The Engineering Notebook is a big stumblimg blocks for a lot of rookie FIRST Tech Challenge teams. Without one, it's hard or even impossible to qualify for awards at compeitions, making advancement unlikely.
But never fear, the PrestidigiTaters are here! Here's what we've learned about the Engineering Notebook throughout the past three seasons that we wish we'd known right from the start!
1. A Functional Engineering Notebook Is Just as Important as a Functional Robot
The only reason we had an engineering notebook our first season is because a mentor compared it's importance to the project in FLL. Bailee, having been project captain of her FLL team for two years, really took this to heart and started cranking out content for the engineering notebook the second she heard this. We've learned that the engineering notebook and the robot hold about 50/50 importance in relation to our success.
2. It's Not Just The Team Secretary's Responsibility
With only four members our first season, everybody on the team wore about 12 different hats. We were all programmers, engineers, CAD Designers, and team captains. Thus, we were all contributors to our engineering notebook. Since a single person on the team (whether the officially appointed secretary or not) can't possibly keep track of everything that happens during the meeting, it's important that everyone shares their own story in the Engineering Notebook so it's not just from one point of view. We have found that it's very effective to keep it on a Google Drive that's shared with everybody and keep each meeting in a separate doccument so everyone can access it.
3. Intuitive Organization
Since the judges have a very brief amout of time to spend with each engineering notebook at competitions, we've found that it's important to clearly indicate which pages we'd like to highlight and where they might find information they are looking for. Key elements to include are:
- Team Summary Page with featured pages, brief description of team and robot, and picture of team.
- Team Section
- Outreach Section
- Business and Strategy Section
- Build Process Section
We have found that it's also helpful to have (in addition to a meetings section that goes through the build process linearly) an engineering process section that goes through our build process problem by problem, detailing our research, prototypes, and improvements.
To make them easier to find, we also included a CAD section that explains our use of CAD and compiles all the renderings we've made throughout the season so they can all be found in one place.
4. Tell Your Team's Story
Your engineering notebook should tell the story of your team, not just the evolution of your robot! Those reading it would love to see your team's personality shine through in the way you document your problem solving and growth.