Do notebooks absolutly need to be writen in pen?

I prefer using a pencil because my spelling and handwriting aren’t the best and I couldn’t find anything that expressly forbids pencils. The only official thing I could find is that you should never erase anything in the notebook. But with how popular the digital format is nowadays I think that trusting students to not erase anything written in pencil is the same (if not even easier) than trusting students not to completely change things in a slideshow, especially since the metadata can’t be used by judges. My goal is not to cheat, (and I can’t even think how erasing anything would help get a judges award) but simply to make sketching and notetaking easier.

In my opinion (and previous experience), I would say that writing in pen is a much better option than writing in pencil. Permanent ink (that doesn’t bleed through) helps show that chronological order is present in your notebook, and if you have small mistakes such as grammatical errors or spelling, I would recommend just simply crossing them out with a line (don’t scribble over it!). It also just looks nicer in my opinion if something was done and the process couldn’t be edited so the full progression of everything can be seen.

That’s great, and I agree that erasing anything doesn’t help, but Judges do like to see your mistakes (at least from what I’ve been told and from what I’ve experienced). If you want to sketch, I would say it’s okay to sketch in pencil, and then go over it in pen. If you want to color things, I would say that colored pencils are fine, but I really like using gel pens for that because then that’s in permanent ink too.
Also, if you view examples of notebooks, you’ll notice that most, if not all, teams used some sort of “permanent ink” in their notebooks, and they had ways to assure that it was done chronologically, whether digital or physical.

1 Like

Here is the official link to all things VRC

Pay attention to Notebooks and Judging - In Notebooks you will find resources to best practices for documenting your teams engineering design journey, and in Judging you will find all the official documents to the Judging process.

Read carefully and come back with questions here, or for official clarification for Judging Process for VRC, there is an official Q&A for Judging on RobotEvents.


What about the cool erasable pens? Is that still better than pencil?

Thank you I didn’t know where that was. It says “Bound paper notebooks written in ink are no longer necessary because edits are now okay. Digital notebooks are now a valid option.” Which is what I thought. So my new question is do you think judges will hold it against me even though it’s technically legal.

My advice to you would be to just go digital. If you do a pencil notebook and you are using it a lot the pencil at the beginning of the notebook will be difficult to read by the end of the year

I would just PLEASE ask you to keep everything in chronological order. Some teams put all of their build pages together and it was so hard to tell how the design process was followed. At the end of the season, when you have 10 minutes to judge a notebook with 200 pages, make it easy on the judges!


In my opinion, I think that anything that isn’t erasable is a great option so that the Judges know that everything is done chronologically. And the thing with using pencil is that it can also “wear off” on pages and over time it does become harder to read, as @sankeydd mentioned. And it seems that Judges do like to see mistakes that were made, and if it’s just small errors, simply cross them out with a line and continue writing.
That being said, I do not think that erasable pens are a good idea, although it is difficult to exactly know for sure if something was written with erasable pen or not without actually seeing it be erased…Maybe they could be used for coloring in things in the notebook so that it looks permanent, but can be edited if the drawings don’t look so accurate.

1 Like

On the VRC website section about notebooks it says, “Crossing out unused parts of a page is no longer necessary because there is no need to show that nothing was added after the page was created. Bound paper notebooks written in ink are no longer necessary because edits are now okay.” I don’t think that it being written in pencil shows that it was written in chronological order any less than it is a slideshow that you can freely move around. @sankeydd The reason I am reluctant to just go digital is because last year most of the competitions we went to didn’t allow digital notebooks (and our school is always out of paper). @Micahy321 I think that an erasable pen could work because it doesn’t “wear off” like a pencil does.

1 Like

You are absolutely correct that the website says that, but I wasn’t referring to crossing out unused parts of pages, but rather small grammatical/spelling errors.

I can understand your perspective on slideshows being able to move freely about, but if you take into consideration what @sankeydd mentioned, pencil will begin to become more difficult to read, trust me. In that case, what @Micahy321 suggested about the erasable pens might be a good idea, and it would be a better option than a pencil, but I personally like to try to show chronological order in any way I can, whether physical or digital format to show progress of my team. I think that as long as you can show that, you’re on the right track.
Also, pen just looks nicer in my opinion, because it will show all of your progress easier than you ever will find it in pencil, and it “stands out” more. Just be sure to keep everything organized and you should be good to go.

1 Like

that is the main reason why they want to see permanent ink but if you are to worried abt it use an erasable pen.

i know for me when i write in pen i feel fancy and so my writing always looks nicer.


Hey all,

Thanks for all the great ideas and input on this thread!

Just getting a check:

Are 3 ring binder / unbound notebooks acceptable for competition? I’m getting mixed signals from the VEX site:

This site says the notebooks should be bound.

The official judging site does not specify

Just want to set our teams up for success. Do you think a 3 ring binder design notebook would be disqualified?

1 Like

Look at the Guide to Judging. It’s the “end all be all” document for judging at RECF events, and should have the answer to your question.


Update. From our TEM:

They do not HAVE to be bound. Just know that some event partners will either require a physical notebook or you might have to upload it digitally.


My team used a hybrid notebook last year, where you make the entries online and print them, then put them in the notebook. It did as really well, we got Excellence on 2/3 regional competitions, and Excellence at states. So some field experience on a slightly different type!

1 Like

I actually discussed this with my coach yesterday. Him also being a judge him self, he said, and I quote, “Preferably judges prefer seeing a notebook wrote in pen. They want to see where you corrected things, but not a bunch of eraser marks. They want to see a line through where you messed up and the corrects words wrote above where you messed up.”

I hope that’s helpful!

9545T Team