The Engineering Notebook

The most, the most important skill for an engineer to have is great verbal and written communication skills.

Writing things down so that other people can understand and continue your work is the defining point of an engineer.

What is an Engineering Notebook

Your Audience

On the Pearce Robotics Team your Primary Audience is a Pearce Robotics Team 5 years+ in the future, and your secondary audience is the judges for your next competition.

Because robot games typically reuse game design elements (or at least reuse very very similar game design elements) we keep our notebooks as a way to give each of our teams a head start. instead of starting from a 0 point you get to start from where a previous team left off.

Digital vs Physical?

should your notebook be a physical by hand notebook? or a online digital notebook(google docs)? we believe the answer is both.

your sub group has a physical composition notebook for documenting moment to moment ideas and designs ( this is not scratch paper so please be professional in it), and at the end of the day your team needs to transcribe the greater ideas into your google doc.

additionally any files you create for your design (CAD, CNC, Math, etc) you need to keep in your teams competition folder. it is up to your teams leadership to keep the doc and folder organized ( remember your audience is for students 5 years from now)

How to Communicate & Document an idea

Pearce Robotics Notebook Template

Link to Generic Template

    1. Basic Formula sheet
    2. Title Page
      1. Year
      2. Game Name
    3. Table of Contents
    4. Team page
      1. Team Members
      2. Team Outreach
      3. Team Development
      4. Team Skills Inventory
    5. A single page on our safety process
    6. Safety Page
    7. Description of the process
    8. Pearce Robotics Engineering Process
      1. Pearce Robotics Manufacturing Process
    9. Detailed break down and description of the problem
      1. Full Game Description
      2. Link to game video and rules
      3. Scoring Spreadsheet
      4. Robot Taxonomy Tables
      5. Team Capabilities
    10. Sub System Solutions (Chasis, Arm, Manipulators, End Game)
      1. Brainstorming
      2. Initial Designs
      3. Testing & Results
      4. Revised Designs w/ explanation of changes
      5. Repeat 8.1-8.4 as many times as you can
      6. Final Design
    11. Final Integration
    12. Appendix A - Math & Physics
    13. Appendix B - Basic Drawings
    14. Appendix C - Detailed CADs
    15. Appendix D - Daily Logs
    16. Pearce Robotics Daily Log Template
    17. Appendix E - Test Descriptions and Results
    18. Appendix F - Team Outreach Development
    19. Appendix G - Checklists
      1. A - Check
      2. B - Check

Pearce Robotics Notebook Daily Log template

How to Communicate & Document Math

How to Communicate & Document Physics

Free Body Diagrams

Base Equations

Derived Equations

How to Communicate & Document Programming

Process flow

Pseudo Code


How to Communicate & Document a Design

Doodle vs Sketch vs Drawing

So for something buried so deep in our design process this is a pretty important thing to understand. Doodles, Sketches, and Drawsings in Robotics have very spicif meaning and are not the same things.

Starting Backwards

Engineering Drawings

An Engineering Drawing is a very detailed set of instructions you give to a machinist that exactly tells them how you want a specific part created. It is the most formal of the 3.

    • A Drawing shows all important views of a part
    • A Drawing is to scale
    • A Drawing is exhaustive of every aspect of a part
    • A Drawing has every bolt hole, cut, camber, and fillet called out
    • A Drawing has the exact material of the part called out.
    • A Drawing has critical dimensions called out
    • A Drawing has tolerances for these dimensions called out
    • Our Drawings are made in Onshape


A Sketch is a to scale visual representation of your idea (not just a part). a Sketch is one of the first things you do when you start to rigorously design your idea.

    • A Sketch is to scale
    • A Sketch has some critical dimensions
    • A Sketch shows all important parts of your idea
    • A Sketch may show different configurations of your idea
      • this is different from the views of a drawing,
    • A Sketch may have physical equations and forces described
    • A Sketch may be a CAD
    • We use our Engineering Notebooks and Onshape to make a sketch


When you think of sketches you are more than likely thinking about a Doodle. A doodle is to describe the basic concept of an idea, its the bare start of an idea.

    • A Doodle is not to scale
    • A Doodle has few dimensions
    • A Doodle is often lacking physical equations and forces described
    • A Doodle may have critical flaws that will become evident when you start making a sketch of it