Digital Notebooks must be Printed?

Hi! I’m new to Vex Forums. I was reading the judges guide for 2021-22.
It says this:
"In the instance when a team has a Digital Engineering Notebook and is attending an in-person
event with physical notebooks being judged, the team must print out their notebook prior to the
event and submit a physical copy. "
My team is new to using digital notebooks. We are using Microsoft OneNote for our digital notebook because it automatically times stamps and says who typed the part. Will we have to print out each page? We have videos embedded into our notebooks, and we want the judges to be able to see them. We also have links that we want the judges to be able to click.
If we have to print it out, will we have to individually sign each page because OneNote does it automatically but that will not be seen when printed?

Hi @melitad, welcome to the VEX Forum!

Some versions of OneNote will allow you to export the entire notebook to a PDF in some circumstances. If you get access to OneNote through your school (Microsoft 365), be advised that the “export to PDF” functionality may be disabled for notebooks in your organization – it’s worth checking to make sure you can export to PDF before you get too deep into using OneNote.

I had to generate PDFs from a few OneNote notebooks last season where the “export to PDF” option wasn’t available, and what I ended up doing was taking a screenshot of each individual page and then assembling all those images into a PDF for each notebook. I could’ve also printed each individual page to PDF and then compiled all the individual PDFs into one big file, but it worked out faster to screenshot them.

This was enough of a pain that I would recommend moving to something other than OneNote if you’re just getting started and the “export to PDF” option isn’t available to you.

As for embedded videos – in addition to the embed you could also include a link to the video, so that judges viewing the notebook on paper can watch the video if they desire. Likewise, you could make sure that any links have the URL visible so that judges could follow those.

But that said, I would not expect judges looking at the paper version of your notebook to spend significant time (or maybe any time at all) watching videos or following links. In general, if you want the judges to see it, it should be in the notebook itself.

For authors, my suggestion would be to include the name(s) of the person/people writing each notebook entry in the text of the entry itself.


I will add, expect at Worlds they will want hard copies of the notebooks. The reason here is it is hard to provide access to devices to all the judges and have good network connectivity to access digital notebooks in the cloud. This is a logistical issue that no inexpensive solution has really been found yet.

Wise words about about videos not printing. Do not rely on external references to be seen by the judges during competition days.

I am in favor of advance submission of digital notebooks for review by judges, and leave the in-person experience to interviews. Notebooks have a lot of details that are easily missed in one day judging events - we want teams to have the full confidence their hard work is seen.


In addition to what others have said, since most Engineering Notebooks out in the real world are still NOT digital, having videos embedded is NOT an option. Therefore, I wouldn’t consider embedding videos even in a digital notebook.


Right! Embedding videos and links is moving to the area of making a presentation, rather than documenting your engineering work. Save the presentations for your interview! If you want to show the judges a video clip during the interview, have it ready on your laptop. These sorts of things won’t really improve your rubric score when the engineering notebook is being evaluated, but during the interview, could tilt things in your favor.


Based on my perspective, I am wondering… I am glad that digital notebooks are allowed, but why print out an entire notebook that usually is 100+ pages, when so few people will actually look at it again when the season ends? If so few people are going to look at it, why not instead save the notebook to 3 different locations: Cloud, Computer, Extenal USB. This will only cost like 15 seconds, and there is software that can do all these things like Google Drive and Sync or OneDrive. Additionally, there does not have to be an internet connection to judge digital books. I believe it would be much better to just judge digital notebooks with a USB, as pretty much everyone has a USB already, and have devices to read from notebooks, through merely a Raspberry Pi for $35 or something cheap for safety measures. This way teams do not need to spend hundreds of dollars a season purely wasted on ink and paper that only one person a year will look at after the season ends.

1 Like

Why build robots at all - most teams will never make it Worlds… :slight_smile:

Teams who made it to Worlds have a lot to be proud of - and the printed notebook maybe the one thing that outlasts their robot, digital note etc…

We have a collection of Worlds printed notebooks, it is worth it as an organization as it is useful for sharing ideas.


