Does use of a sponsor's products affect contest judging/winner selection? Answered
My understanding of contests (from the few that I've entered) is that how exactly judging occurs and winners are selected can vary a bit. The judging panel can be make up of Instructables staff, respected members of the community, and/or staff from the sponsor - with the ultimate decision about winners being up to either Instructables or the Sponsor (please correct me if that understanding is misguided).
My question, then, is whether use of a sponsor's products in the Instructable being entered in the contest affects any stage of the judging process (selection of finalist, judges' scoring criteria, selection of winners). To give a concrete example - I have a current entry in the Microcontroller Contest, which is sponsored by Radio Shack; but my entry almost exclusively uses parts from SparkFun. It seems like this would create a conflict of interest and make it difficult for a Radio Shack employee to be an objective judge - ideally they'd want to promote their own products and not a competitor's.
I tried to dig through the rules and small print for the contest but couldn't find anything definitive either way - nothing saying that this is included as a judging criteria, but also nothing saying that it isn't. Any and all straightforward answers would be appreciated - not speculating about conspiracy theories here or accusing the site of selling out - just curious how this process works!