FTC Tip #4: The Engineering Notebook

Photo Jan 21, 10 11 38 AM

§  Read the rules for the Engineering Notebook in the Game Manual 1 Section 7.3 – it tells you what is required – It’s just a few pages to look at.  There also some specific requirements for the awards listed there.

§  There is a new document on the FTC site named Engineering Notebook Guidelines that goes into more detail on the Notebook and provides examples.

§  Team Name and Number need to be on the front of the notebook.  It literally says in the guide that if that is not there, the notebook should/will not be considered, which essentially locks you out of nearly every possible award.  Also note, you should include a team picture and a picture of the robot.  Having those pictures makes judging easier and your team more memorable.

§  Teams may choose to record their season with either handwritten or electronic documents. There is no distinction made between handwritten and electronic Engineering Notebooks during judging; each format is equally acceptable. (Make sure whatever form you use, it is neat and professional.)

§  All pages must be numbered and in order.

§  Use photos and drawings to show your team in action!

§  There needs to be a clearly marked and tabbed “Engineering Section”.  It should include the daily notes, drawings, relevant CAD printouts, etc.  While it has a “journal” type structure to it, this is not a diary.  A list of people in attendance and then a one-liner about “we worked on the robot” or complaints about someone picking on someone else is not sufficient.  Here are the guidelines from the manual.

  • This journey goes beyond recording the day to day “here’s what we did” or just listing “we met today”. It explores questions like:
    · What is the agenda for today?
    · Why are you meeting?
    · What are the goals for today?
    · What decisions did your Team make in forming the Team, creating the robot, writing the program, the outreach projects, etc.?
    · Why did you make that choice when building your robot, coded the software that way, chose that group of individuals to outreach to, etc.?
    · What was the impact on your Team, robot, or community when you made that decision?
    · What is the next step?

§  There needs to be a clearly marked “Summary Narrative” page right at the front of the book.  This explains in a small handful of paragraphs (should fit on one page, think of it as an essay question on a test) who the team is, what they are trying to accomplish this year/season, what the strategy is for the current year’s robot/game, and finally, a final paragraph laying out thoughts about what the hoped for future of the team is will be appreciated.  Be sure to mention prominently that you are Rookie teams, especially in the case of the Raptors and Ciphers (you have lower numbers that make you look like you’ve been around for a while).  Drive this point home with the judges, it buys you a little leeway that you are going to need to have a chance against teams that have been around for 3, 4, 5 years (or more).  Add information on Flagged pages that the judges should review to see the big days in your season.

§  There needs to be a clearly marked and tabbed “Business Plan” or “Strategic Plan” section.  This can be as little as 1-2 pages, but it needs to be there.  Including a season/team budget in this section is helpful: being able to talk to that idea with the judges in the morning interview is even more important.

  • Some general talking points:  Mentioning that you asked for and received financial assistance, as well as charged an activity fee.  Mentioning any sponsors that your team brought in or any grants that you applied for and received (FTC Transition Grants, PTC grants).  Rookies and school-based teams often suffer in the interviewing because the kids have no clue about the team finances: we should be able to easily surmount that issue with a brief amount of effort and coaching.

§  There should be a clearly marked and tabbed “Outreach” section.  This is a section talking about non-robot build activities the team has been involved with.  Generally, each event should be listed with a date, title, brief description, and a picture from the event if at all possible.

  • Another outreach related item that can be quickly/easily created and impresses the judges: some kind of promotional material for the team.  A brochure, buttons, business cards: anything that shows that the team is trying to create a way to get their name out into the community.  This should be handed to them by the team during the interview as well as on-hand in the pits for any judges or other people who visit the team there.

A separate one to two page tabbed section with a diagram including some math, geometry or physics can be a big plus.  For example, a diagram showing how to calculate the distance a scissor lift can extend, or showing how long an arm can be and yet still fit within the 18×18 cube.  Just a quick hand drawn diagram with the basic calculations written out can be impressive if you get on the short list for any of the engineering awards.  Even if you feel it’s unlikely to happen, just including it and pointing it out during the interview might get you put up for a Judges Award.

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