unofficial: Handwritten Design Journal

In the channel Official Startstruck Q&A, @gzook wrote:

This is not an official answer, but based on personal experience and information from the forum.

First, the document is referred to as the “Engineering Notebook” in the RECF VRC Judge Guide, the Design Award Rubric, and other VRC guidance documents. For the sake of clear communications (and being able to find things in the forum search later) it’s probably good to use the RECF name for the document.

With that out of the way, on to your issues: There is no rule that disqualifies a 3 ring binder as an Engineering Notebook. However, there is this from the Judge Guide:

Note things like “A bound quad-ruled notebook is best.” and “The notebook should be written in ink…” Those statements are the ones that lead judges to the idea that a word-processed document printed and placed in a three-ring binder is not the best way to present the team’s design work. It is not disqualifying if you don’t do it that way. But if the judges are sticklers for following the guidance, you’ll probably score better if you do it the way the guidance documents suggest.

As to why you haven’t been told this before, it is my understanding that the guidance on judging Engineering Notebooks has become more formalized over the last three years or so. This includes the introduction of an Engineering Notebook Rubric for use in judging the Design Award.

It’s clear you had a bad experience. You can improve your chances of a better experience in the future by reading all the materials that a judge would see before he or she judges a VRC event. You can find that here: event-partner-resources-documents

The Judge Guide and the Design Award Rubric are particularly useful.

Again, none of this is official. But you might find it helpful.

@gzook Please read these posts which will help answer your question.

Yes, it is true-ish. The RECF highly recommends it, but it isn’t necessarily required, yet the event partners running the tournament have the right to not accept notebooks and to disqualify teams who do not have bound or handwritten notebooks. Basically, you should play it safe and make your notebook handwritten and bound from here on out and there shouldn’t be any problems. Still, no matter how many times I or someone else asks, the RECF will give no definitive YES or NO.

I believe the reason(s) that none of us have ever heard of this until this season is because they are just now enforcing it and/ or it is a new guideline in the Judges Guide.
This exact same thing happened at the Rock & Roll & Robots Seattle Prep Tournament a few weeks ago, and like you, no one knew about it, making everyone very mad. So, I looked into it and this is what I found. Hope it helps!

Please show me where it gives the right for EP to disqualify teams for notebooks other than handwritten or bound. This is a false statement regarding EP powers regarding teams being considered for Design Award. On the contrary, all EP training has been focused on student -centered learning and not punitive. Also, qualifying events must follow award criteria that the RECF gives. The design rubric is clear on what is being looked for as evidence of the design process. Handwritten or bound notebooks are not factors.

That said, you may find a well organized handwritten bound notebook to outscore a non-bound one. Teams with binders are trying to figure out the organization side of good documentation. A learning process.

@lacsap There is no place that specifically gives the EP or the Head Judge that right (that I know of). The reason I said that they do have the right to disqualify teams from receiving certain awards is simply from what the EP and Head Judge told me at the last tournament that I participated in (which was run by Willem Scholten - Washington State’s RECF Regional Support Manager). They both told me that starting this year if your notebook is not handwritten or bound you will not be considered for the design or excellence award. By them saying that it implies that they have the right to disqualify teams, and trust me they know what they are doing. The Head Judge told me that another reason they are doing this is to help us learn that in the professional world of engineering, handwritten and bound notebooks are the standard.

Yes, you are right, the rubric does not state anything about handwritten or bound notebooks, but in the judges guide it clearly states that you must write everything in ink.

In the judges guide it does not clearly state if notebooks must be bound, it only recommends it and this is what Tarek said in another thread regarding this question.

If you still don’t think this is correct, feel free to send and email to your Regional Support Manager , Tarek Shraibati or post a thread in the VEX Worlds Q&A for clarification.

There is no such language “must be written in ink” in the judges guide. All statements regard best practices by stating “should”. Since this is a learning environment, judges should expect students to make mistakes and develop along the way. To automatically want best practices in full swing from the start is unrealistic.

At our events we accept all variations of hardcopy notebooks. If it meets the key criteria for Design Award:

Then the team should be considered for the award. The implementation of the notebook has a lot of latitude.

Thank you everyone for trying to clear this up, and sorry my message was so obviously annoyed; I was a little fume-y after our loss. Anyways, while this is rather disappointing, I cannot anticipate how strictly judges will adhere to these judging documents-- whether or not they are written with full legality in mind. Therefore, I suppose we’ll have to create a bound notebook, and turn this in along side our binder.

