Engineering Notebook

Checklist Elements

  1.     Front cover
  2.     Team summary page
  3.     Tabbed pages for special consideration (6-8)
  4.     Table of contents – not required, but good to have
  5.     Team section
  6.     Business/strategic/sustainability plan
  7.     Engineering section

Notebook evaluation generally skews heavily toward the engineering elements, but anything which is a unique way to highlight any element, even outreach or business plan, will give you an edge. Think outside of the box. Come up with a clever design.

Documentation Standards

Rules and guidelines for creating, formatting, revising, and distributing information, and communication on behalf of an organization.

  • Choose two complementary fonts (one serif and one sans serif) – choose ones that are readable!
  • Use pleasing colors, ones that will print well. Make sure they are readable.
  • Come up with an easy to navigate and eye-catching format
  • Make the formatting consistent throughout the notebook

Team Summary

  • Highlight what makes the team stand out, give a brief summary of the season
  • One page only, right at the front of the notebook
  • Include team # in case it falls out
  • Add a chart that shows tabbed pages, so judges can see a summary

Design Strategy

Identify challenges of the game, and strategy for addressing them, spelling out how you got to that design from your strategy. Tab it. If strategy evolves over time, spell out how and why.

  • Show the process you used to arrive at design (design process)
  • Show an understanding of the tasks and points in the game
  • Show the strategy (ranking chart, for example, of what is most important in the game, or what is easy to accomplish and what is more difficult)
  • Show how this strategy dictates the design of the robot parts
  • Explain the design of the robot

Math & Science

  • Geometry of robot (dimensions) – CAD
  • Calculating maximum arm height/length/reach – basic Pythagorean theorem
  • Torque calculations
  • Spell out and highlight any explicit math and science (tab it)
  • Doesn’t have to be NASA level stuff, basic math theories are fine, just spell out
  • Highlight as much of it as you can, the more the better

Testing & Verification (Iterations)

  • Separate section (sub-section) if possible – design section?
  • Grids, for example, to show problem > attempted solution > result
  • Break it out by subsystem (each part of the robot)
  • Highlight failures and successes/iterations – don’t let it get buried in the daily logs unless you can make it visually stand out as a regular occurrence/procedure – make it as obvious as possible how you actually used your design process

Engineering Section

  • Should have an initial concept description
  • Robot level design/description
  • Individual component description
  • Sketches/CAD drawings
  • Processes and obstacles – Show how you used a design process to solve problems. Spell out the process you used to arrive at the design.
  • Highlight individual’s feedback over time as well as more general “team level” reporting – make it stand out (One team simply used post-it notes for individual’s feedback)

Programming Section

  • Programming strategy
  • Control map

Present more on programming (there is a strategy, and a process for this). Judges liked a team’s engineering section, because in the meeting notes, there was info on what was happening with the programming. They wanted to see more. The programming can be dictated by the design, but also the design can be dictated by what you want the programming to achieve.

As a team, you need to be consistent in your message (goals, strategies) across all platforms – notebook, robot design, and in the interview.

Not only highlight your game strategy, but also show your team’s strategy/goals – what do you want to accomplish this season as a team, and even include your individual goals.

Goals in FTC

Recognize the design process – the journey that a team makes in the phases of creating their robot, and the business aspects of running a team.


  • Problem definition
  • Information gathering
  • Brainstorming solutions
  • Concept design
  • System-level design
  • Testing/design improvement
  • Production
  • Promotion
  • Budgeting
  • Planning
  • Outreach

Team Plan

  • Direction team wants to take
  • Outline team goals
  • Type of outreach team wants to focus on
  • Creating a team budget
  • Fundraising needs
  • Seeking out sponsors

Beyond the robot – What do you want out of this season? What skills do you want to learn, or work on? Why are you here? What do you want out of this experience?

No “Filler”

Weed out, or at least freshen up anything that might be reused. Some judges have the tendency to discount stuff that looks like it was carried over from a previous year, especially if it looks like filler. Remember, quality over quantity. Less is more!

FTC Tip #4: The Engineering Notebook


§  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.