Advanced Engineering Notebook Techniques

Once your team has mastered the basics of notebooking, you’re ready to incorporate some advanced techniques that will improve your documentation, project management, and judging scores at competitions.

Details of the Engineering Notebook Rubric

A close review of the REC Foundation engineering notebook rubric will identify things to add to your entries. You’ll notice that each criteria of the rubric specifies details that can take your notebooking from emerging to proficient, and from proficient to expert. 

For example emerging, proficient, and expert notebook entries about the same testing process and data might read:

Emerging Entry

Proficient Entry

Expert Entry


We tested the robot and decided to swap for the new intake.


We tested the old and new intakes in 10 driver skills runs each to find their average scores. Sarah and Evan each drove 5 runs with each intake.

The new intake scores better than the old one, so we’re planning to switch.


We tested the old and new intakes in 10 driver skills runs each to find their average scores. Sarah and Evan each drove 5 runs with each intake.

Old intake scores: 60, 73, 80, 81, 56, 73, 69, 73, 70, 65; Average score with old intake: 70

New intake scores: 74, 81, 85, 72, 71, 87, 85, 89, 91, 85; Average score with new intake: 82

Because the new intake improves the average by 12 points, we plan to use it at the next competition.

Any time a change is made to the robot, the design and development of that change should be fully recorded in the notebook including all steps of the design process. For each change, the notebook should include:

  • Reason for the change (e.g., testing, competition results, etc.)
  • All solutions that were considered (including citations for outside sources)
  • Full description of the selected plan, including labeled figures
  • Advantages and any disadvantages of the selected plan, including constraints
  • Timeline and deadline for implementation
  • Revisions to the plan as they’re made during construction or design

Including all facets of a criteria at the expert proficiency level will make your notebook a more complete and valuable record of your team’s work.


Goals and Improved Project Management

Setting goals for your team, robot, and competition season will provide motivation, help focus the team’s attention, define criteria for success, and help highlight needed changes. Starting with SMART goals will lead directly to a step-by-step project plan that can be documented in your engineering notebook. 

SMART goals are:

  • Specific - the goal targets a specific problem or need
  • Measurable - progress on the goal can be accurately gauged
  • Achievable - the goal should be realistic based on available resources and constraints
  • Relevant - the goal must fit within the overall plan
  • Time-Bound - the goal has a specific deadline or endpoint

For each goal, you’ll want to specify progress will be measured, which tasks will lead to successful completion, and how those tasks fit into the team’s season timeline. Gantt & PERT charts are two standard ways of illustrating project schedules, and either is a good choice for creating a team’s timeline of goals and tasks. Here’s an example of how a team might record a goal and its timeline in their notebook.

Goal 1: Compete at tournaments and qualify for the State Championship


Compete at 3 local tournaments before 12/25

Compete at 5 tournaments before State Championships

Qualify for State Championship by winning a tournament, winning Excellence, winning another award at a large tournament, or through our skills scores


Monitor and register for events

Design & build robot (base, lift, manipulators)

Program robot (driver control, programming skills, auton)

Test robot & code (team practice and scrimmages)

Redesign robot & refine code

Team 123A Project Plan










Goal 1 - compete at tournaments & qualify for the State Championship

Monitor & register for events


Design & build robot


Program robot


Test robot


Redesign robot & refine code


Tournament 1




Tournament 2




Tournament 3



Tournament 4


Tournament 5


State Championship


World Championship


Notebook Creation

There are several additional steps you can take to improve the appearance and useability of your team’s engineering notebook. Many of these will help you, your teammates, and competition judges find important information in your design history.

  • Use CAD models and/or detailed engineering drawings to illustrate your design
  • Ensure all illustrations and figures include labels of assemblies and key parts
  • Include code snippets and rationale in chronological order alongside the build
  • Use steps of the Engineering Design Process and criteria from the engineering notebook rubric as part of page titles and table of contents entries; make your information easy to find