How have the world’s excellence winners from the past couple years been typed notebooks if judges have the right to disqualify people for having typed notebooks? I’ve never heard of people being disqualified for it. There’s no explicit rule so it’s not fair to say this event will be enforcing a special rule.

See attached screenshot of the judge’s guide.

I totally understand and agree, but I am simply stating the facts in the judge’s guide and what RECF officials have told me.
Screenshot 2017-01-29 at 10.21.28 AM.png

I was simply pointing out there is a big difference between MUST and SHOULD. RECF has been quite consistent of the use of “should” as a recommended practice, not a mandatory practice. This is consistent with the student learning objective of the foundation. In your earlier note, you asserted it was required, it is not.

I am sorry to hear WA is taking a punitive approach to notebooks.

This is what I said earlier.

I just want to make it very clear that I am NOT in favor of this “punitive approach to notebooks”. I am simply trying to let everyone know what my experience was and what I learned, so that this doesn’t become a problem in the future for others.

Sorry if I misunderstood. I applaud teams who work hard to develop good design processes and do not wish them held back by arbitrary conditions of how they documented their process. It is no longer a one size fits all metric to succeed in this complex world.

It’s no big deal.

The 2016 Excellence winner had a bound engineering notebook, handwritten in ink with pre-numbered pages and signatures at the bottom. It was a standard VEX Engineering Notebook, which they received as a giveaway in their registration materials in a previous year. There are some printed pages pasted in for table of contents, computer code, skills runs spreadsheet, etc. but the notebook is primarily handwritten. This is not to say a computer printed notebook wouldn’t win excellence; I don’t know. It just wasn’t the case last year. Here’s a link to the forum thread where it was discussed:


Hmm maybe I remembered design? I remember something about typed notebooks. Thanks for the correction.

Time to write out our whole typed engineering notebook before your tournament this saturday lol

I think rewriting your electronic notebook into a bound notebook violates the statements below. Rewriting a notebook end up with you ‘correcting’ and ‘editing’ and ‘rewriting what happened’.

For example, 99% of all electronic notebooks are not initialed by students. When you’re start initialing the copied notebook, you are correcting & editing your notebook. This becomes an integrity issue with the notebook.

There are lots of ‘integrity issues’ created by rewriting a notebook.

I refuse to force my guys to hand write everything and frankly I’m tired of even worrying about it anymore. I have even stopped judging because of it, because it never fails that I end up arguing with people who absolutely insist that the hand written ones are better regardless of the contents. I can recall one tournament where I was overruled on our Design choice. I was pushing for the one that documented their process very well and provided graphs, charts, etc… Nope it was awarded to a team who were rewarded for hand writing stuff like “Today we worked on our drive a little. We had a snack and some juice too.” It was a log file with nothing but stuff like that and glued in over pix-elated pictures of the VEX logo and game pieces. I had a group of Army engineers once at TSA Nationals who flat out said they preferred the typed approach because it was what was needed. Half of the written ones were hard to read so they politely pushed them aside and focused on those that they could follow and understand regardless of how it was done. We have been told twice this year that they did not like our typed notebooks. Whatever, we are not about to stress out about it.

While I wish there were more judges who shared your thinking, I am afraid we cannot change the institution. As of now, the only way we can be sure that our content will be considered is to adapt to the unfortunately restricting nature of the rubric. I will, however, attempt to not sacrifice the quality of our typed notebook by presenting them both to the judges-- one as a sort of “summary,” the other as the written design documentation they require. I believe this approach is the best way to ensure the integrity of our content and compliance with VEX standards.

I am with you on this one - rubric helps identify design process - not form of notebook. Work in progress.

I doubt we will be as strict as some others here in WA, but it is a safe bet :slight_smile:

Under these circumstances (being that this issue is just now starting to come to light), I think it is absolutely fine as long as they are copying and pasting what was in their electronic notebook into the bound, handwritten one without making any changes.

I believe that your approach is perfect, and I definitely agree! In my team, we have our handwritten, bound engineering notebook, then we additionally, have a 3 ring binder with a summary of our team, day-to-day stuff, etc… (while not electronic, it is still not bound) The head judge at our last tournament told me that this was a perfect addition to the engineering notebook, and that only the engineering notebook must be bound and handwritten, any additional material such as the info provided in the binder was acceptable.