You do not have to use the Engineering Notebook sold by Vex, my team uses a notebook that we order online:http://snco.com/
As long as it contains the information that that judges look for you should be fine.
Much of our team’s design efforts consist of sketches, smart phone photos and CAD drawings not-bound in a draft notebook.
We have created our own digital format which allows us to scan original notes, sketches and photos then merge them into a working document. This also allows us to easily update this source Engineering Design Notebook before each competition.
Some members on our team feel that the integrity of the notebook is compromised because new pages are added into a “newly bound” document before each competition. The VEX rules do not state how the submitted Engineering Design Notebook is to look, or whether it requires to be a bound notebook (or what type of binding).
However, the REC Foundation notebook “suggests” specific guidelines on how to document the engineering process in their notebook. Can a VEX judge provide an interpretation of this electronic publishing process that we would like to implement?
Use whatever the kids will actually write in! Does not need to be the one that comes with the first team you register in the series. (not all your registered teams get this, just one per number).
Formats vary all over the place. Electronic formats are harder to judge that they have been kept up over the season consistently versus thrown together at the end. So having electronic with proof in written form covers both sides. Electronic can be clearer while it is easier to draw in a notebook.
I’ve been judging for a few years now and recently helped out at TSA Nationals where we used the new Design rubric. I believe the addition of the rubric will make a big difference overall. While a few of the judges were loving the hand written notebooks, the volunteer judges from the Army were more impressed with those that had typed everything out and had utilized things like spreadsheets, clean well typed text (they struggled a bit with some of the hand writing and if they could not read it set it aside) and diagrams. One of the volunteers told me that while the hand written process is great, for the first step, he felt that it should be typed up as well. He made a point to tell me, “It’s what you see in the work force.” The rubric makes no distinction between hand written or typed notebooks. It’s about the quality and if it is followed correctly the right teams should rise to the top.
You are right though. I have been in situations where as judge coordinator I have found judges who insist that the hand written notebooks are best and thankfully there is always someone else there who reminds them that it does not matter what format is used, its the overall body of work that is most important.
As a mentor, I want my students to put just as much effort into the notebook as they do the robot and it has paid off for us. My notebooks are typed. It’s just a whole lot easier to get a hyperactive or dyslexic kid to type rather than hand write stuff. You go with the format that works best for your students.
If you use it as a guide during your interviews, judges can’t help but be impressed. I am always amazed by the quality of interviews and notebooks from some teams out there. In the end, do what makes you happy. Your passion will show regardless of format you choose.
From the way you describe your process, I would love to see your notebook. I enjoy judging the robots, but there is something about seeing a quality notebook that really impresses me. So good luck to you this season and hope to one day be able to meet you in person.