VRC Judges on Digital Notebooks?

I have been considering a digital notebook, due to the info I’ve been brought, many things I’ve read, and my own discretion. The main thing keeping me from doing it is several pieces of evidence that judges don’t seem to like them. For example, at state competitions (USA) it was shown in several circumstances that digital notebooks that would generally be considered as better never even got their teams second-interviewed.

I’m just wondering 4 things:
1: Why?
2: Is it going to change/how can I change it
3: Are digital notebooks still viable/do I have a chance at awards with them
4: If there is a single problem, and what could I do to fix it?

This is all assuming 2 things.
One, I print out the notebook for tournaments that require physical ones.
Two, I use the timestamps from wherever I write it, screenshot or such, to confirm, maybe glue them onto printed versions, as a problem I HAVE seen judges assess is “lack of authenticity”.

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Sorry you feel Judging process at your Championship was not what you thought it should be. Do note Event Partners and Judge Advisors take their role seriously, go through a certification process, and have had prior experience in running events. That said, you should bring your concerns to the Event Partner, they can help understand the mechanics of the process, but not the specifics as all artifacts from the judging process at events are destroyed and held confidential. By sharing your experience with EP, they may see gaps or misconceptions that can be improved by better communications to teams.

Digital and hardcopy notebooks are considered valid and equal processes. That said, if the event requires a digital submission for review, then teams must scan their hardcopy notebooks and submit a link to them to robotevents.com, if the event requires physical notebooks, then teams with digital notebooks are required to print and submit their notebooks in person, as will the teams with hardcopy notebooks. This is to assure a level playing field in the review process.

All notebooks are required for Excellence, Design, Innovate, (and their may be another). you can find this in the Judging section of Volunteers.recf.org

I hope this response helps.


Because if you look at last season’s Engineering Notebook Rubric, there is no favoritism given to either digital or physical notebooks.

()In the past there was a 5pt bound bonus for if you had a physically bound notebook, which meant online notebooks were at a 5pt deficit by default unless assembled into a bound notebook. This was changed due to COVID when the RECF introduced virtual judging).

In addition, you can see in the Judging Guide that there should be no preference given to digital or physical notebooks.


In the years I’ve judged, the process has gotten better. This year the judge advisor must be certified – last year, I think it was only recommended. As tournaments are required to list certified JA, let’s hope things will get even better.

Agree with others that the current rules for judging don’t favor one format over another. Pay attention to the 5 point bonus in the rubric.

The reality is that people who’ve judged and judge advised for a long time may favor formats they’re more familiar with. Let’s hope the certification will force people to learn the new rules. I really work hard in the judge room to remind our judge volunteers that format doesn’t matter. Spelling and handwriting don’t. The rubric is what does.

As far as 2nd interviews, unless you’re in the room it is impossible to know. Maybe a bunch of great interviews and improved notebooks showed up at the championship. Maybe a usually great team had a bad 1st interview or a negative field note to judges from a referee. You can’t know. My experience is that judges do their best and the process is followed in the room.