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Engineering Notebook Criteria
Criteria for quality engineering notebooks

Iterative Design of a Competition Robot

Competition teams do not just show up at a competition with the first robot that they designed. Teams go through a process to make sure that their best chance of winning is represented on the competition field. To achieve this many teams first create a schedule that fits the team’s objectives. After studying the game and its components, teams begin to collaborate and iterate on what they want to include on their robot to maximize points. Those iterations are repeatedly tested and changed as the robot performs the game requirements. This process of designing a product which is tested and evaluated repeatedly at different stages of design is called iterative design. And the iterative design process should be fully documented within the team's engineering notebook.

It takes time to get the right design. Designing, building, and testing can be a long process. Mistakes are learning opportunities for teams. Many robots that take the field at their last competition look nothing like they did at their first. As the team grows and changes, so will the robots look and feel. This learning process is valuable to participants as it gives them a real-life application of the skills they will need to succeed in the future.

It is very important for the team to keep track of what was learned, how you incorporated the experience into the next iteration, and the effects of the enhancements that the team made all within the engineering notebook. The image on this page is a list of criteria for quality engineering notebooks. You can see how detailed and organized an engineering notebook should be in order to be considered complete or even outstanding. VEX Robotics Competitions include a Design Award that requires that teams submit their engineering notebooks so that the judges can review the quality of their work and the process(es) they went through to reach their final robot designs.

Teacher Tips icon Teacher Tips

  • Encourage students that having an extensive list of possible ideas can prove beneficial when iterating on a design.

  • Emphasize the importance of entries into the engineering notebook that keep a record of each iteration as proof of their team’s effort. These entries will be a valuable asset if judged at a competition or used as an assessment in class.

  • Connect iteration to the engineering notebook. Students should be able to describe in great detail the process of troubleshooting, testing, and redesigning.

Motivate Discussion icon Motivate Discussion

Robotics competitions provide an excellent opportunity for students to explore the engineering design process. Also, through the process of iteration, students learn that failure is a part of the road to success. Each year, VEX provides a competitive game as a way for students to explore these ideas. Some students may have competed in robotics competitions before, either as part of a club or team.

Q: Has anyone competed in a robotics competition before?
A: Encourage the students who have competed to share their experiences. Follow up with more questions, such as, 'what robot did you use?' and/or 'what was your favorite part of the experience?'.

Q: Is anyone interested in learning more about this year’s VEX competition/game?
A: When students respond yes, direct them to the VEX website and show the game's video.

Extend Your Learning icon Extend Your Learning

To expand this activity, ask students to create practice activities! In teams of two, ask students to come up with games to challenge themselves and other students. These games must include basic robot behaviors. The students can create a treasure map and allow others to create an autonomous program that drives to the treasure. The best route wins!
To connect this activity to robotics competitions, ask students to join a robotics competition team. More information about this year's competition can be found at the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation (REC) website. The VRC Hub app is also available for download and is the ideal competition companion for teams, spectators, and event planners involved in the VEX Robotics Competition! See more information about and download the app here.