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Project Ideas

  1. Mar 6, 2008 #1


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    Hey all,

    Well I'm on the home stretch now. I have to build my senior project. Well this isn't really a senior project per se (thats next semester). What I'm taking is a course on "Product Design and Development". It deals with all the functional aspects that go into designing a product: from initial project idea to the final manufacturable unit. It goes into the design methodologies and so on. I honestly had no idea that so much happens beyond engineering (I'm talking about things like industrial design, marketing, and general project management. I feel so ignorant because I thought that all an engineer does was simply work on a problem he was given...)

    Anyway, to better grasp the material of the course, we have to build an actual project to show how we have implemented the various methodologies. We have to show understanding of things such as design for manufacture (DFM), prototyping, concept generation, concept selection, etc.

    Although the main idea is to understand the various design methodologies, a lot of emphasis is placed on the project. The instructor made the decision that the project should be electromechanical in nature. He felt that my having moving parts along with electrical circuitry, we would better appreciate concepts such as DFM and prototyping.

    So I come here seeking ideas for a suitable project that I can easily use to implement these methodologies. The restrictions are:
    -Should be electromechanical in nature
    -Mechanical aspect should do something useful (obviously)
    -Project should be unique. If an already existing product is chosen, then it should be justified that my project can accomplish the tasks of the existing product in a better (more efficient) way.

    It does not have to be controlled by a uC, I can implement computer control via parallel/serial port. I also know that electromechanical systems then to be more expensive than a system that deals with just electrical energy to accomplish its function. As a result I would like to use motors to control moving parts. I'm not so keen on implementing any pneumatics or hydraulics.

    So far I was thinking about an automatic beverage dispenser. The only non-submersible way of measuring liquid level in the cup that can think is already taken (measuring electrical continuity). So I've scratched that idea. Maybe you can think of some other project to implement the "electrical continuity" idea in so that I have justification for using it.

    Any input is appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 6, 2008 #2


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    You can always use an ultrasonic proximity sensor to measure the liquid level.

    The typical caveats with these types of proximity sensors are their deadband range, and surface turbulence in the liquid causing accuracy problems. I imagine if you space the sensor correctly you won't have any deadband problems. Not sure if the filling of the cup would cause problems with the level measurement, but it might be worth a shot.

    BTW, a stilling tube is used in tanks as a work-around for the surface turbulence in the liquid. A stilling tube doesn't seem to practical for a beverage dispensor though.

    Hope that helps.

  4. Mar 6, 2008 #3


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    Most of the stuff I designed was one off specials.
    However, my experience was that going from working prototype to final manufacturable unit took a lot more time than going from initial concept to working prototype.
    It's like herding cats.
  5. Mar 7, 2008 #4


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    Sounds like a fun project. BTW, just because it is an electromechanical project, doesn't mean that you have to use electromechanical actuators like motors. Electromechanical sensors would also qualify, I would think. So position sensors, limit switches, etc., should also satisfy the electromechanical requirement.

    Also, I wouldn't think in terms of using the serial or parallel port on a PC for the computer control portion -- those interfaces are going away on basically all laptops, and many desktops. I'd think more in terms of using the USB interface for external interfacing, if you go the PC/laptop route instead of the uC route.

    As for ideas, it makes it hard to have to think up a new product.... I'll have to think about this some (and hopefully post later today...)
  6. Mar 7, 2008 #5


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    Okay, only one set of ideas so far...

    How about a system to help an archer or rifle shooter to improve in their breath control and heartbeat anticipation, to improve their accuracy at the range. Systems like this are available at high-end training facilities like the Olympic training facilities, but are not generally available as commercial systems.

    Your challenge would be to figure out the best and most cost-effective way to do some or all of the following:

    ** Sense the shooter's pulse and respirations (to help the shooter learn how and when to stop breathing, and to time the shot at the right part of the heartbeat rhythm)

    ** Sense the position of the rifle muzzle (or arrowtip) as the shooter relaxes in preparation for the shot (to see how well it quiets down before the shot)

    ** It would be nice to be able to see the sight picture as it moves around and settles for each shot (maybe with a beam splitter / HUD arrangement between the shooter's eye and the sights)

    ** Record the position of the shot as it registers on the target

    If you had all of that, and could record it all on a laptop display, you'd have a great training sytem. If you could get creative enough to get the selling price down under something like $500 USD, you'd probably sell a fair number of them. The key would be to give the buyer a lot of value for something that they really want to do -- to learn to be a more consistent and accurate shooter.

    You could also look at variations of the basic system, like how to modify the sytem to work with pistols. If you got the system to work well in general, then you could probably start selling them to shooting ranges, where the ranges could offer the systems for use by the hour. You make money on the sale to the ranges, and they make money renting out the use of the systems....
  7. Mar 7, 2008 #6


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    We are only required to go as far as beta prototype (alpha prototype is good also). This is a good thing because I only have just under two months to go from project idea to beta prototype :eek:

    This sounds awesome. At least I'd be well off in terms of a target market, which would help me with the final project presentation. But given the limited time I have, I don't think I can fully realize this idea. It would take a lot of research, prototyping, and testing. I'm not complaining here. Its just that I don't believe that I can get a alpha prototype in two months. Hey, I'm a one man team!

    But keep the ideas coming berkeman. I will however put this idea in my idea bag for my senior project.

    Using an ultrasonic proximity sensor never crossed my mind. I admit that I don't have any experience with such sensors. But I did a little searching and found several ultrasonic sensors. The price is like..wow! I'm not sure if I'm looking at the right thing , though.
    http://www.google.com/products?btnG...ow=dd&q=ultrasonic++sensors+proximity+sensors (Proximity Sensor Ultrasonic)
    http://www.google.com/products?q=ultrasonic++sensors+range&btnG=Search+Products&hl=en&show=dd (range finder)
    http://www.google.com/products?q=ultrasonic+++sensors&btnG=Search+Products&hl=en&show=dd (ultrasonic sensors: general)
  8. Mar 7, 2008 #7


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    Okay, maybe consider a simplified version of the shooter-coach idea. Maybe look at off-the-shelf pulse monitors, to see if any come with a handy USB interface. Then make a headgear thing that supports a single-eye HUD splitter, with a USB camera watching the same thing that the shooter sees as his sight picture. Finally, figure out some simple way to mark where the shots are hitting -- maybe with another camera that is closer to the target (RF linked to the laptop via WiFi?).

    Now, you can put all of that together with some snazzy software work, to record the stuff the shooter is interested in seeing to help them learn to improve their target scores. That's a very do-able project in the time frame that you have.
  9. Mar 7, 2008 #8


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    $100 bucks doesn't sound bad for this type of sensor.

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