What is the best piece of advice you could give for an engineering notebook to be successful?

Hello VEX forum,

Recently, we have been reflecting on our team’s past season with regards to our engineering notebook (we have not done very well with our notebook), and we have realized that while we meet the requirements for a satisfactory notebook, our notebook is just that: satisfactory and nothing more. It feels like we should go above and beyond to show judges our design process, which will hopefully, in turn, make our notebook more successful. So our question is this: what is it that makes your engineering notebooks so special or successful? What is it that you add that makes your notebook unique, complex, or interesting? Any tips you may have on making a not only satisfactory but successful notebook? We would love to hear your thoughts and techniques.

Thanks so much, everyone. Hope your seasons are going well so far!


Start by looking at the Judge’s guide, specifically the Design Award Rubric which which the Judges initially to evaluate engineering notebooks: https://www.roboticseducation.org/documents/2018/09/vrc-judge-guide-2018-19.pdf . You’ll find the rubric around page 20 of the pdf.

If you use the rubric as a guide to write your engineering notebook, then the judge who reads the notebook with the rubric in hand will easily find each of the rubric items and give you a high score for each. Have a mentor/coach/teacher review your notebook against the rubric to give constructive criticism and validate that you are at the “3” level for each item on the rubric. A high scoring rubric will earn you an interview where your team can be considered for the design and excellence awards. (at local events, there is usually only one set of judges, at worlds, Design has its own judging team who only interviews the top scoring engineering notebooks.)

Don’t skimp on interview preparation: this is where the decisions are ultimately made. One of the things you must convince the Judges within 5 minutes is that your engineering notebook is genuine, and your team is student-centered.


use a barr notebook, gives you extra points look at the rubric


getting a really nice notebook is actually a really good start tbh. my team’s always neglected the notebook, but this year we got these really fancy custom professional notebooks and this actually seems to have motivated us to start a good notebook for once. I think we are on the right path to some notebook related awards, maybe. So far we’ve talked about our team members and roles, set goals for the season, discussed ways to improve from last season, went over how the game is played, a couple pages on game strategies, some criteria we want our robot to follow, brainstorming ideas for subsystems that will meet our criteria, selecting our subsystem and explaining why, final designs for these subsystems, CAD drawings of these subsystems printed out and taped in the notebook, and a few other things. Minor things that seem to make a notebook appear more professional are color, lots and lots of drawings, and writing by all team members.


Ah man.

Unpopular opinion- don’t do a notebook. Document videos and photos without words on google drive or something similar, check youtube for finals matches and reveals regularly, and spend your meeting time solely on your robot. Notebooks waste time.

But maybe I’m wrong :slight_smile:


I mean, to each their own…
Personally I find it a great tool for designing subsystems, and I mostly use it just for a chance at earning excellence or something.


Well, it’s more about what you’re in robotics for. If you’re here for the competition and to really win the competitions then focusing on notebook shouldn’t be too much of a priority if you don’t have the man power. However, if you have enough people dedicating someone to notebook well the rest grind towards winning tournament champion doesn’t sound like too bad of an option because the notebook still wins awards and “teaches you good aspects about robotics” or something like that.
If you’re participating for the full robotics experience then yeah try your best at notebook. Look for that one NbN guide, that was a pretty good read i think. I don’t do the notebook though. It’s not difficult unless you’re lazy and don’t like doing tedious stuff (even though all of robotics is tedious but notebook is the most to me). To make a better notebook stuff I can suggest is something like a parts list, strategies, scouting reports, competition overviews. I don’t know, small things like that that show you really plan stuff out or something.


Don’t mark out or erase anything ( it’s ok to show mistakes, make plenty of diagrams, show off detail very well (even if it comes down to showing the skrews). Show progress as best as you can


When 1200 F Zfense competed, we had a really nice engineering notebook found from Amazon that had all of the main engineering notebook items around the edges, along with a fill in your self glossary, and index which was really nice.

In today’s world google drive is nice, I really like Microsoft’s Onenote, if you are running windows with touch screens it is super nice to quickly draw on it. It also has really nice import features for other office applications such as excel/word/power point. I still use Onenote for school and work as it is an acceptable platform for my work.


Pictures over text. Print out and tape in various sketches, builds and CAD models into your notebook and explain it using text, instead of writing a massive wall of text that judges will probably skip over. My advice for sketches is to first draw in pencil and then go over it in pen just in case you make a mistake.
Also, if you’re looking at the awards category as a whole, keep in mind your team’s presentation to the judges is important as well. It’s also a pretty big indicator to them that your team has done the work presented in the notebook and robot, and not a parent/coach, or just one member of the team. Keep things short and simple unlike myself who went on a 10 minute speech explaining the weight difference between a cone and a cap

The ‘guide’ that @Fmaj7add9 mentions is the sample notebook published on RECF’s website, found here. I too highly suggest taking a look at it to set an example for your own team.


I second the earlier mention of using the rubric as a guide. You can even go so far as to use coded tabs to mark the notebook sections that correspond to the rubric… game analysis, brainstorming, etc.

Also, from what i have observed, some drafting basics would set a notebook apart from the majority. Use a straight edge for straight lines. Use a compass for circles. Indicate the scale.


I wrote this up a few Months ago

Link to the album that should be above (Link) looks like it was broken.


Be consistent with a format from Day 1 all the way to the end. Something like 1. the date, 2. attendance, 3. goals for the day, 4. report of actual progress (with drawings and pictures), then 5. actions to be taken/ problems to solve at the next meeting.

So many books I have looked at have entries at the beginning of the season, and then a gap till a few days before the competition. Usually it is about “What we did” and not “What are we doing now, and why?”

Make sure you list many possible solutions for each problem, and then your reasoning for picking the best one.


Sound advice if you are a VRC competitor with no engineering notebook experience applying for engineering career.

sort of reminds me of this YouTube video:


OML that clip is the best thing I’ve ever seen.

In all seriousness though, this program is really awesome for teaching skills. Basically everyone I know who’s done vex seriously has developed a passion, love, and intuition for engineering way beyond what they would otherwise have. But that usually comes from the designing, building, and coding. Documentation is tedious and I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but I personally don’t really learn anything from making an engineering notebook. The problem solving, both the intuition and the process, are the skills I’m going to carry over most to my profession, not the English essays.

But rather than having more discussion about this topic, since it kinda distracts from the OP, let’s just appreciate lacsap’s clip and get back to the OP. Sorry for the tangent :slight_smile:


If you do engineering for any kind of non-tiny company, you’re going to have to document what you do. Engineers at Boeing don’t just slap stuff down and call it a day. They have to show that the requirements they were designing for make sense, that their design meets the requirements, and that the solution they’ve delivered makes more sense than other solutions that were considered. Y’know, like an engineering notebook. The engineering notebook is probably the single most industry-applicable thing y’all do in this program.


It is a good one, and I think it helps underscore there is a disconnect between what newly minted grads entering the workforce have with potential employers that may be a generation or two older than they… I am pretty sure the “elders” here have all experience that generation gap… end of the day, good documentation skills and processes not only facilitate collaboration, but save lives in non-edge cases.


Make weighted decision matrices on all design decisions, have team members write up reports on a major thing that they did or event the team went to.


To all those space history geeks out there; Don’t do a Saturn V documentation, it will bite you and NASA later on. :wink:

If you only have 1 member of the team writing the notebook, then prove to the judges that the other members are doing the work, too. They can draw. Just make sure that the judges know that all team members are involved during the season.