Starting an Engineering Notebook/Binder/Journal


I’m the coach of a brand new team (356E) and my team and I decided that we wanted to pursue the design award, I’m from Ontario, and looking back at the last season when I managed 356B, there was a lot of competition for the award. I was wondering if any of you guys could give me some tips on what to include in the binder/notebook (preferably things that most teams don’t add or overlook) and any other tips on being successful.

Thanks in advance :smiley:
Sunny Sandhu
Team 356E
Leader and Coach

This should get you started


Long story short, Include everything, do not neglect programming, make it clear so someone can pick it up and understand what you’re doing](

What I think should be included in your engineering notebook is first of all brainstorming ideas and sketches for each part of your robot, (i.e.: chassis, lifting arm…) then label and explain what is going on in your drawings. Then have one prototype sketch with every part and aspect of your robot into one drawing. Label and explain it as well. Then once you start building for each day have a date and day number. Include a daily plan on what you intend to accomplish and after building explain what you were able to do and what still needs to be done. Be thorough and include multiple pictures of your robot on the page. If there are any modifications to the original design include what you have modified, why you have modified it and how you think it will help improve your robot, and do that every time you modify something on your robot. Also like every week include a screenshot of your program with pseudo code. Hopes this helps.

Hi Sunny Sandhu, Here is a list of what my team put in our notebooks.

  • Who was there
    *Mistakes made
    *Ideas and sketches
    *Alliance partners
    *Code for autonomous and driver control
    *And reflection on how the meeting went and what you got done

Even if your at a competition and you don’t have your notebook you should still be taking notes somewhere else. (i.e other notebook, spare piece of paper, SOMETHING) I’ve used my knee before. Judges also like to see a little bit of personality though. They don’t want just a boring clone of every other notebook. They want to see that team in it.
I hope this answers your question! Have fun with your notebook!

Basically document everything. The level of detail (assuming it’s quality not just quantity) is what judges like.

To quote one of the judges from around here, “I should be able to look through your notebook and not only recreate the robot exactly the same down to every screw and washer, but also why you did what you did and what you did along the way to get there.”

Hi there, Sunny. I’m not sure if your team has one engineering notebook or one for each person on the team but one thing my team does is focus on what we wish to write about. In fact, the engineering notebook is basically a documentation of what the student wishes to write about. For instance, the programmer can write about a lot of their programming code and what they wish to do, a builder tends to design and tend to the robot so their focus area of ‘specialization’ could be stuff to improve the robot mechanically.

However, despite the more free conditions of the notebook, somethings all engineering notebook have tend to be pictures. Though sketches are good, sometimes the judges like to see tangible evidence that this entry did happen and not just something you designed for space in the notebook. I will raise my paw, I do very detailed pen drawings (just ask VEX Vortex) and I’m pretty sure the judges like to see actual photography than a bunch of scribbles in ink.

A lot of my entries happen after competition though since there’s so much to write about. What went well, what went wrong, how you did, other teams, other robots, strategies, what you learned, etc. You also aren’t so concerned about you robot at this time either so I find it the perfect time to write.

Everyone else has mentioned most of what I can think of and I don’t think you need me to repeat them. My statement though is that engineering notebooks don’t have an exact guideline that needs to be followed. Have the students focus on something they wish to write about and let them do their own thing with it (just make it clear that it has to be VEX related in their entries). Judges wish to see something different and not every single entry looks the same. Seeing how the students think in different ways also shows their learning process :slight_smile:

tip: date all the entries.

One thing I noticed really helps is Math. Use lots of it. It is free.

Don’t just tell the judges: “It just works.” Instead show the the math behind why the robot works.

It will also help in the long run. You can calculate whether your robot will work, before you build it. You wont finish it, and realize it just doesn’t make sense. Physics will always be right, so you have to work around it.


Amen to that

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