Engineering Notebook Rubric Breakdown

This analysis uses the up-to-date rubrics as of September 2023. As new versions of each rubric are announced, this article will be updated shortly following. The up-to-date rubrics can be found in this article and on the RECF website.

It is important to repeat each criteria of the notebook throughout the Engineering Notebook, rather than using each step once for the initial design cycle. Consistent repetition of each step will lead to higher rubric scores.

Engineering Notebook Rubric

Criteria 1: Identify the Problem

Identifies the game and robot design challenges in detail at the start of each design process cycle with words and pictures. States the goals for accomplishing the challenge.

When considering this criteria in writing an Engineering Notebook, it is important to repeat this step for every design cycle. The objective should be to gain a sufficient understanding of the regulations and guidelines, compile insight on field integrants and setup, and identify the general focus of the game. One common example of this criteria is a game analysis segment at the beginning of the notebook. Many instances, however, do not follow up with any further analysis or design briefs later in the notebook, and often lose points because of this.

To obtain maximum points in this segment, it is important to repeat the criteria for every major design cycle and thoroughly analyze the problem(s) in question. Having a set of actionable goals that can be easily translated into Gantt Charts or other similar timelines also goes far to increase points earned in this category.

Criteria 2: Brainstorm, Diagram, or Prototype Solutions

List three or more possible solutions to the challenge with labeled diagrams. Citations provided for ideas that came from outside sources such as online videos or other teams.

For this criteria, it is important to remember that just listing solutions, while important, is not enough to secure maximum points. Each solution must have a thorough analysis and breakdown describing how it could be used to meet the goals established from the section above.

In addition to showcasing more thought behind each solution, adding this additional detail can be very beneficial to tie into the next rubric criteria. Just as well, be sure to list three or more solutions - while this is a minor part of the criteria, it is still important to meet for maximum points.

Criteria 3: Select Best Solution and Plan

Explains why the solution was selected through testing and/or a decision matrix. Fully describes the plan to implement the solution.

While Decision Matrices are the most common method of addressing this criteria, and for good reason, there are other methods that should be used to supplement the standard Decision Matrix. Although mentioned briefly, testing is a phenomenal way to increase the amount of points scored in this criteria. Using testing data for each solution as an additional factor in a Decision Matrix can help to make a more informed decision for your robot, as well as stand out compared to other Engineering Notebooks.

Additionally, it is important to follow up the Decision Matrix with a detailed plan to implement the solution. This can be accomplished with a variety of methods, some of which could include Gantt Charts, lists of steps to take, and resource allocation tables.

Criteria 4: Build and Program the Solution

Records the steps to build and program the solution. Includes enough detail that the reader can follow the logic used by the team to develop their robot design, as well as recreate the robot design from the documentation.

The key to achieving maximum points for this criteria is through use of extreme detail when recording the action process for this step. Achieving a high level of detail can be accomplished through recording each step to complete the action, a list of all parts used in each step, and pictures of the action at various stages of completion, as a few examples.

One additional item to consider for this criteria is consistency - many engineering notebooks will begin with a high level of detail for the overall initial robot design at the start of a season, and then begin to use less detail with smaller changes later in the season. It is important to introduce a consistently high level of detail throughout the season for maximum points.

Criteria 5: Test Solution

Records all the steps to test the solution, including test results.

Although prominent in the rubric, this section is a very common loss of points for many teams. There are many way to introduce good testing into a notebook, the first of which being to intertwine the testing with other rubric criteria. For instance, rubric tacked on to an entry will receive less points than testing used to support the results of a decision matrix or to highlight a problem that needs to be solved.

Additionally, maintaining a consistent level of testing throughout the season is essential to receive maximum points on the rubric. Testing after each change to the robot or program will receive more points than testing once a few days away from competition.

Criteria 6: Repeat Design Process

Shows that the design process is repeated multiple times to improve performance on a design goal, or robot/game performance.

This criteria is one of, if not the most important to consider when writing an Engineering Notebook. Repeating each step of the Engineering Design Process multiple times throughout the notebook shows a more thorough understanding of the Design Process as a whole, which is evident as the notebook is being judged. One easy way to show this is to label each design cycle as such (Robot Design Cycle 1, Robot Design Cycle 2, etc.) in the Table of Contents and in entry titles. This, along with repeating the various notebook segments will earn considerably points on the rubric.

In addition to meeting this criteria, repeating the Design Process throughout the notebook will reinforce the other criteria on the rubric, as each criteria will have more opportunities to be repeated and shown to judges - making Criteria 6 that much more important.

Criteria 7: Innovation/Originality

Team shows evidence of independent inquiry from the beginning stages of their design process

In the beginning stages of your robot, researching for the tasks to be completed is necessary, as many released designs or otherwise may be used as inspiration. This criteria showcases imagination and creativity in not only building, but also prototyping and designing your robot. Many, or most, designs should be original and genuine rather than "holecounted" from another team.

Criteria 7 should demonstrate and verify Criteria 2 of brainstorming and prototyping designs. Innovation and originality may lead to effective design and show how those outcomes are possible.

Criteria 8: Usability and Completeness

Records the entire design and development process in such clarity and detail that the reader could recreate the project's history.

In completing the previous seven criteria effectively and in detail, this criteria should be met without that much additional effort on behalf of the team. Specific to this step, it is important to clearly indicate the level of progress in each design cycle as it is being recorded. Having a clear record of the current step in each iteration or cycle will make the project history much more comprehensible.

Criteria 9: Record of Team and Project Management

Provides a complete record of team and project assignments: team meeting notes including goals, decisions, and building/programming accomplishments; Design cycles are easily identified. Resource constraints including time and materials are noted throughout.

This criteria provides several good methods to record Project Management within the description itself, which are a key method towards achieving maximum points for this criteria. Relevant to other criteria, it is important to make sure that Design Cycles are labeled according, as described in Criteria 6, as well as thoroughly recording the details in each design cycle.

Specific to this criteria, the addition of charts and tables showcasing budget constraints and material and resource (parts, plastic, time) allocation are essential towards receiving maximum points.

Criteria 10: Notebook Format

Five (5) points if the notebook has evidence that documentation was done in sequence with the design process. This can take the form of dated entries with the names of contributing students included. The notebook should also include a table of contents with entries organized for future reference.

With this criteria being fairly self-explanatory, the main thing to keep in mind is to consistently record the name and date on each entry. Otherwise, a well-organized table of contents is essential to earning maximum rubric points.

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