Monday, March 7, 2011

The Rite of Passage

Over at Engineer Blogs, they've had a theme week, focusing on their favorite classes. I thought I'd chime in and tell you about the most difficult but decidedly the best class at UGU.

Junior Design.

It's not really a class, more like a Rite of Passage. At UGU they have four design classes in the UG ME curriculum and three lab classes. Nothing can quite compare to Junior Design. Right in the middle of hell semester with Thermo, Fluids, Materials, and a Hard Lab Class sits the most difficult class in the curriculum.

Have I built it up enough?

Basically, it combines everything you've done up until that point. You've had all this theory (and some machine shop stuff) and now you've got to do real engineering. The tasks for the class all center around building a robot/vehicle of some sorts. Mine was to build a vehicle to drive over an obstacle course and deploy a bridge to hold a weight 10 times heavier than your vehicle. Alone the way, you had to climb a 30 degree incline. Oh, and you only get 4 AA's to do it. And you vehicle has to fit in a specified shoebox-like volume.

You have to work in groups, build your own controls and electronics, and do all of your own machining. Oh, and there's a written portion to this class as well with weekly lectures, reports due throughout the semester, and three presentations to give.

You have to back up all of your design decisions with calculations proving it will work. You have to make your drawings with tolerances. You have to calculate the power needed to propel your vehicle. You have to design your electronics for controlling your vehicle. And you have to work together as a group, which is a lot harder that it seems.

When you're going through it, it is total hell. When it's over, you really appreciate it and even miss it. Because it gives you your first taste (at least in my case) of real engineering.

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