Of my four teams, we have split down the middle. Two traditional bound notebooks, two online notebooks using the new templates. I can tell you that the two online notebooks stay up-to-date much more easily than the traditional ones. I think this is because multiple people can be updating different pages at the same time. Also, most robotics kids can type much faster than they can write legibly. I think next year everyone will make the switch.
My VEXU team uses Google Docs for each subteam’s notebook. No specific template, just strict formatting guidelines to ensure consistency across each one. Images/sketches are either done on paper or on an iPad (my preferred way of doing it), with images also added once mechanisms are actually built. CAD screenshots are also included as a great deal of our robot is designed in CAD & made using custom manufacturing processes (perks of being in VEXU).
Before competitions, all 3 subteam notebooks will be merged into the “master notebook” as to ensure better readability for the judges. This also allows the documentation subteam to go through each notebook with a fine tooth comb to really fine tune it for our upcoming competition.
As far as “keeping pace” we have documentation subteam members to make sure everyone is on track and on schedule. This also helps to keep members accountable and allows us to voice any concerns or questions. Once it comes closer to competition dates we will transition to meeting in-person to pero for the judges interview (as documentors, we need to hold the rest of our team accountable for their parts of the interview).
We use Word for our online notebook as it has a lot of features to make the notebook look nicer and gives you much more freedom in editing the layout. Everyone can edit the document and add things because we put the document in OneDrive, but aesthetic changes are done in the actual Word application.
Features like Quick Parts speed up the process of adding repetitive things such as formatting a page for a certain type of entry or adding a section for us to sign off the page.
My team is useing both a digital(google docs) and physical(paper lol), which works really well for us.
Anything any everything go into both the physical and digital notebooks. If a comp wants our physical notebook we can still do match documentation through the digital and vice versa. I can document things I did at home while my notebooker works on finishing up crazy sketches of the robot. Adding CAD documentation is great digitally.
I can copy and past a long rant that I had on the vex fourms into the digital notebook as well, which has come in handy about 3 times this year…
Takways is that I use the digital notebook but our team uses both. Works great for me!
Fully digital has been a challenge. We are using OneNote which has a much larger learning curve. Also though, this is first time our teams have been stressed to follow the eng design process. So that is more a struggle than the actual typing up of pages. They like to skip steps like brainstorming and weighing options out before just building something instead of always retrospectively documenting what you hacked together. I would think a well versed team though would not struggle going to digital. The problems of following edp are actually easier with page templates in digital than paper so I think our end result is going to be much better.
The electronic notebook process has been great for everyone in our organization.
We created a Google Doc template. I had all of my teams make a copy and share it with me. Students are making more contributions - anyone on the team can add content during off hours, and they will take a photo with their phone for hand drawings and notes.
Our mentors can review the books at any time and we can add comments and suggestions.
We set a printing deadline for tournaments that only accept paper, print a copy, and put it into a 3-ring binder. The school office has been kind enough to take on the burden of volume printing.
In my past experience, the judges have preferred traditional notebooks over digital notebooks, simply because of the formatting that teams use. Teams have perfected the formatting for traditional notebook, while digital notebook formatting is still fairly inconsistent, and just not as good-looking, at least in our region. I’ve had enough experience with traditional notebooks that I have kept using them each year (and this is my last year). It’s also so satisfying to hand in something that’s completely handwritten, and each photo is glued in by hand, rather than a bunch if printed sheets held together in a binder. While the time and effort of a traditional notebook might be higher, the overall look and feel of it makes it worth it to me.