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!

The Static Solution

Most teams know the wrath of static, what it can do to your robot, and how bad it can be during a match. If you don’t know what it does, here is the easiest way to describe it.

When there is a lot of static on the field it can cause trouble for the robots. It can be triggered simply by two robots touching, or a robot bumping into an object on the field. It affects your robot by sparking the main power system, which causes your robot and phone to go into a loop, and you are unable to fix it unless you do a hard reset at the end of the match. Long story short, it disables your robot for the rest of your match!

Of course, when building your robot, you should go through the process of zip tying all your wires down, mounting your electronics on plastic instead of the metal frame, and insulating your wires to reduce static, but those are harder to do and more time-consuming. We do highly recommend that you do all of these above first to minimize your static risk.

But now, there is a simple solution to help reduce static, and just about everyone has them in their home.

Dryer Sheets!

It might sound weird, but let me explain how it works. When you are driving around, your robot wheels are collecting electricity from the floor mats, the beacons, the corner vortex or even other robots. When your robot collects too much static energy, it gets hard to control what happens and when it discharges. It usually discharges when it hits another robot because they also have a lot of electricity built up. When your robot and another robot collide, they have a battle to see who can give off the most static, and the robot who earns more static suffers the consequences.

The spots that collect the most electricity are your side walls if you have plexiglass, or if you place your phone in the middle of your robot.

Dryer sheets are easy to use! All you need to do is take a dryer sheet and wipe down pretty much everything on your robot, from the wheels to the modules, to the side walls, and even the motors and battery. Dryer sheets are an easy way to reduce the static by evening out the amount of positive and negative charge from the robots.

We used these in our last tournament, and we wiped our robot down every other match and found out that it worked for us. We noticed that when we wiped down our robot, the static seemed to be a lot less than for other robots.

Also if you need to reduce static before a match, make sure to place part of your robot that has metal against the wall that has some metal on it. This helps dissipate any charge buildup.

Our team wanted to share this information with other teams because we have noticed that static can be a major problem, and this is an easier solution than making the anti-static spray.