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Looking for inspiration to work on a project of my own (Robotics)

  1. Nov 17, 2016 #1

    I am a mathematician who has branched off into mechanical engineering, cybernetics and robotics. If I wanted to work on a project of my own, where can I find inspiration for what to work on? Where can I find what kinds of problems engineers are currently working on?

    I can go to some university websites, like MIT Biomimetics Robotics Lab, to see what they have been working on to get an idea of what to do, but they rarely post anything new; On occassion there may be a TED talk that tells me what people are working on, but they are rare. Where else can I go for ideas?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2016 #2


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    You do not need ideas, you need experience working with others. In time you will find a problem that inspires you while working with others.
    Your situation is self regulating. If you cannot find an inspiring problem, you should not yet be working by yourself.
  4. Nov 23, 2016 #3
    Insipiring problem? How about no problem? I just dont know where to look for problems to solve.

    I mean, for mathematics I can go to, for instance, openproblemgarden. Sure, not all the problems there are interesting, but at least I have access to them. There are lists of unsolved problems in various fields of academia online and in libraries. Also, finding books on progress made on those issues do not take long to find either.

    In the case of engineering, however, it seems harder to find problems; Especially the fields I am interested in.. If I was into computer graphics, I would have looked at the videos SIGGRAPH upload to YouTube... However, for automation and the things I am interested in, I dont know where to look.
  5. Nov 23, 2016 #4


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    Mathematics and engineering are very different ways of thinking. In advanced engineering you are expected to apply critical thinking to discover a safer or lower cost solution. In engineering, unlike mathematics, a solution will never be a perfect solution or proof. Technology and economics will change while your experience increases, the optimum solution will therefore change over time.

    You need to work as part of a team solving a problem. Divide the problem into chunks, each member then self-selects and “signs-up” to part of the problem. At some point you will see a way to gain a significant improvement in the solution by doing something in a different or unusual way. That is when engineering gets interesting. You can then explore that field and discover the boundaries. From then on you are thinking like an engineer, life will be interesting because you are always looking for new ideas and new solutions. Browse the indexes to old engineering journals. It is surprising how many interesting solutions have been forgotten.

    Writing reliable software modules, designing lower power electronic circuits and designing more economic boat hulls, are all ways of exercising engineering skills. Next year, the game will have changed and your solution to the same problem will probably be different. Move outside the envelope of the current paradigm, identify the absolute boundaries of possible solutions, then methodically search the identified field for new solutions.

    Specify a problem then see how many different ways you can solve it. Do not stop at the first working solution, question your approach, invert the problem and start again. Try every technology, every active device available and every algorithm. If you do not find that interesting you should keep away from engineering.

    The thing I like best about the Himalayas is that my footprints are not there. Some of the most interesting vacations I have taken, in the dark of winter, have been exploring the peaks and valleys of some new and unexpected optimisation function or algorithm.

    Answering engineering questions on these forums will take you on research expeditions into new fields that are far from the boring path you are now on.
  6. Nov 27, 2016 #5
    Doesn't every single point you wrote also apply to computer graphics? Yet, SIGGRAPH exists... If I wanted to get into 3D rendering software, I could go there and get a few ideas on what to play around with.
  7. Nov 27, 2016 #6


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    That is paralogical reasoning. SIGGRAPH is much less than the suggestions I made in my points. How do you think the authors of papers submitted to SIGGRAPH get their inspiration?

    You need to identify a real unresolved problem to work on. If you lack the ability to identify and isolate an inspiring project, you will also be unable to work as an inspired engineer. Prescriptive engineering is boring.
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