My senior year workload for engineering was a lot more project based this fall semester. And the projects were mainly for two classes: a bunch of little projects for Design Methodology and one big project for Senior Design.
In Design Methodology, one of the final projects was to create a set piece for the Diavolo Dance Troop. Diavolo’s tag line is Architecture in Motion, so all their performances feature a stand out prop with which the dancers interact. Each year, Diavolo Dance performs at Notre Dame and the high energy, quirky art director Jaques Heim views 3D printed prototypes created by the students in Design Methodology. The video below from Diavolo’s YouTube channel gives a good overview into the intense dance and unique architecture expected.
My group created a Fibonacci spiral set piece. The Fibonacci spiral results from a mathematical series in which the sum the squares of any series of Fibonacci numbers will equal the last Fibonacci number used in the series times the next Fibonacci number (12 + 12 + 22 + 32 + 52 = 5 ∗ 8). Because of this the Fibonacci spiral represents growing infinities and natural symmetry.
3D printing is a 3 step process. The first step is to create a CAD (Computer Aided Model) model. At Notre Dame we use Creo, which we took a class in junior year. Below is the output of the CAD step saved as a .stl file.
Next, the .stl file has to be converted into a file type that the particular 3D printer can read. Notre Dame’s mechanical engineering department got 4 MakerBot 3D printers this semester, so the MakerBot program was used to create a .mkrbot file.
While 3D printing stuff is awesome because you can literally create anything, it takes FOREVER to actually print. A 3D printer lays strips of plastic about the size of pencil lead. And since the entire 100+ class had to 3D print, there was a 3 hour time constraint for how long your model could take. Inside the MakerBot software, a print time estimate is calculated. In general, the larger and more material your pieces, the longer it takes to print.
When we first inputted our CAD model into the MakerBot software, the estimated print time over 6 hours. I iterated removing holes and shrinking the model numerous times to hit the 3 hour limit. Five versions later and I get this…
3 hours, 1 minute. I was so mad.
(For more projects from Design Methodology, see my post on the Altoids Pinball Project here.)
In Senior Design, our task was to design a cooling system for a solar panel. When solar panels sit in the sun for a long time, the panels heat up from the sun’s rays. Unfortunately heat causes electronics to become less efficient, thus the longer a solar panel sits in the sun, the less sunlight it can absorb…ironic isn’t it?
Anyway, my group based our design off the cooling system of a laptop, which consists of a small computer fan and a finned heat sink drawing heat away from the solar panel to be dissipated by the fan. Fun stuff.
I took on all the electronics and coding for our group. For our microprocessor, we used an Arduino, which is like a super small computer. You can connect the Arduino via a USB drive to a computer, and download a code (group of actions that the Arduino can do). Ardiunos are awesome because there is so much code already written on the internet.