Do you need a "how to use your notebook" page?

In preparation for next season, I was watching videos about how to do the engineering notebook so we can have a strong start to our notebook.
I came across this video: Elements of an award winning VEX Engineering Design Notebook - YouTube, which says at the beginning to have a “how to use your notebook” page. In this season’s notebook, I did pages differently and didn’t stick to a specific format. However, I’d like to know whether judges want you to stick to the same format, and whether a page like this is necessary.

We personally don’t have a page like that, but we did follow a format. We used one that we found online. id have to find it.

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Please take this with a grain of salt. My team has never won Design or Excellence, and I have not judged at competitions.

You probably shouldn’t be changing format every couple entries. My personal opinion is that changing entry format a lot is not organized. It could also be considered as detracting from the clarity of the notebook.
Engineering Notebook demonstrates clear, complete, organized record of robot design process.
If you have a simple format with some titles and headings, you shouldn’t need to have a “how to use your notebook” page. There are probably judges that would consider this a good thing to include, but it isn’t directly stated in the Judges manual.

This is the judges rubric/manual by the way. Helpful for seeing what the judges are looking for. Most questions about judging can be answered by looking through this.


I’ve judged a lot and kind of agree with this. When a team uses a fixed format, it is usually pretty apparent after reading through the first 15 pages. So putting a “how to use” upfront does not add much. That being said, having it doesn’t hurt either and it’s usually only a page or two. So, if there are judges that sort of thing, it is there. If not, a person could just flip right past it.


I am my teams notebooker and we have won excellence at every competition this year, including states, but like everyone else is saying, take this with a grain of salt because I am not a judge.

So if you want a strong start, you don’t have to start with what you’re doing with your robot. Instead, you should explain the game and your team, how your team works, who does what, etc. Let the judges get to know your team personally. Write your school, team name, where you’re from, all that.

Either before or after that, draw out the engineering design process and make sure you have a good understanding of it because the judges want to know that you know what the design process is for and how you use it. Repeat it a lot throughout your book.

That’s pretty much it for the start. After that, immediately start documenting every single thing you do to your robot and how you plan, program, etc. Time management is everything.

Other things to make sure you use:
Timelines (can be in calendar/gantt chart form or a literal timeline)
PEN. Don’t use a pencil.
Design matrices
Write out statistics
Anything visual that would simplify a whole paragraph

Something I’ve learned this year was that judges really don’t have that much time to read through your notebook so if you can simplify something into a picture, or if it can be left out completely, do that.


Thanks for the tips! Our notebook this season had stuff other than the evolution of the robot, like brainstorming, so we used different formats for each section of the notebook. Is that okay or should you really just stick to one format for everything?