ENGR 2210: Principles of Engineering. Even though the name may sound like a theory-based engineering course, the course catalog description states “students will work in small multidisciplinary teams to design and to build a mechatronic system of their own choosing.” The first third of the semester consists of hands-on lab experience, and the remainder of the semester is for an intensive collaborative project. I took Principles of Engineering (POE) last fall semester and it’s one of Olin College’s required courses to graduate; Olin is entirely an engineering school.
We began the course with a handful of labs to become acquainted with Microchip’s PIC18F2455 microcontroller, which I’ll simply refer to as a PIC, short for programmable intelligent computer. Because C programming is not a prerequisite, students without C experience became proficient in C by writing programs that are compiled and flashed onto the PIC. This method of do-learn is what many Olin professors and students call “spiral learning” – the process of not necessarily understanding (and possibly struggling) learning a topic or skill, but then when returning and using it again, having a deeper understanding than if explicitly initially instructed.
Before midterms even started, teams of roughly 3 to 5 students were formed around project ideas and we began working on our final projects. The only requirements for the projects were that it must have a non-trivial electrical and mechanic system and that the college would cover up to $350 of supplies for each team. The professors reviewed the projects primarily for feasibility and difficulty – usually ensuring that the project is not too difficult.
I was on a team of three and we ventured to build a mechatronic player piano. It was an adventure that I’ll save for a future post.
In this new Design News feature, "How it Works," we’re starting off by examining the inner workings of the electronic cigarette. While e-cigarettes seemed like a gimmick just two or three years ago, they’re catching fire -- so to speak. Sales topped $1 billion last year and are set to hit $10 billion by 2017. Cigarette companies are fighting back by buying up e-cigarette manufacturers.
Advertised as the "Most Powerful Tablet Under $100," the Kindle Fire HD 6 was too tempting for the team at iFixit to pass up. Join us to find out if inexpensive means cheap, irreparable, or just down right economical. It's teardown time!
The increased adoption of wireless technology for mission-critical applications has revved up the global market for dynamic electronic general purpose (GP) test equipment. As the link between cloud networks and devices -- smartphones, tablets, and notebooks -- results in more complex devices under test, the demand for radio frequency test equipment is starting to intensify.
Much of the research on lithium-ion batteries is focused on how to make the batteries charge more quickly and last longer than they currently do, work that would significantly improve the experience of mobile device users, as well EV and hybrid car drivers. Researchers in Singapore have come up with what seems like the best solution so far -- a battery that can recharge itself in mere minutes and has a potential lifespan of 20 years.
Some humanoid walking robots are also good at running, balancing, and coordinated movements in group settings. Several of our sports robots have won regional or worldwide acclaim in the RoboCup soccer World Cup, or FIRST Robotics competitions. Others include the world's first hockey-playing robot and a trash-talking Scrabble player.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.