I believe you missed my point,
Let’s assume that I create a digital notebook. Based on the perspective of an average student, why would I need to print out the digital notebook for any reason other than VEX requires it for judging? Why would I need to spill $75 to $100 of my own money to have a judge look at a notebook when I, an average person, have a $5 USB stick next to me that I can copy and paste the notebook file onto? If anyone wants a copy of a notebook, I can copy and paste it. If the judges lose or damage a hard copy (which has happened to several teams), I am now required to pay another $75 to $100 to have it printed once more. Worse is if I make a notebook in hard copy and it gets damaged after receiving the book from a competition, which is irreplaceable. It would just be easier to have a USB so if it gets lost then I am not in a financial burden. That being said the school can have a notebook saved in its servers (or the teacher can have it saved on their computer) and I have a copy of the notebook for when I want to do VEXU in college as reference. If the school would like a physical copy of my notebook it would then be their responsibility to print it out, not for me to go to a professional printing service and pay money for it to be printed on my own behalf. The difference between building a VEX robot and making a notebook is initiative. People are far more motivated to build a VEX robot as compared to documenting to the notebook. So, by having an expensive cost of entry to submit a notebook in a physical format, it seems counter intuitive. Allowing USB submissions is such a simple component that can chop down costs slightly and make the practice of documentation be less taxing financially, creating a greater initiative for people to document more. Not everyone is in your boat, as I will grantee you that a large number of organizations just don’t submit notebooks at all or half-tail their notebooks due to the unnecessary grit for the students.

I completely agree that it is wasteful to print a digital document. I like the idea of teams creating digital notebooks because the majority of us store our information this way - we need to evolve in this direction. I also like the idea of checking in notebooks ahead of an event so judges can take their time to review the information before the tournament.

That said, it’s the responsibility on the team to make sure that a judge can review the document on the judge’s device. If the format of the document cannot be viewed, if the information is password protected, or anything that prevents the judges from seeing your information should result in skipping the notebook. We host 80 team events and I cannot imagine teams handing in thumb drives or passing their device to a judge because of a technical glitch.

If RobotEvents had a method for checking in a PDF document with a team’s registration then I would be completely fine with paperless and I would make sure that my judges had the tools they need to review the information. Add a digital Rubric form and I am very happy.

(TL:DR) Until this day comes I would stick with handing in a printed copy.


That’s honestly a good point…
In college, everything is online and submissions are online including Engineering reports. RECF could do a similar thing for submissions where your team could upload the Engineering notebook which would be attached to the competition before like 3 days of the event. After the deadline, on the judge’s side, they can click on a “download” button that will download all of the notebooks for every team in a zipped folder. Then, they just take the laptop to competition with the folder of notebooks knowing that the competition would not have internet access.

I asked some of my professors if they preferred grading in-paper submissions or digital submissions and they said they prefer digital submissions much better because it is faster. Honestly, I believe online submissions of notebooks would make judging way faster, as every team’s number would be labeled on the notebook folder that is downloaded and you can search for the team.

Not to mention, not every Engineering student will be documenting their work on pieces of paper. I believe loads of Engineers will just be documenting online. That being said, it is not a good idea to stick to a conservative viewpoint that

as this could likely change in the next 3-5 years, and I believe we are already seeing the change in-place. That being said, I believe in VEX Robotics the practice and habit of documenting is more important than a niche of documenting in a binded notebook with binded notebook etiquette.

1 Like

I want to emphasize,
I am not making a opinion for competitions stop having printed notebooks, but instead provide more leeway for other forms of submissions.

Same reason I had to print out two copies of my theses for the library on acid-free paper. It was required to graduate college.

Change takes time. Right now the calculus for Worlds judging, the printout is the best solution for them.

1 Like

Another thing to double-check when printing is if your printing with or without color. I had a couple issues last year printing colored diagrams in black & white on accident since I wasnt paying full attention