#1.5: The Engineering Method

Quote(s) of the Day

Each week (day, hour,..) is less important than the week (day, hour,…) before.”


  1. Choose the difficult tasks to do first.
  2. Do not wait for instructions. Apply your critical thinking skills to work independently.

Old Business

  • Cover Letters / Resumes
  • TRC Job Descriptions Quiz
  • TRC Matrix
  • Creativity Exercise

New Business

Assignment Due Dates

  • Project Research
    • In-Class/Lab Review Next Week

Lab Task


Research Presentation Template

Engineers should always try to build on what has already been done before. Information on related problems that have been solved or unsolved may help engineers find the best solution.

  • Working from your job description, research similar work reported on the web and for legacy robots review Blogs from earlier generation robots. In the latter case consider the quality of the post.
  1. No help
  2. Little help. May be able to use part(s) in another blog post.
  3. Some help. May provide a foundation for a future blog post.
  4. Provides a good foundation on which to build a great excellent blog post.
  5. No changes needed. We can move forward from this blog post.
  • It is hard to overstate the value of this initial research. If you are in doubt, as a cautionary tale, I recommend reading the following Case Studies.

Research Case Studies

  • Case Study – Pick and Place
    • After a suggestion was made that a Makeblock XY – Plotter could be an excellent platform on which to build a pick and place machine, the team immediately purchased the plotter and modifying it to be a pick and place machine. In the end the project achieved all its goals.
    • Lesson: While it is hard to argue with success, and in this case showing the initiative to move forward as quickly as possible, two problems present themselves. The purchase of this $300 dollar plotter was not approved by the department and therefore the students may have had to fund the project. If the plotter did not meet design requirements, and in multiple instances it did not, the students again would have had to fund the project. Instead of focusing on the strawman solution the students may have wanted to do their homework, and may have found in less than an hour, the PP4 – SMD-Pick and Place Machine and Paste Dispenser. This DIY project includes a pdf file listing all the components needed to make the project.
  • Case Study – Project BiPed Robot
    • For 12 weeks the software engineer was stopped by a single broken link on the Project BiPed website. After the Critical Design Review (CDR) and a few minutes of detective work the Project BiPed RoFi software download page was found.
    • The software plus documentation was also found on the previous semester’s last blog entry – the first one the software engineer should have read.
    • Lesson: First, do your homework and then if you still need help getting past a problem talk to your management team.
  • Case Study – Velociraptor
    • The core software engine used by walking robots like Biped and Velociraptor are the same. For 15 weeks these two teams never spoke to each other.
    • Lesson: This exactly why we have Division meetings.
  • Case Study – SpiderBot
    • After being given a HEXBUG robot, the spider robot team took the HEXBUG apart, rendered all the parts in Solidworks and then after 12 weeks of hard work, realized it could not be duplicated using available 3D printers. After a few minutes on the internet, three 3D printable spiders designed by Jerry Mantzel, Joe Klann, and Theo Jansen were located. Ultimately, an original design was implemented in only a few weeks.
    • Lesson: First, do not focus on the first “strawman” solution presented to you. Follow the engineering method beginning with doing your homework. Second, the whole team needs to sign-off on the final design concept. In this example, the mechanical engineer should have understood the limitation of the fabrication tools available to his/her project and brought these limitations to the attention of the team.
  • Case Study – Rover
    • The sum total of the design at CDR was two 3D printed sheets of plastic – one included two bends. Further, the prints were not coordinated with the Division manager or was funding approved by the department.
    • Lesson: The mechanical engineer did not do their homework, which after only 15 minutes research would have found reference models. Next, the wrong machine (3D printer) was used. In addition, the engineer should have requested help from the Division manager in locating the correct machine (laser cutter). Finally, without approval, the student may have had to pay for these 3D prints.