In FTC an Engineering Notebook (EN) is a more in-depth version of the Engineering Portfolio. There is no page limit, so teams can go into as much detail as they want. All of the topics in the portfolio, which are mentioned in the Content section below, should be covered in more detail in the EN. This is where the judges can look if they want to find the process behind a team’s solutions.
The EN is as much of a resource for a team as it is judging material. The EN is a compilation of every team members’ documentation and each team member should be familiar with its contents. Looking back in the EN will help teams remember important decisions and keep everyone on the same page. It is very important that the EN is understandable because everyone on a team should be able to reference the EN. Looking back on past seasons helps a team continue to improve. EN entries should be detailed enough so that a team understands what was written about, but someone unfamiliar with the team’s robot can also understand the material.
The EN should contain all of the information referenced in the portfolio and go into more detail. At a minimum, the EN should contain a team, hardware, software, and outreach sections. Other sections like experiments, business plan, or strategy can be added if the team thinks it necessary.
The team section usually consists of a bio for each team member. To add personality, include some interesting things in the team section such as favorite foods or songs. This section can be looser than other sections to show the nature of a team.
The hardware section can include different iterations of subsystems or custom parts, if they are used. This is a great place to show the use of the Engineering Process. It is very important to include the Engineering Process because the judges are looking for how a team grew over the season. They know no team or robot is perfect, so failures (and the lessons learned from them) should be included. These are the steps of the Engineering Process:
Make sure that the review section demonstrates how the team recognized and chose to solve the problem. This is where a template comes in handy. Having a set-up for the Engineering Process shows consistency and makes it clear to the judges that you used the process.
The software section of the EN includes descriptions of code so the readers understand what’s happening. Describe what the code does, why it is performing that action, and whether it was successful. Include screenshots of the code to show the judges. That way they can see exactly what was done in addition to the explanation and reasoning.
The outreach section can contain summaries of outreach events that were organized or attended. It is a good idea to count the number of people that a team talked to at informational events because they can share that quantitative data with the judges.
The business plan is a summary for friends, family, and sponsors. It can contain general information about your team and season. Include information that people unfamiliar with FTC or robotics will be able to understand.
Each experienced FTC team should have a sustainability plan. This can be what a team will do to continue to make an impact once they retire or how they will recruit new members to keep the team going. Each sustainability plan should be customized to the team. There are many different options available to teams and they can be as creative as they want. Judges may be interested in a team’s plan, so it is good to have an idea of what to do.
Generally, the EN should follow the Engineering Process: Strategy, Design, Implement, Test, and Review. A team can decide how to incorporate it into their EN. One clear way would be by having a designated section for each in the EN template. The Engineering Process will help the judges see improvement while reading.
Page numbering will help keep track of the EN pages when referencing the material. Most teams use a system that numbers pages by section: A1, A2, A3, B1, B2… Each major section can have a letter and the pages can be numbered normally in the section. This helps distinguish sections as well as save paper because every page doesn’t have to be reprinted when new pages are added
The EN is not required for teams. If teams create an EN, it should be assembled in one or two 3-ring binders no bigger than 3in (7.5cm) in diameter. The team number also needs to be on the front cover of the EN and a summary page is recommended. The summary page should have the highlights of the season so far. Keep it short, but highlight the strengths of the team.
- Use images: They make the EN more appealing to look at, clarify ideas, and are more descriptive than words can be.
- Keep it concise: Bullet points and short entries will also be easier to read than a long paragraph.
- Make a pit EN: A team can also print out the most important parts of their EN and keep it with them at the pit to show judges. If the resources and time are available, it is a good idea to bring an extra EN.
- Document all the work: The EN is meant to be a tool of progress for a team. The judges don’t expect everything to be perfect on the first try. Show them how the team overcame challenges and improved throughout the season.
- Use data to explain decisions: The judges love to see decisions and experiments. It is an advantage for a team to show their use of logical reasoning or math in their portfolio.
- Stay consistent: Use a standard template to keep all EN entries looking the same with the same layout. Also, decide on terminology so there isn’t confusion over one part being called multiple names.
- Use page numbers for each section: In the EN, give each section a letter and use standard numbering after that. This will keep the entire notebook from having to be reprinted when pages are added.
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- "Engineering Notebook Guide" (pdf). firstinspires.org. Retrieved 23 July 2021.