Engineering Notebooks

Something interesting i have noticed is that the hand written notebooks do really well at local tournaments, but get beaten out at worlds. I’m sure this isn’t always the case, but i just thought it was an interesting thought. The high-school team in our organization (3018 TechnaPWN), actually won the excellence award at worlds in 2011-2012 Gateway. Their notebook was, and is, completely typed. My team (3018V VEXcalibur) has won numerous judging awards at local tournaments. Completely typed.

Very well said! I think the issue, at least in Nebraska, is that the judges have it set in there mind that a notebook has to be Hand-written. Don’t look at the style, look at the content.

We have an entirely typed notebook, and we have won two Design awards and an Excellenve award. We have a front design report and a typed daily build log and competition reflection in the back.

We prove to the judges we built and designed our robot by being very knowledgable about it in interviews. The fact that we really don’t have an active “mentor” per se helps a lot too. There is no doubt who built the robot when we are the only ones running it, modifying it, and talking to the judgea about it the whole day.

To me, a handwritten notebook always seemed sloppy and unprofessional. We live in a modern age here… Besides, most of the better notebooks in our state have been traditionally typed. But this thread has changed my mind slightly; I’m not going to be critical if you think judges would like a handwritten notebook better, because it depends on the judges.

Aside from the fact that this is remarkably unsporting…

Not a single team has won a world design or excellence since the new rubric was released. We can’t know how this will impact the judging at worlds this year, or how it may have already impacted regional judging.

Oh, and Tarek gives some good feedback in his response to a Q about a digital notebook:

I think Tarek was specifically talking about fully digital notebooks AKA handing a judge an iPad, or handing a judge a URL. From what I’ve seen, notebooks are generally judged the same way they have always been.

I was specifically thinking about where he said “Specifically, having a mechanism in place to maintain the integrity of the notebook by preventing well intentioned team members from making changes to existing entries.Teams are often under the impression that a good design notebook must “look good” in order to be pleasing to the judges. The reality is that judges should not be looking for “pretty” notebooks. They should be looking for design notebooks that are a detailed record of the teams design process. This includes those ideas and designs that work as well as those that rejected by a team during the design process. Notebooks must also include last minute design changes.”

For most professional engineers, the mechanism in place that maintains the integrity of the original work is that the notebook is handwritten, blank space is slashed through, additional materials (like pictures and other print-outs) are taped in with a note behind them and a signature across the added material, and signed, dated, and witnessed. And everything is in the order in which it was done. Nothing is hole-punched and placed ahead of where it actually occurred. Can I get a show of hands for who one the forum is either a licensed engineer (preferably with patents to their name) or seen a real engineering notebook? Sure, the notebooks in VEX are done by students, but VEX is about generating and preparing the next wave of STEM professionals; shouldn’t we be teaching them how to do it as a professional would? That would sure make it easier for them to adapt once they enter the work force and find that their job could be tied to their ability to properly document their work.

I’ve heard that there is a sophomore in Kentucky (I think her name is Keely) who has the most amazing hand-written bound notebook. If she makes it to worlds (which based on what one of the judges at a competition said, she probably will) you should all Fear Her because she will probably smoke all of us.

I use a “real engineering notebook” on a daily basis and have done so since 1985 when I went to work for Burroughs and it was a requirement. It’s a bound book with numbered pages. If it’s not written down it didn’t happen. All entries are dated, people’s names noted, etc.

For personal robotics stuff I just switched over to a book that has 10 squares per inch graph paper on the left, college ruled on the right, cost is ~$6. They come with a metal spiral binding which gets crumpled, my local Staples replaced the metal with plastic (which is also a little bigger so the book lies flat). Pages are not numbered, but all the entries are dated.

I also have an online wiki that I keep records in. All the page changes are logged, mostly so I can go back if I mess up something. The wiki keeps track of the dates / times. Because it’s on a server I can get to it from lots of places.

The problem with an online record is that there needs to be some organization. An iPad is fine if there is some way to go through the info in an orderly fashion. It’s being able to find something that’s important.

It’s not hard to do if you do it and keep doing it. Paper is good. There is a little spiral notebook in my new lab titled “Where is _______?” Since I have a ton of stuff the book keeps track of where items are. IQ parts? Book case 7, Shelf 2, Brown Plano #1-3.

Embrace the documentation!

Every team at my school uses these: Engineering Notebooks. I have a 240 Page version in 8"x 10". Other teams at my school use the 8 7/8” x 11 ¼” in 312 page. The people here who use the 312 pages, get a second volume, same size, but 168 pages, and fill that too. We print out portions to paste into the notebook, and to place into the binder that surrounds it, but the main bulk is in writing. 1575A, the one team who uses a full 312 page notebook, won design at Worlds last year because they completely documented everything. I think as long as the whole process and every detail is copied down, the notebook is complete. It doesn’t have to be neat to win awards, however the neatness adds to the effect of the notebook. I know while judging, we looked more at notebooks with organization and neatness more than notebooks which were sloppily thrown together with little care. Not saying that typed can’t be neat, I prefer the bound notebook because it is easier to make it look nice, since it is already bound, and the only neatness you have to input is handwriting.