Professional practice of shared design notebooks

Quick poll for Engineers and other STEM related professionals that happen to be on this forum…

How many of you are working on a project, or have ever worked on a project, where the team shares a bound notebook for their design work? Please keep responses on topic. Just let us know your professional experience.

In my decades of experience I have not encountered anything like that. I’ve worked at many different types of companies, large and small, in many industries, all over the country, and with variety of corporate cultures and design methodologies. But, I have not encountered anything like a shared written notebook for design work. I’m in software; maybe it’s different for other STEM professions, particularly for certified Professional Engineers (PEs) . What’s your experience?

The dead horse has been beaten. The ship has sailed. The topic has shuffled off this mortal coil. Being bereft of life, this subject no longer exists. It is pushing up the daisies. When in the course of human events a topic has been done to death…

I was doing a job interview with the CEO of a small company and I asked him if he cared if I was unable to hand write things. I told him I just had never learned how but could type fine. He didn’t seem to care at all. I told him after that I was just curious and that it wasn’t true.

I have worked in a few engineering jobs and the only time we hand wrote anything was when we happened to be using a white board brainstorming. Reports, logs and sketches are all done electronically.

They are used, its just in my experience not something that is terribly common.

My thoughts on the notebook are well documented and if you search around there a long debates on the notebook and its uses in professional jobs.

Of all the responses in past threads I believe @kypyro has had the most professional experience with written notebooks. He may be willing to compile his examples together to present.

This is probably the funniest thing I’ve read all day! Thank you.

Editted to add: How many people still do long division? How many people write outlines before they write a paper? How many people walk uphill both ways to school in the snow? These things are just rites of passage. We get to make kids do things just for the sake of learning!

In spite of the bombastic language of this response, the remainder of the responses seem to be civil and on topic.

This is still relevant. Official answers to questions regarding the notebooks, made within the last couple days, say that students should become familiar with this [a shared design notebook] “common Professional Engineering practice”. Is that true? Is it really a common practice?

All jokes aside, I would recommend looking at the National Society of Professional Engineers website. Professional engineers have taken a test, are designated as professionals, and can be sued and held responsible for their designs. A PE will have very rigorous documentation requirements.

Here is a link to a white paper on “document retention”

A Professional Engineer (not all engineers are Professional Engineers) are held to a high standard for documentation because they can be litigated and it has to be clear that documents were not modified after-the-fact in the case of upcoming litigation. The document retention paper addresses paper and electronic files and some of the issues surrounding electronic files and communications.

Many of us that work in companies are not PEs and, therefore, do not need to follow the rigor that PEs do. That’s probably why a lot of people on here are not following the practice of using bound design notebooks. Unless I do something criminal, I never have to worry about being litigated for one of my designs.

Now retired but a Professional Engineer for more than 40 years. I never heard of a bound design notebook until I got into VEX robotics. I have been in charge of Records Management (document retention) for two large engineering firms.

Records are only kept for as long as the applicable laws require, after that they are destroyed. As the attorneys will tell you, its the records that you keep (longer than required) that will hang you. Drawings tend to be kept for ever because they may become the basis of a follow on project. Design records were always 8.5x11 in a loose leaf binder. Binders are replaced with folders when sent to archival storage (just to save space). Electronic documents (becoming the norm) were burned to a CD or DVD and stored in with the paper records. One firm I worked for (in Ohio) was going paperless 15 years ago. Everything was scanned and no paper was retained. Today almost all drawings are done on CAD and are therefor already in digital form, i.e. no need to scan. FYI

Document retention is a real thing, and not just in engineering, but for medical, insurance, government agencies, construction, you name it.

Some Engineers do keep their own notebook (at least the one’s I’ve worked with), but I’d like to know if they share a notebook for collaborative design work.

Someone mentioned designing on a whiteboard, which would be a shared written design, and is really common in software. But that approach is very short term, usually just a couple hours.

Even if you are not an Engineer or PE, have you every worked on a project where the team had a shared design notebook that they all wrote in?

I think the new aspect of this (otherwise very well worn) topic that @jrp62 brings up, is not just whether bound notebooks are in use (or useful), but specifically are they used by groups or shared. While we beaten the notebook topic, it is very valid to point out the sharing issue. In all the cases that are cited around the value of a bound notebook (PEs being the primary one), every use case I have ever heard of is having a single notebook for a single engineer, where he/she captures their individual work.

Trying to share a single notebook among a team of multiple members, makes the bound notebook preference (requirement) very challenging. It even encourages the very behavior trying to be avoided, in have kids capture their notes separately and later adding them in as another step into the notebook. It must be acknowledged that it is common for multiple team members to be working simultaneously on their project in different locations. Only one can have a bound notebook at a time…

hmm that’s interesting.

I was actually suprised how many PE’s there are. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that there are about 1.6 million Engineers in the united states (source ) , and the NCEES claims there are 820,000 active licenses (source ).

It’s unclear if the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes or excludes PE’s, however it seems that they are included. 50% is a much larger chunk of the population than I expected.

To stay on topic: IF PE’s uses written records more prominently, it may not be as uncommon as previously stated, however based on @Mighty Lions 's post, maybe not.

Projects in engineering, software, embedded controls for 30 years, no shared project notebooks, we did have patent notebooks.

One thing we did for our team this year was have them break the 3-ring binder into 4 bound notebooks. One dealt with the base, one with the the claw/lift and one with software/strategy. Different team mates can work on them separately then in a modular fashion, although I’m not sure how that would be received this season. It ended up a few hundred pages.

how’d that go over with the judges? I’ve thought about doing this.

We won a judged award for the notebook (Design or Excellence) at every tournament including State, except for the two tournaments where the judges refused to review our stuff because they said we had won too much.

We had very good comments from judges in all tournaments.

That’s kinda lame. Was that directed by the EP?

We didn’t complain the first time, just wrote it off (we know why the judge did it, because he told the team). I did complain the second time, and our RECF rep was very helpful. I just wanted to make sure that judge wasn’t used at State.

The EP’s in both cases had no idea it was happening.

One of the reasons I asked the question here:

was to understand the intent and meaning behind the “glue” your code in the notebook rule. If that were the case we would have had nearly 500 pages of just code in a multitude of notebooks and I don’t understand the industry or educational value in that at all.

I’ve already decided, we’re simply not glueing computer code into a notebook. That’s where I draw the line! Fine with using a bound notebook - but, I’m with you TriDragon, I see no practical point in doing that.

Yep, but you may not get the 3 pt bonus then.

That’s unfortunate, I am not looking forward to the drama of finding, training, and coordinating judges.

I’m going to assume this bonus is going to be a controversial topic in a few months.

How its awarded, why it wasn’t, ect.