Engineering Notebook Advice For You

Hey y’all. I’m here to give you guys advice for your engineering notebooks, what to do if you don’t have one, etc. Ask me anything!


You can real you tell when teams get close to an event, all the questions about notebooks. This is the sixth new thread started in the last two weeks.

Wonder if anyone knows why the search bar isn’t working any more?


Obvious first question: what qualifies you to give advice?



They’ve pretty consistently gotten excellence and while I can’t speak for how competitive Ohio is as a region, I’m sure it can’t be a bad notebook. I also can’t imagine some one cocky enough to give notebook advice without being the notebooker for their team. Maybe is @JustARedneckEngineer could post some photos of their notebook pages…?


Useful knowledge. I had no idea if this person is a student that has won multiple awards, an adult who has been a judge, or a random person wanting to give advice - so this is useful information. Appears to be a middle school student who has won multiple excellence awards. To win an excellence award, the judging guidelines say the team must be at or near the top of the Design Award rankings.


Not really advice so much as interested in someone else’s expert opinion…

At our tournament this past weekend, my roboteers were writing a problem statement, solution requirements and brainstorming solutions to make use of the time. Of course their notebook was with the judges. They did all their recording on lined paper then glued it into the notebook after they got it back. They noted at the top of the page why it was done this way.

Alternative ideas?


@JustARedneckEngineer, thank you for volunteering to help with Notebooking!

I have several questions.

  1. A team has been building for several months, and was keeping an electronic log in Google Docs, but haven’t done much with paper notebook. They have a competition in two weeks and, probably, don’t have time to transcribe it all.
    What strategy would you recommend and why?

  2. Some volunteer judges, who are not very familiar with VEX, will often read Design Award Rubric and search for the literal keywords from the rubric in the Engineering Notebook.
    What strategy do you recommend to ensure that they find everything that is important?

  3. What is you preferred ratio for including printed pictures, CADs, or hand drawn sketches for illustration? When do you think each of them would be more effective?

Thank you!

  1. Is it better to have a dedicated notebooker, or to have the whole team have input on the notebook?

  2. In what situations should a team hand-draw something?

  3. What would you recommend using for design selection - a decision matrix or a written response?

  4. What should one include in a post-competition analysis?

  5. In the case of having one main notebooker, who does the programming documentation, the programmer, or the notebooker? Why?

  6. In the case of taking inspiration from a particular robot, how should the team cite the source robot?



Bro I’m just trying to help people out. In my opinion, I have a pretty good notebook. We have never received a negative comment about it and we are 4 for 4 with Excellence Awards. I’m not trying to brag, I’m trying to explain to you why I thought it was a good idea. I’m just trying to help and share my ideas.


I don’t think that I will do that, but I will certainly give advice!

Yeah I am in middle school, 8th grade. We’re definitely not as good as some HS teams but I’d say that we’re pretty good for MS.


I think that this is an AMAZING idea! I really don’t think that you need an alternative to doing that. If you wanted to, you could copy it off of the paper into the notebook, but there is nothing wrong with the way you’re team is doing it. I personally don’t do that at competitions, instead we just do an entire competition recap and would include it in there. Great idea and great use of time!


Okay, so you don’t HAVE to turn in a notebook. If it’s not the best that you can give, don’t turn it in. Also don’t print out the pages either, because the judges won’t read anything that is not a notebook. They won’t read anything in binders, loose papers, etc. I would just try to transcribe as much as you can and then wait to turn in your BEST work until the next competition, as that is what our high school team does. Does your whole team notebook or is there a designated documentor? If it’s your whole team, continue with the document and continue to transcribe in the notebook. If it’s one designated person, finish transcribing the document and stop using it when they get caught up. If they are not there the entire practice, continue with the google doc.

I personally use highlighters in my notebook so that the judges can find things related to that rubric easily and they won’t have to sift through some of the more unimportant stuff. How and what you choose to highlight is up to you. Our other team uses colored tabs in their notebook to serve the same purpose.

We actually don’t have any CAD models in our book. I do a mix of both though. I will draw stuff that is easy to draw with a ruler and I will print stuff that is too nitty gritty in detail for me to draw. If you have CAD, print that, if you don’t have it, draw your ideas. They don’t have to be perfect, but make them at least decently appealing to the eye.


I am a dedicated notebooker for my team, but my teammates will tell me exactly what to write, so technically they own the page. The judges to not want to see the same persons signature in every single page of the notebook. If your whole team does it, that is really good because you can actually manage your time well enough for each person to write. You could go either way but if someone wants to be a dedicated notebooker, just let them and tell them what to write.

Whenever you want. I will draw stuff that is easy to draw with a ruler and I will print stuff that is too nitty gritty in detail for me to draw. If you have CAD, print that, if you don’t have it, draw your ideas. They don’t have to be perfect, but make them at least decently appealing to the eye.

Skills, match results, competition results, pictures, explanations, what went well, what you could fix, how you will fix it, etc.

It’s your preference. If the programmer wants to do that, let them. If the documentor wants to do it, make sure they know what the code does and explain it. I would take the approach of what my teammates would want to do because that’s just better collaboration and we could narrow it down to who is going to do it.

Maybe include the youtube or whatever link that you are using at the bottom of the page and a little explanation of whose it is and why it inspired you.


Factually incorrect. If you are printing out material, you can paste it into your bound notebook and sign along the edges. Judges will consider binders, you just won’t get 5 point bonus for the bound notebook. Loose papers depends - for example, there may be a large schematic that does not paste in well into a notebook.

Please keep giving advice, but do not suggest what Judges will do or not do. That feedback should come from an EP, Judge Advisor or very seasoned Judge.


This is why it is important to establish your “bona fides.” I wasn’t being a jerk when asking your qualifications in a PP (even though your reply seemed to indicate that …“Bro”…). When using advice from the internet, it is very important to know the background and qualifications of the person providing it.

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Our robotics class is taking notes on certain things about robotics (gear ratios, DC motors, etc.) Since this is happening in our robotics class, how should it be documented in the notebook?

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Not the OP, but there are two different documents you can keep: an Engineering Notebook and an Engineering Journal. In general, you want to keep item related to the design and build of your robot in the EN. Stuff like courses, outreach, field trips, etc (unless they directly impact the design of your robot) can go in your EJ. The EJ stays at your pit and is not turned in with your EN.

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Not JustARedneckEngineer but I’ve had 2 years of vex experience and done a considerable amount of note poking as well as seen some amazing notebooks. Things like gear ratios and the such should be separate. At the beginning, it may seem like a good idea (especially is its completely new to you) but it just takes up pages for no reason. Also keep in mind that you can turn in multiple notebooks, you aren’t limited to a hundred pages. If it’s a class and ur coach is having u do research on that sort of stuff, there’s rly no getting around it.

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@JustARedneckEngineer, some judges are looking for summary pages like joystick controls layout, motor distribution over subsystems, electrical motor and sensor wiring diagram, any pre- and post- match and competition checklists, etc…

Even though it seems they should belong to Users Guide or Robot Maintenance & Repair Manual, they expect to find them in the Engineering Notebook.

Which of those (or any similar pages) do you have in your EN and what would be your strategy to ensure judges always see the most up-to-date entry as your robot evolves?

It would be great if anyone could share specific examples / pictures of such EN entries.

More questions:

Could you show us an example of the good Index of Content and/or calendar page?

What do you need to included in the good index?

If you count man-hours, what is a good way to organize and summarize them?