Team Notebook Guidelines

The purpose of a team design notebook is to document your team's effort as you proceed through a project course. The notebook should document your project planning, design, prototyping, and evaluation activities and provides a record of your decisions and actions that can be referred to as needed; this is especially useful when you are in the process of debugging a complex system and when you are in the process of writing reports. Keeping a good notebook is extremely important in electrical projects which often require managing a very high level of complexity; for example, the documentation for a modern microcontroller can consist of over 1000 pages, and it is essential to document where you find information in order to use it and refer to it.

The Team Design Notebook Versus Individual Notebooks

Students often question whether they should record information in their individual engineering notebooks or in a team notebook. Often, the answer is "both". The purpose of the individual engineering notebook is to document individual work on a project, class, assignment, or other activity. The purpose of the team design notebook is to document team work on a project and to provide a central repository for information about the Project. Thus, it will often be appropriate to photocopy pages of individual notebooks to be placed in a team design notebook; this is the case when the material in an individual notebook is important to the project.

Structure of the Team Design Notebook

The notebook contains supporting material like an appendix of a report. It can contain copies or originals of any of the following: documents, drawings, phone call logs, meeting minutes, Xerox copies, web pages, disks, CDs, etc. The notebook should be a three-ring binder so that pages can be easily added throughout the course of the project. The notebook should also be divided into sections; we suggest labeling the sections A, B, C, etc. All pages should be numbered; this is easily accomplished by numbering each page with a section letter and number: A1-Axx, B1-Bxx, etc. All pages in the notebook should be dated and signed buy at least one member of the team. Interim and final reports should refer to items in the notebook by section and page number.
All the design calculations or work done by each student should be shown clearly in the team design notebook. Each student or students should sign the bottom of each page identifying their work. The notebook should contain: 
  • minutes of meetings
  • notes
  • sketches
  • calculations
  • manual calculations and program listings
  • references and other sources 
These contents are described in more detail below. Whenever a prototype is built, software is created, or a system is modeled in math software, debugging is often required and changes are often necessary at some later point in time. To aid in these processes, the project notebook should be detailed enough so that a team member or an engineer in your field (not on your team) could understand the information necessary for debugging or modifications. He it is also important to document decisions and information that you have discovered so that you can refer to it later. The team design notebook should contain a cover page which identifies the project, the team members, and the course and semester. The notebook should have a table of contents that identifies each section.

Team Design Notebook Contents

The notebook should document the entire project. Thus, for a typical project the following items might be included:
  • The course syllabus, the project assignment, report assignments, presentation assignments, etc. 
  • Documentation of the design process 
    • A working draft of the project scoping information, including a problem statement and analysis of the target market (if appropriate) 
    • A working draft of criteria, constraints, etc. 
    • Documentation of brainstorming, concept generation, and concept selection activities 
    • A working draft of a functional decomposition of the product 
  • Documentation of modeling activities 
    • Mathematical derivations 
    • Spreadsheets or programs (with filenames) with a discussion or description of what they compute. 
    • Filenames of computer code, CAD models, and other computer-based resources. 
  • Support for detailed design activities 
    • Specification sheets of components that will be used or considered 
    • A working copy of your block diagram 
    • A working copy of your schematic 
  • Support for prototyping and debugging activities
    •  A working bill of materials including parts and sources 
    • A working budget 
    • A log of construction activities 
    • A log of debugging activities that includes test results, measurements, documentation of hardware configurations, etc. 
  • Any data collected (a summary with a the computer file containing the data or the raw data itself) during the modeling or testing/debugging phases 
    • Analysis of statistical variability in the data or needed sample size 
  • A description of how data was analyzed (including the statistical tools and methods used) and used to make decisions. 
  • Team meeting notes that document assignments for follow-up at future team meetings
  • A working schedule; this could be a Gantt chart that is updated throughout the project 
  • Documentation for sources of information (You should make sure that you have enough documentation to find the information again in the future.) This documentation should include: 
    • Webpage addresses 
    • Titles and page numbers from component spec sheets
Working copies are copies that can be modified and updated as necessary as the project progresses. They may be neatly hand-drawn. Working copies are used to create final versions that are used in reports and other documentation.