Would it be frowned upon to use an online notebook?

On that note, how many different competitions do you go to at the local level? We attended events hosted at 6 or so different places last year, and i am sure that whatever format we might have done a notebook in, at least one would have liked it. As long as the requirements remain ambiguous, the key might just be to pass your notebook in front of as many different judges as possible.

Worth a try, I’ll ask my mentor about it! Thanks!

In my opinion, it is better and more efficient to do engineering notebooks digitally, and print the pages to a 3 ring binder. We have had no trouble with this in our area, even though our notebook isn’t handwritten or bound. Additionally, our code is a very important aspect of our design process, and, as the lead programmer for my team, I can say that I do not like handwriting code or similar aspects. This also allows us to collaborate on our notebook better, and keep everything more organized. I hope my experience has been helpful.

In my experience a typed notebook is fine for winning awards at the local level, but not so much at the worlds level (it’s possible this wasn’t related to it being typed or not, the standards are much higher at worlds in general). This will depend on the judges in your region though, as some apparently completely disqualify typed notebooks from winning any awards.

If you don’t find the notebook to be helpful to your design process, you might as well not make one. I do plenty of writing and sketching things out when designing, but the format of the notebook is an unnecessary hassle. The point of the notebook is not supposed to be solely to win awards, but unfortunately this is what it is for many teams. If you are one of these teams, note that the judging process is so random that there is a decent chance you won’t win even if you perform well and have a “good” notebook. So my advice is only make one if you gain something from it other than the award you might or might not receive, or if you have nothing better to do with your time.

I am a big advocate of handwritten notebooks. And I’m a professional programmer. Nobody expects you to handwrite your code in the notebook. That would be a weird waste of time. Just as nobody expects you to handwrite the Bill of Materials for your robot. For the code, you can (if you choose) handwrite a brief description of some interesting engineering challenge addressed in software. There’s no need to elaborate another LCD autonomous menu system, unless yours is novel. Just like we don’t explain standard wiring practices, we also don’t need to explain standard programming practices. If, however, you have a different or novel approach, and real engineering occurred while develpoing the software solution, that should be in the notebook. In addition, if there is a brief one page function that shows something useful and interesting about how your code works, print it, and paste it in. If you decide to submit all your code, (there’s little reason to do this) print it and put it in a binder even if you’re otherwise doing a handwritten notebook.

Similarly, if you choose to include a Bill of materials, print the spreadsheet and paste it in or add it in a separate binder; don’t rewrite it by hand.

Note that these topics have been covered a few dozen times before. I include this answer here only because it still appears people are unaware that “Handwritten” doesn’t mean “use your time extremely inefficiently in order to compete for an award.” That’s not the idea. Really.

Yeah, that’s one of the main reasons I considered it. My programmer has practically a whole separate notebook in his code, and a digital notebook would fix that.

In my state, a ref/announcer for the awards said that a copy of the code (specifically auton code) should be incorporated into the engineering notebok.

Hey kent, The judges around here hate printed and digital notebooks. They much rather prefer bound hand written notebooks. I have talked with many judges and they all seem to like them more. Maybe it is because the head ones are older engineers, it makes me very mad though because i would like to do many of the things mentioned here.

Oh ;-; (ps mp4 files are not supported and i am very bad at video editing)
da funny vex meme.zip (1.84 MB)

Maybe we’re old, or maybe we need objective evidence that the notebook was written during the year by students, and not at the last minute by “english major over-involved parent”. The hand-written journal provides that objective evidence. Print/publish all you want, and stick the hand-written journal in the appendix for the judges to look at as evidence.

“Maybe it is because the head ones are older engineers”

smile And we’re going to be your bosses one day…

I wouldn’t consider this evidence of anything. A student is just as capable of falsifying a hand written notebook the night before a competition as any adult. And hand writing and vocabulary don’t tell much either. I know many students who could write better than most of the adults i know.

Sure this could be done but the results wouldn’t be “winning.” As far as evidence goes, “a picture says a thousand words.” Handwritten plus photo proof is great. A journal handwritten the night before a competition would not include any “proof.”

I really do think you guys are overthinking it. Pen and paper are not going obsolete any time soon. Learn to use it to your advantage. You’re either a lawyer or an engineer. It seems that you guys are putting your lawyer hats on and refuting everything instead of truly understanding “why” the requirements are there in the first place (and the “why” has been explained many times!).

But they why is completely empty. A student could make typed notes about what they did each meeting, take dozens of pictures with their phone, then at the very end, they could write it and print and attach those pictures, and there is no way to tell.

There is nothing wrong with having a hand written notebook, but arguing that it proves anything more than a typed one is pointless.

How does a hand-written journal provide that objective evidence?

