Engineering Notebook Advice For You

Well they had gotten done all their skills attempts and had time to kill. They wouldn’t take my suggestion that they look at other robots and document ideas, so we used the time for that instead.

They do a recap after every tournament at the next practice. Each team member has to have at least one thing that went well and one thing that can improve. The only rule is that they have to assume everyone involved did their best at the time.

I guess I should first establish my bona fides, before offering advice. :wink: I’m a Middle School IQ Coach. My team has had 2 tournaments this season and won the Design Award twice. Generally my teams win the Design Award several times a season, if they follow my coaching :laughing:

I feel all team member should be making at least some entries in the notebook.

At a minimum I have them rough sketch by hand their brainstorming ideas and label it. At other times it’s up to the team to rough sketch, draw with straight edges to scale etc or use SnapCAD.

Both. I teach them to write brief descriptions of key points about their brainstorm ideas, then use a decision matrix then write a summary of why they went with the decision.

My teams keep track of all their skills attempts/scores, all their matches (partners & scores) how they finished and who the top teams were and their scores. This all goes intot he notebook. Then we also conduct a review, each team member has to have at least one thing that went well and one thing that can improve. 

I have them sketch and or describe and clearly attribute that to the team by the team number. E.g. " Team 1234A used 2 pinion gears for each rack on their elevator"


Ur quotes aren’t showing

Thanks. I think I fixed it.

I included the code for the tank control in my notebook and then just explained what each block does. We have pre- and post- comp. entries for each competition. What do you mean by “What’s your strategy to ensure judges always see the most up-to-date entry?” If that’s exactly what you mean… I just do the notebook every single day. So far this year, we have never been behind on any entries.

Yes I will put both of those up here in my next post.

Just include the exact title and dates of what you did. If it’s in the same topic, just draw a line until you get to the page you stopped at (you’ll see what I mean in the picture.)

If you dedicate a page to team attendance, assignments, etc, you can put it there. Just include it clearly and they will see it.


(Here’s my bona fides, before offering advice: Faculty adviser for teams 3547 and MCCC, Judge at Worlds past 4 years, also local events.)

It really won’t matter too much to a judge who is looking for content and documentation. Nicely drawn sketches, CAD printed and taped in, or photographs are all fine if done to document the design process. Refer to the rubric on page 19 of the Judge’s guide ( and you’ll see the items about the “design process”. There is no criteria as to sketches vs. photographs.


I guess I need to put up or shut up. My bona fides: Coach for teams that have won numerous design awards including at the local, state and worlds (2 worlds design awards) level plus judge at local, state and worlds level. I’ve seen a couple of ENs in my day!

The best piece of advice is right above. Follow the rubric. Second best piece of advice, put items in your EN that make sense - don’t just put them in there because you think it will impress a judge. If a picture tells your story best, use a picture. If a sketch tells your story, use a sketch. And third: It’s all about the robot.


our team competed this weekend at a qualifier and we didn’t receive a design interview. We were told that our notebook lacked organization with our cad designs to our current robot. They couldn’t correspond certain things with our final robot. Is there a certain way to connect what you have cadded to the robot itself now? Any tips and pointers would be appreciated?


Why is everyone saying “bona fides”? My qualifications are doing the notebook for our team and winning design award literally last weekend.

If you changed design ideas frequently since the beginning of the notebook to the final robot, the judges love to see an analysis of previous designs, what they are good at, what they lack, and why the next design is superior. Just put a paragraph or so at the top of the design after the previous one saying the things I just mentioned. Judges like self-awareness.


You’d have to read the thread from the start, I think @Gear_Geeks and @ChrisR246 were the instigators :wink: …it’s a pseudo-humorous attempt being sure the reader knows who is giving the advice.

It was just intended to be some gentle humor on my part


We actually don’t use CAD. We’re in MS, and even though we could still use it, we’re not as encouraged to do that as a HS team would be (that is my coaches words not mine). I would probably make more items along your timeline. What I mean by that is if you make a CAD model, put what you built based off of that in a picture next to it rather than the final robot.




If a team rebuilds their robot between competitions, their motor allocation, wiring diagram, and even joystick function assignments could change. Also, source code is very likely to be updated.

Some teams mark latest entries with the colored tabs, as you said, and may include a sticky note next to the index, pointing to the latest notebook pages with those entries.

In addition to hand written EN entries, more dedicated teams print digital versions of those pages and organize them them, along with the latest source code listings, into a separate binder.

If you have a lot of digitally created and stored information like source code, data tables, statistics from, etc… it makes sense to print it, instead of transcribing everything manually - it saves time and, as a judge, I look for teams demonstrating that they know how to use their time wisely.

Next question:

How do you demonstrate throughout your notebook that you are following Engineering Design Process?

Does it even make any sense to tell in which part of the cycle you are on every single page?


Okay so I would just reprint and explain the latest set of that code. I don’t know a lot about coding or how it works, but what we do is we take the latest set and put it in the NB and explain what it does. You’re right that it makes so much sense to print the code, I tried to write it out by hand last year and it was terrible. I’m not a judge, but I think that you’re also right in saying that a team that will print it is using their time more efficiently because writing it out takes so long.

We have the engineering design process written on the very first page of our notebook, and no it doesn’t make sense to tell what cycle you’re on on every single page. What we do is write the full design process where we need it. For example, if my team were to rebuild the entire robot or a certain subsystem of it, we would write the design process on that page(s) and explain what is going on in each step. Doing that on every single page is unnecessary, in my opinion, because not everything needs the design process. For example, a calendar, what is the design process going to contribute to that page?


Well, you don’t really design the calendar itself, but I’ve seen teams making a custom calendar, where they put thumbnail sized pictures of the most important milestones in the their robot design around the calendar and connect them with lines to the specific dates.

This way you can take one glance at a page and know how their robot progressed and looked before the first scrimmage then, month later, before the first competition, second competition, ending with a final picture of their latest design that they took to states.

If you have a Gantt Chart it could be greatly enhanced with thumbnails of the robot or individual subsystems as it shows phases of the cycle for various robot designs (if you had built more than one).


thanks for the help!

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I think it makes sense to put the title of the phase at the beginning of the work. If it goes on for several pages I wouldn’t keep repeating it. For example, the process we use is.

  1. State the Problem
  2. Sate the requirements for the solution
  3. Brainstorm solutions
  4. Evaluate and Choose a Solution
  5. Build and Test the Solution

So they will always write something like " PROBLEM: We need to be able to score on the high green platform faster" and then it will be "REQUIREMENTS: 1) Blah Blah Blah


Yes, I agree, description of the long term (~weeks/months) Engineering Design Cycle for entire robot iteration would go into the calendar or Gantt chart.

Then for the short term (~days) component development cycle you put those in paragraph headings.

Here is an example of an Excellence winning notebook from one of our teams:



You can recognize the phases of their design process within seconds of looking at the page. All important keywords are highlighted and it has a nice balance of hand-drawn diagrams and printed pictures.


Wait ur allowed to use color? I’ve just rly hated doing notebook cause I thought for max points I had to only use black and blue (which I think is dumb). Honestly my notebook pages could be so much better if color didn’t dock off points.