Frank Answers Fridays: July 19, 2013

Blog Date: 
Friday, July 19, 2013 - 16:00

Today’s good question is from Kevin Leonard, a student from Team 20 in New York.


Hi, Frank.

I'm Kevin Leonard, a student on Team 20. I was wondering about the former animation competition, why it got scrapped, and if it would ever return.

Let me give you some background on why I, a "mechanical guy", would care about this. Our team, for a few years, has had a history of making good animations. And because of this, we attracted many students to our team who otherwise would not have joined the team for the engineering part (often girls who like the idea of animation, but not of robot-building. Two of these students come to mind now. One is a graduating senior who, along with being an incredibly talented head animator, is now our drive coach. The other is going to be a senior, and is to be our head scout next year. 

In summary, both joined the team for animation, but found other passions in FRC.

What I'm trying to convey is that animation was a great way to get non-engineers into science, technology, engineering, and math that we no longer have (or have in a reduced form due to the Underground Society of Animators:

Why was this awesome competition and award cut?

(You can cut my question if you'd like, it is a bit long :D)



Kevin, thanks for the question.  This gives me the chance to talk about this award, and awards in general.

Autodesk sponsored the design and animation awards (officially the ‘Excellence in Design Award’, though it was really two awards as trophies were given in two categories, 3D Design and Animation) for many years.  Until 2012, the award was available at the Regional and Championship level.  In 2012, it was changed to be a Championship-level award only, as the number of entries being received did not seem to justify continuing at the Regional level.  In 2013, the award was eliminated.  With less than 50 teams submitting for the awards in 2012, it seemed like there should be a better way to get more teams excited about using advanced design tools, creating animation, and showcasing their work.

Some folks in the community responded very strongly to this change. While not a large number of teams had been submitting for this award, it’s clear that to the teams that were submitting, this award was very important. Kevin’s story about the effect the award had on his team is a great example of the meaningful impact an award can have, even if it’s not generating a large number of submissions across FRC.  Also, in direct response to the elimination of this award in 2013, Team 116, Epsilon Delta, led a group of others in creating the Underground Society of Animators that Kevin mentioned, along with their own award. This, in turn,  gave FIRST HQ the idea of the ‘Community Awards’ concept.  (We don’t have the details for Community Awards finalized yet, but I hope to get them completed and published soon.)  The elimination of this award had a clear ripple effect, some positive, some negative. 

We have some tough decisions when it comes to awards.   I believe there is some relationship between the number and type of awards we give out at events and the degree of inspiration and motivation they can provide.  I think too many awards, or too few awards, or awards with unclear criteria, would not provide appropriate motivation to teams.  There’s even some (somewhat controversial) evidence that trophies or other external incentives can actually decrease a person’s intrinsic motivation for a task*, something that might not be helpful within the context of FRC, if it is actually occurring.  The bottom line is, when it comes to award decisions, we have lots to consider.  There’s no formula I know of that gets us to the right answer.  (If you have such a formula, please email it to**)  I do know that I want every team, at the end of every event, to feel a deep sense of accomplishment, whether they are bringing home some extra shelf hardware or not. The challenge is finding out how to get there.

The good news for the design and animation award in particular is that, working with FIRST friend Dave Lavery, we have what I think are some exciting possibilities for 2014.  I can’t make any promises yet, but stay tuned.

I’ll blog again soon.


*Overjustification effect.        

** Not a real address.  Please don’t email.

Frank Answers Fridays is a new weekly-ish blog feature where I’ll be answering ‘good questions’ from the FRC community. You can e-mail your questions to Please include your name, team number and where you’re from, which will be shared, if selected.


The question from Kevin Leonard hits home with me and my team. My Team #2643 was dis-appointed. Our team participated in the underground Animation contest. We like that team had members who were not builders but devoted their time energy toward Animation. If you want teams to submit a Safety Animation and FIRST is a big promoter of Safety on the Teams and at Events then make it meaningful! Why can't teams win a chance to go to finals if they win the Safety Animation Award. This award currently is almost meaningless.

Safety is a top priority for us here at FIRST. I think one of the unique benefits of winning the Safety Animation Award is that the winner's animation gets shown at every event. Just about every team in FRC has a chance to see the winning team's handiwork.

I really wanted to send an email to

You don't mention the Safety Animation Award. Will that continue in 2014? Our animators look forward to creating the Safety Animation every year.

By the way, I agree 100% with Kevin. And, I would like to emphasize his point about the Animation competitions helping a lot to attract and keep women students on our team.

Also, it seems to me that that the Animation Award lost some of it's popularity because over the years it lost any connection to the game.

Paul George
Team 1038

Our intent at this time is to continue the Safety Animation Award for 2014.

I hope that we will see the successful return of the award for the 2014 season.

I posted the following in response to a discussion about awards on LinkdIN. I thought I would pass the idea on to this Forum as well.

As I started to think about the history of the team I mentor (ILITE Robotics Team 1885 - ) the driving towards chairmans has made a huge difference. Now it helped that the team started it life winning Rookie All Star at worlds so there was a high bar set for future teams. In the time since we have grown significantly winning many EI awards and finally regional chairmans awards. But as I think b

I am a member of Team 4296 and with September right around the corner, we are wondering when the announcement for the Safety Animation will be announced. Could you let us know when the general release date is?

Hi Mike, please send an e-mail with your question to The FRC Blog isn't monitored all of the time but we'd like to ensure that Operations is able to answer your question directly. Thanks!

FRC Team151 is one of these who isn't submit animations the past couple of years. But we tried. It did , as there's mentioned, attract tlenttothe team that wouldn't have come otherwise.
But here's the solution to revitalize this area: with our relationdhip with Comcast n Time-Warner why not run ad spots, 20/30 seconds like animation selling FIRST to the world. Local winners get played on the local cable channel. Regional winners or national ones played on national broadcasts! These would be community service points for the cable companies they can use to keep the FCC happy n we all benefit!

Hi I would like to know about the safety animation, and is their a certain outline? How long can it be? I've been looking on the website however I cannot seem to find a lot of information on it. Please contact me at, Thank you

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