Initially for the first few meetings we adopted the typical approach of using a standard bounded lab book that one could purchase from Office Max. This had the engineering format of quad-ruled pages. Because we set up a rule that all team members (or sub groups of 2-3 members) will contribute to the lab book entry, we quickly realized that:
1. “One” physical book was not very convenient with “8” team members. It was more of a bottleneck, and team members were walking away from meetings without having the opportunity to enter their task accomplishments. And because the book needed to remain in the robot construction area, they would have to wait till next time. But memories would be fuzzy or they would forget later altogether to follow-up.
2. Then we attempted a “one” golden (main) lab book and individually assigned lab books (for each team member) approach. So if a team member did not have access to the golden lab book, then he would take his home with him, write in the information while it was still fresh, then next meeting transfer that into to the golden lab book. This proved to be even harder, as it was not efficient, and no one wanted to repeat writing, or cutting out and pasting info from their book. Also the golden book was beginning to get kind of messy.
3. Then we met Mr. Dale Jordan at the Hillsboro SuperQuest, we learned of the approach undertaken by the Psychotic Strawberries. We then embarked on a search for either lab book software or an on-line version. Besides the Hillsboro HS teams we were the only other FTC team there.
4. We found a software that we could install, but because it required purchase and because it did not alleviate the multiple member access and portability problem, we decided against it. We became focused at that point to locate an on-line type of lab book.
5. We then tried Zoho on-line documents. We set up an account and tried it out. It looked like it was going to work for us, until we began inserting images of the robot and our drawings. One limitation we discovered is that once inserted into the on-line Zoho doc, we could not drag-and-drop it, nor could we resize it. The images invariably were either too small or too big, and it was taking too much time just to get it in the right size.
6. Then we tried Google docs. We did not experience any of the limitations of Zoho. Moreover we could auto generate a new page from a template at the start of each meeting. The lab book would be up and available during the whole meeting time for team members to enter information. And perchance they ran out of time, no problem, when they got home, they could enter the information later at their convenience. We had arrived at the optimal solution. We are very thankful for the guidelines (method, approach, and style) from the Psychotic Strawberries, as without that assistance, we would not be able to efficiently maintain a reasonable lab book where all members could contribute.