Just thought I’d throw in that we use a typed notebook with some hand drawn sketches scanned in and have won Excellence and Design at local competitions (Ontario, Canada) with it. Also, the winners of Excellence at worlds this year used a typed notebook (I think they have part of it on their website).

So many things to say here; I’ll only say a few.

  1. Handwritten information is still one of the most persuasive pieces of proof in court. That’s not because lawyers and judges are old and stupid and set in their ways; it’s because it’s harder to fake than electronic information. Ask Martha Stewart whether the color and timing of ink marks made by hand on paper were of any interest to her, and whether attempting to mislead people about when the marks were made was an effective strategy. Handwritten marks on paper can be powerful.

  2. Another example: The government still requires hanwritten records for may things, including what explosives you have on hand and when and how you use them. You can apply to the ATF for a variance if you want to keep your records on a computer, and it will probably be granted. It will come with a warning that “hard disk crashed” is not sufficient reason to lose your records,nor is “computer is undergoing maintenance” reason to not be able to produce the records on demand. You may be fined (starting at $1000) for the loss of your own records, and such loss is considered a “willful act.” You may even be charged with a felony since you chose computers records over paper. They like paper records, and not because they are regulatory Luddites. It doesn’t require any infrastructure outside of pen and paper to use this method, so it works everywhere, all the time. And it’s also that paper makes better evidence. They can examine the differences and similarities of the handwriting and signatures; patterns found there go toward athenticating the records.

  3. It is more difficult to establish that a piece of work is yours if it is typewritten, or in someone else’s handwriting, and if you didn’t physically sign it. How can it be otherwise? I’d be interested in persuasive counterarguments.

  4. It is not impossible to establish electronic content is yours, by any means. But more difficult. This is why documents like wills and contracts require signatures. And yes I’m well versed in the electronic versions. Which are easier to deny (I didn’t e-sign that document; somebody hacked my system!) than handwritten ones.

  5. There’s nothing at all wrong with electronic or printed documents. Consider this, though: Think of someone famous, say Michael Jordan. Would you rather have a Jordan autographed Bulls game program, or an email he sent? Which one is easier to fake? Which one would be trivial to produce years later? Which one would other people believe? Why do you think those questions have the answers they do?

As @Gear Geeks says, you may be overthinking this. Notebooks aren’t evil, or even hard. Paper, pen, engage.

  1. Judges aren’t doing a forensic investigation of notebooks
  2. Teams aren’t making bombs and again judges aren’t investigating signatures
  3. How do judges know what one person’s handwriting or signature look like; again if they were investigating then I agree hand-written notebooks would be much easier to verify, but judges aren’t doing that
  4. Again, but how is it more difficult in VEX
  5. VEX notebooks aren’t collectibles

I agree that there are lots of areas in which handwritten documents are preferred or required and I agree that there are good reasons for using hand-written documents in those situations because (in those situations) a hand-written document does provide objective evidence.

But my question was how does a VRC team’s hand-written design notebook provide objective evidence to the judges that it was written by the students over the course of the year?

Digital (with the option of printing) and hand written bound notebooks both have pros and cons in the real world and within VEX/RECF. For every argument in favor of one, there is a counterargument for the other. By this point, everyone should be able to understand and acknowledge the inherent advantages and disadvantages of both. Since both ways have their own faults and virtues, then WITHIN VEX/RECF it should be open to the students to decide what method they use. It should be the responsibilities of the teachers and mentors to ensure that the students are well informed about the benefits and costs of each method.

Neither one is better in every situation and for every application.

I agree across the board, VEX is not doing a forensic investigation of the notebooks, and they are not collectibles. Additional note on 2. It is easier to destroy or lose a single written page than a digital document that can be backed up in various locations. Especially when fire is directly involved.

First: As I’ve said many times, you should use whatever form of notebook works best for you and your team. At present, if you use a digital notebook, you’ll need to print it out for Worlds, though for all we know that will change before next year. I wouldn’t bet on it just yet, but it could. Note that your local competitions will have their own requirements, but you should find out before the event what they want to see and if they want a printed copy, then print it before the competition.

Second: Of course they’re not doing forensic examination; I never claimed they were. It is indicative, however, of why handwritten provides a more authenticatable record. Of course you could still write it all the night before. But if you believe that works, you haven’t seen a good notebook.

Third: This thread started with “So I’m lazy, and…” If someone’s goal is to strive for less work rather than better results, they’ll likely achieve the former at the expense of the latter. Sometimes “better” is also “harder.”

Electronic records (and software to manage them) is something I use extensively, (explosives is just a hobby) so I’m familiar with their many benefits. Paper records still have their place, however, and their inherent authenticatability is one of their benefits.