach your kids to answer questions accurately and briefly. I often would get rambles like: "And then we added the yellow beam, and then the blue on, or was it the red one? Suzy did that last week right after we had that great pizza! You like pizza? I sure do!" The longer you take to answer a question the fewer questions we can ask. But this is not your ticket for monosylabic answers. Answer the question answer it well and then allow the judge to continue.

2)As judges we have a hard time limit we can't deviate from. We may be forced to cut you off mid sentence. We are not rude, but having to watch the time. How I wanted to spend another hour talking but had to cut it short in the middle of a facinating exchange.

3) We may not be the teamwork judges, but this is not the time for a team to start arguing!

4) This is not the time to have the kids have ego problems about who built what. I care that all the kids were involved, but I am not keeping a taly. The kids should be taught to celebrate the TEAM'S ideas.

5) Students who hog the conversation are not helpful. I know that its often one or two kids that form the technical backbone of the team. But other team members need to be involved. The quiet kid needs to be given the chance to say something even if its just "Hi, we are team XYZ from ABC town. While the team sets up, I would like to give you our software listings."

6) It is often the case that the team introduction sheet you filled out for the tournament director did not get trickled down to the judges. Bring a second copy to hand to us.

6.5) The photo on your introduction page is IMPORTANT and should be in full uniform as we will see you at competitions. The photo is critical when we try to stretch back to remember your team when deciding on awards. We often talked about teams as the "red shirts" or the "white shirts" not by the team numbers.

7) Your listing in a nice folder can be helpful.

7.5) If you use a laptop (that fine as well) make sure it is powered on and the application is loaded as well as all the programs. Having to wait for NXT-G to load on a slow laptop robs your team of precious minutes I could be appropriate questions.

8) A single page specification is also helpful. A picture of the bot, small team photo, number of motors and sensors, interesting features, etc.

9) If you have things that are important for us to see, please jump in. We are more than willing to let you steer the comveration somewhat. "Yes, we are using two motors for locomotion as well as having incorporated a limited slip differential similar to the one in the book "Building LEGO Robots for FLL" is a much better answer than "Yes, we are using two motors for locomotion".

10) If asked if you have anything you would like to add, NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE say no. Always have several things in reserve that you can talk about. You NEVER want the judges to think that they were able to fully debrief you in 10 minutes!

11) Make sure that when you go in that the team knows the top points they want to make sure get discussed. I saw one team with a sophisticated drive system never explain it. Now it was possible it had been built for them but just as likely the kids were not aware that they should have mentioned it. Judges are not clairvoyant.

12) Personal skills are not lost on me. When team members are not anwering a question they should be attentive and not talking to other team members. It may not change the technical capability of your robot, but it changes my perception of it. Sorry, but I am human.

13) Fiddling with noise sources like a pocket full of change, noisy necklaces, and whistles have no place when I am trying to concentrate on your team. It is distracting to me and hence I can't do my beat job for your team.

14) Along the same lines, try to to feed the team sugar ten minutes before hand. Find a way to calm them down while you are waitting for your turn. Some teams use prayer, some use directed imagery, whatever works for you.

15) As a coach, make sure you take no part in the interview. I understand that you are an integral part of the team. But on game day, the coach sits on the sidelines and lets the team do the playing. Sit somewhere where the team can't see you. When a hard question comes up, they will have to think for themselves rather than trying to take cues from you. There are a few if any exceptions. The fact that three of your programmers are absent due to the flu can be explained by the team as well as the coach.

16) If you are concerned about handicaps that may seriously effect judging, let the tournament director know in advance. It can be helpful for us to differentiate the reason for behaviour issues.

Now all of this sounds like I am an old grumpy man. I am not. Middle aged at best. What I can tell you is that the above skills are important in life. The sooner the kids learn this, the better of they will be and the better they will judge.


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