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Addvice for Rapid Development in ME/EE

  1. Sep 6, 2014 #1
    I want to start a discussion in relation to a club I am going to form at my college.
    A few bits of background:
    I'm a physics major, but I do love me some engineering. I'm all over the spectrum in interests to say the least, EE, ME, SE, Mat.Sci/Eng., enjoy it all.
    Prior to transferring to university, I participated in a capstone project at my community college as Systems Engineer (along with smaller roles in each team) where we made a 3d printer from scratch. I had tons of fun working hands on and want to bring the hands on aspect to my university.
    I want to start a club that focuses on smaller-scale fast-paced engineering projects with short life cycles. I was wondering if anybody here had experience and organizational advice they could provide for actually meeting quick deadlines and milestones.
    Basically most of the time we would have a project that we start and finish within ~1-2 weeks. I'm thinking that we could recreate the 3D printer I made in a month, simplifying the design and raising funds for future activities in the meantime. During that time we sketch several projects as a group and then set up ordering of mission critical, long delay parts. Designs would probably be made modular to be able to quickly swap parts if the needs arise, and simple components could be made with the 3D printer.
    If people can just start throwing tangible problems I am likely to experience, but that I can plan ahead/around, that would be just great. I'm looking for constructive critique, advice, and ideas on how to implement rapid development life cycles in an engineering setting. I know that I want to do something difficult, but if I can make it work it'd be so cool that it's worth the shot.

    This was one of my inspirations for this idea:
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2014 #2


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    You say you want to start a club which focused on this fast paced development cycle, what do you hope to learn from the experience? What kind of projects so you hope to work on, who will your customer be, and in what forum will you present your results?
  4. Sep 7, 2014 #3
    I think I want this to be a mix of a great learning experience for working with other people and getting to take a quick, deep dive into a sphere of engineering that one may not have pursued otherwise.

    Funding is a somewhat questionable thing: in terms of actual customers, are university clubs actually allowed to do that? I was thinking about trying to get people to sponsor a couple of projects later into the year after we have gained experience working together.

    I was actually thinking about how to show off (outside the university level) and I'll definitely think about it. One thing I want to do is film various stages of assembly, quick few minute talks about how we did something, why changes we made to baseline designs, the principles at work, etc. And then if we really do make anything crazy then maybe just include us having a good time with it to some kickass music. This is all about having fun too. Again, and inspiration (but a perfect example of how to not do safety): https://www.youtube.com/user/colinfurze .

    People are also busy (myself included), so I want to have bite sized projects so that people can engage in projects when they can and stay out when they cant. Removing large time commitments on a multi-week basis can be a good way to do that.
    One thing that has occurred on most long term engineering projects I've worked on is that as the progress continues there is always one sub team or someone who gets territorial with their design and when deadlines are lax they dont deliver until the end(often half-assedly). I'm pretty skilled (for an amateur) at tackling most other obstacles with a fluidity and adaptability, but I'm hoping on using this schema as a way to keep projects small and intimate and remove any chance of a person becoming territorial.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2014
  5. Sep 7, 2014 #4
    A couple of ideas off the top of my head (I'll start hunting for my list)
    3d-Printer (simplified design)
    Overpowered quad-copter (capable of carrying lightweight future projects)
    LiDar/mirror aparatus (hardware for weeklong development cycle)
    Adapt a printer into a t-shirt printer
    Horseshoe Telescope w/ arduino driven Sky Tracking

    Also how can I request a mod fix my forum title, i was a bit sleepy when i started this thread
  6. Sep 7, 2014 #5


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    Honestly I think all of those projects will take longer than 2 weeks if you want to actually design something yourself. You may consider an Agile "Scrum" approach where you split a larger effort into 2-week "sprints" with intermediate deliverables at the end of each sprint.

    But before any of that can happen, you'll need a better focus on what you're making and who's it for. Maybe robotics competitions that you could get sponsored for? Just wanting to make fun stuff is great for a hobby, not so great for a club you want to solicit people to join or sponsor.

    Read about Agile Scrum Process:
    Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn))

    Note: Agile Scrum is a mainly software centric approach, but I've seen it successfully implemented in multi-disciplinary systems engineering projects as well. Trouble is, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers have to deal with fabrication lead times and prototyping setbacks, so the sprint has to be lengthened to something longer than typical software sprints. I've seen sprints of 3-4 weeks work though.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2014
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