How much is too much for notebook

This year is my last year in vex robotics so naturally I began to work on full drive from the very beginning. My team has always had a good notebook and we’ve won a good amount of design awards at local competitions. I (the notebook designer and writer) wanted to make an exceptionally good engineering notebook this year, but I fear I’ve went a bit overboard.

I want to sort of ease my anxious mind and seek reassurance or some solutions to my problem. Currently we have 301 pages in the notebook and we still have about 3 months of competing. But to be fair, we rebuild the entire robot 3 times and have made many changes to the design along the way. We also changed drivers and went through a lot of skills strategies. Our school is pretty new to robotics (only 4 years in) so when I started there was no one I could look up to for guidance. That can probably explain why we keep rebuilding the robot over and over again, but we’re stubborn and want to make it better. Consequently, all of this redesigning adds a lot of pages.

However, the journal is formatted extremely well. The table of contents can be used to find any information using a system of colors and/or numbers. We also have video documentations of a lot of steps we’ve taken throughout the year, as well as some really in depth sketches. There might be about 20 pages of fluff that I don’t really need in the notebook, but other than that the rest of it makes sense and follows the rubric perfectly.

Now, I have a couple of options. I read on forum and I’ve been told that judges strongly dislike long notebooks. I also read that most good notebooks are only up to 200 pages long. Since I’m already 300 pages in I have a couple of things I can do to make my notebook better.

  1. Minimize the design process documentation of the third robot into as little pages are possible (keep full book under 400).
  2. Write in the same fashion for the rest of the year and deal with the consequences of a 500 page journal.
  3. Rewrite the entire 300 pages into a smaller and more concise version. (Maybe on digital)
  • Also, there are a lot of sketches in the journal (over 60) since we don’t have CADD so I’ve had to implement the CADD process into sketches.

Anyway I’m just looking for some type of an advice. I’m eally hoping that 400 pages wouldn’t make the judges disregard our notebook.

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I would read the Engineering Journal Rubric so you can create your own opinion, but I’ll also say mine.

(I’ve put the key details in bold :+1:)

You want to aim for quality over quantity. But as part of the rubric it wants you to record as much of the engineering process as you can (to the point where someone else can refer to the notebook and make the robot themself) - but this contradicts quality over quantity.

I would recommend making sure you don’t repeat yourself or include unnecessary details, instead of trying to cram it down. This could be drafting what you want to write about first, then cutting it down. Or limiting yourself to a page a session.

What I wouldn’t recommend is re-writing your previous 300 pages, as the journal is ideally written along with the process while your doing it, so you may lose points for re-doing it. But maybe I’m just being overly cautious.

As long as you write meaningful stuff that isn’t too repetitive, I wouldn’t worry about how many pages it takes up.

I’m not sure how the judging process works, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t read the whole journal, so I don’t see what difference it makes. As long as there isn’t any fluff, and the information they are looking for is easy to find.

That’s probably the biggest problem; a long journal makes things hard to find, especially physical ones. This season I switched to a digital journal and it has allowed me to create link to reference other pages, and the contents, it allows the judges to easily find what they are looking for.

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First of all wow that is very impressive being on track for 400 or 500 pages, I wish I had enough time for that.

I think this is great, to improve mobility around your notebook highlighter, sticky tabs, bold titles would help since judges only have a select about of time to look over notebooks, as you probably know.

Again, most likely due to the time crunch they are under and highlighting the information would help.

As for a solution, I say numbers 1 or 2 are the better.

You could replicate this with colors again or like a “guide” that you can slip into the notebook or something, since adding information later is finicky. Or a scannable QR code on the outside, but i could see judges ignoring them.

Good luck for the rest of the season!!

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Actually guides are a good idea, I have two pages dedicated to how to understand my team’s engineering journal. As well as many QR codes (not that judges have time to scan any of them, but it’s super helpful for your own reference.)

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Wow, that’s a long notebook! From a pure engineering perspective its awesome that you took the time to document everything to great detail, but I agree that from a judges perspective a notebook over 200 pages can seem excessive and detrimental to conveying your design process. Since judges would likely err on looking favorably on improvement, I would scale back on details that aren’t necessary for the judges to see (stop mentioning details that would not detract from the quality of your documentation if you did so, or even making judgement calls if you still feel like you are going overboard about what you feel best represents your team’s design process and what the judges really want to see), and continue writing in the same book (or series of books). You can’t technically rewrite your documentation, and in an engineering perspective, it would be directly detrimental to you as it sounds like your team would benefit from looking back and reflecting on what you’ve documented to get an objective perspective on what you’ve done during the season. (Rebuilds are good, but you are also looking to better understand how you can improve your practices to be more efficient and effective the first time around). Rewriting is the difference between a second hand source and a firsthand account; you dont want to lose rich and important details, or even worse, end up over-elaborating to compensate for a rewrite. If you wanted to change anything in your notebook, the process from a documentation perspective would be to add in a date for the edit and a separate signature for the edit, but that wouldn’t apply to your scenario for a rewrite.

I also usually end up with longer notebooks towards the end of the season (100 pages), so in addition to the traditional notebook navigation pages at the very beginning of the season, I add some informal notes/guides if needed and choose 10-12 pages to add a tab to, and color them by importance. This way, in-person judges know exactly where to look for critical design process information and don’t skip over important pages due to the size of the notebook.

I admire your dedication, its always inspiring to see people endeavor to go the extra mile. I hope this helps, and best of luck for the season!

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Option “2” would make the most sense, why change what has been working for you and your team.

Option “3” is not the point of an engineering notebook. If you did this, you would be turning the notebook into a “presentation”. As a judge, I would rather see a “presentation” during your team interview, and see the details, including mistakes, setbacks, and analysis, in the notebook.

For a long notebook, having an index is ideal to help the initial “notebook review judge” to find the rubric items. Of course, the index has to be easily found…if you planned ahead, it would be the first several pages of the first notebook. I don’t mean to imply that only the rubric items are important in a notebook, but in practicality, it is the notebooks that are high-scoring on the rubric that go on for additional evaluation by the judges.

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Ah yes I wonder how much they scan mine too.

I had the idea for an insert since one time a team sort of turned in a post card like thing with their EDP with like socials, team statement, picture, etc. and I thought it would be a great handout to judges to understand more.

I would say option 2. Quality over quantity is good and all, but if this quantity brings quality there isnt anything that should be changed.