Every year, CHD staff solicits feedback from students, teachers and parents about the program and the contest experience to continually improve the program. Over the years, similar questions tend to arise and I’d like to address them in this blog entry. I would ask that you share this information with students and parents.
Why are contest days so long?
Every year I read complaints about the length of a contest day (especially the State Contest) and suggestions to shorten the day. The reality is that we cannot shorten contest days. What many people don’t see is that behind the scenes CHD staff and volunteers are frantically working up till the Awards Ceremony. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done in a few hours.
At the State Contest the majority of the categories have runoffs, which means after the first round, judge need to choose the projects to go on to the Runoff Round. Staff has to take that information and start a second round of judging for about a dozen different categories. Judges need time so that they can: discuss rankings with members of their judging teams; have ample time to write thorough comments on the evaluation forms; and choose the projects that will go to the National Contest. It’s a long day for judges, so there needs to be time for them to have lunch and use the restroom.
We have to balance the need for speed with the responsibility of having educational and equitable contests. We understand the days are long and have over the years tried to offer activities throughout the day, including musical performances, board games, and tours. At the State Contest, miniature golf, a scavenger hunt, and the CCSU game room have also been available. For families with other Saturday commitments, students can leave after they have presented to judges. Students are not penalized if they do not attend the Awards Ceremony; they will still receive their award if they have placed.
Why did my student get better “scores” at the Regional Contest than at the State Contest.
Many students, parents, and teachers question why a project is scored “better” at the Regional Contest versus at the State Contest. The Regional Contests are the first round of competition; the level of competition is much higher at the State Contest. The projects at the State Contest have already gone through one round of judge review and, in many cases, have been worked on and improved. Judges are reviewing the best of the best at the State Contest. A different set of judges reviews the projects at the State Contest.
Last year, a parent asked why State judges don’t receive the evaluation forms for the students from the Regional Contest. Students are encouraged to use judges’ feedback to improve their project. Some students take advantage of that opportunity, others do not. Students arrive at the State Contest with a fresh slate; giving judges an old evaluation form would unfairly influence their decisions.
If you are interested in learning more about how contests are run, consider volunteering to judge at an upcoming contest!