MAE 3 – The low down on the design class

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While on exchange, because I’m an engineer, I’ve been told that it’s fairly important to enrol in some sort of design class while away. Since I’m not allowed to enrol in the senior design class here, I was left with the one option, MAE 3. This is intended to be an intro to graphics and engineering design. I had a chat about suitable design classes with the professor, Dr.Delson, last quarter, and he recommended this class to me last quarter, even though I was a little sceptical about it being an intro class. For anyone back in Edinburgh who might end up considering this class while they are out here, this is my run down of it.

It starts off really well. The first project is to build a pendulum/escapement wheel. You learn how to operate AutoCAD, region and layer designs, and then get experience with this classes part piece, the LaserCAMM. This $100,000 piece of kit cuts acrylic to match your designs to the nearest 1/1000th of an inch. There is a then a good bit of work to do with the tools in the machine shop in order to arrive at your finished product. Mine is a Formula 1 car, of course. The report for it was also fairly easy and didn’t require too much detail.

In fact, with any report you will be well prepared. This is something that we are taught fantastically well in Edinburgh, and something which is taught in a very haphazard way in America. In the senior Heat Transfer class I took in the fall, I achieved the highest mark in the class for our Motorcycle cooling report, up against everyone with an extra years engineering experience. So, reports will be a piece of cake!

The clock is finished at the end of week 3, and then it’s time to move onto the robot contest. This makes up the main bulk of the course. Sadly, around this time the lecture material plummets through the floor. My last three weeks have been occupied with learning Inventor (which is Solid Edge), learning to draw Free-Body Diagrams (and I mean learning, this is starting from scratch) and learning how to calculate moments (again, starting from scratch).

I’ve felt very happy to be English the last few weeks, because I knew how to do FBD’s and moments back when I was doing A-Levels. For all their talk that the system is better in America, I have found yet another example of it actually being significantly lacking. I seriously doubt that the quality of American schooling is comparable to what we are fortunate to receive in Britain. The whole moment calculation thing has been very boring though. Not only are they only just learning it, but they do it all wrong and make everything so complicated. It seems they think to make it easier you should break the force and moment arm into components, but this is crazy. Angles and cosines pop up, and you get some crazy numbers. Just extending the force and then drawing a line perpendicular from this to the pivot takes just 10 seconds though. While everyone else was spending 30 minutes hastily typing away on their calculators trying to work out the problem in section today, I sat twiddling my thumbs as I had little to do but help other people out. My 10 second answer was correct. Dear me…

The workload is high now. The silly little homework assignments are mindless, but take an age. As for the robot, building a working design in 5 weeks is quite a daunting task. Working in the lab most nights till at least 9:30 are common place. Meeting up at the weekend is a necessity. Our group has an idea, and now needs to check dimensions of everything before its cutting time next week. One thing this course teaches well is how to effectively work within a team, and all the little frustrating things that teamwork can entail.

There are 3 weeks to go till it needs to be finished. Hopefully the lecture content picks up. Just seeing an ‘mg’ instead of ‘W’, and an ‘R’ for reaction force will cheer me up a little at the very least.

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