The Engineering Notebook


So you want to create a high quality engineering notebook? You want to get judged awards? You need to know where to start when creating your engineering notebook? You came to the right place.

The Engineering and Design Notebook (EDN) is one of the most crucial aspects of robotics. It is just as important (or maybe even more important) as building, coding, and driving. It is what gets you awards, and quite possible, to the State and World Championships. The biggest mistake you can make for your team, and one that is common among many teams, is ignoring and overlooking the notebook.

Yes...I get it... Doing the notebook can be really be a grueling task and is something that some may consider less fun than building or driving. However, a good notebook always pays off (and this is speaking from experience). Our Damien Spartan Robotics program boasts a total of 9 Design Awards and 4 Excellence Awards (both awards that depend on notebook), so we would like to share what we have learned from our experience with doing the EDN.

Tips and Fundamentals for the EDN:

  1. Follow the Rubric. I cannot stress this enough. When looking at the notebook, judges look strictly into the notebook rubric provided by the VEX. The rubric can be found here: Design Award Rubric.
  2. A good notebook is easy to read and organized. This doesn't just apply to handwriting. Keep the notebook structured. Make it so it is easy to find certain information you may need to access. You can do this by creating an organized table of contents. You should also keep your page titles consistent with each other and understandable. No matter how well you document your information, its useless if no one can read it.
  3. Quality over quantity, but that doesn't mean you can't have both. When doing a notebook, make sure you prioritize quality over quantity (getting more pages in only so it looks like a lot). It looks really bad if you have a lot of pages used up, but most of it is blank anyway. However, make it detailed! This is what I meant by having both quality and quantity. The quantity of a notebook comes from the immense detail you put in it. Don't be afraid to write a lot: there's not page limit!
  4. Take A LOT of pictures. As a rule of thumb, a good notebook should at least be 30-50% pictures, sketches, drawings, charts, etc. Most of the information you have will come from these visual information. This is how people will be able to tell what you did. A notebook without pictures is useless. (Bonus Points for CAD models)
  5. Show that you know what you are doing. The engineering notebook is what should represent your team to your judges. This is how judges will see your team. Let it be a reflection of your team's handwork and time you guys put into the actual robot.
  6. Don't get caught up on making it too perfect. A wrong spelling here and there won't hurt your notebook. Judges are looking for your understanding of the design process, not for your capabilities in grammar or drawing. Whenever I ask some people why they don't like to do the notebook, many say it is because they can't draw or they think the have bad handwriting. Don't let that stop you. You don't need to be an amazing writer to drawer. to work on the notebook.
  7. If it happened, it's going into the notebook. No matter what idea you had (even if it is the craziest robot idea you have ever thought of), write it down. Judges want to see everything that happened. Record every mistake you guys made, any meeting, or anything you guys had to discuss.
  8. Use a binder. Over time, you may need to use more than one notebook. The best way to keep these notebooks together is by using binders to hold them together. Use this to you advantage as well. The binder is a chance to add extra items to your EDN to enhance it and make it stand out.
  9. Ask other robotics teams about their notebook. During competition, don't be afraid to ask a team to look at their notebook (especially if that team won the Design or Excellence Award). You may get ideas on how you may want to do your notebook or what you may want to change in the future.
  10. There is no such thing as a perfect notebook. There is always room for improvement. In every notebook, something can be done to make it better. Each competition is an opportunity to improve the notebook.