5 Students - 7 Weeks - 1 Revolution

Project Objectives

We are a team of four Olin students and one Wellesley student that built a machine that could read resistances for us. We chose this project because it was a unique and innovative idea that had never really been done before and would require a large amount of creativity and exploration, while also incorporating challenging components from each of the mechanical, electrical and computing systems. Our specific goals for our final product were focused on having an integrated system that included:

  • A mechanical system that separates resistors and reliably introduces them to the circuit
  • An electrical component that measures resistance values of a significant range
  • An LCD screen that displays the resistance value to the user
  • (stretch goal) An additional mechanical component that physically sorts the resistor into an appropriate place

Our Team's Overarching Learning Goals

As a team we also had several overarching skills that we wanted to learn or further develop while working with The Resistance:

  • Improving our ability to document our work effectively
  • Learning to integrate different systems efficiently
  • Effectively managing a long term project and ultimately being able to produce a robust final product

Individual Learning Goals

Anna Buchele: Circuit Design, Electrical Prototyping, Mechanical Design

My main learning goal for this project was to gain experience in the integration of mechanical, software, and electrical systems. I was also interested in electrical prototyping and circuit design, and mechanical design. However, due to the requirements of our electrical system, I ended up focusing mostly on electrical prototyping and circuit design, as well as electrical and software integration. During this project, I developed skills in Arduino programming to control complex electrical systems, and learned how to use unfamiliar electrical components such as the relays and the digital potentiometers. I learned how to surface mount very small components and work with complicated circuits. I also learned the importance of good electrical practices (such as always disconnecting power when the circuit is not in use, and when making adjustments to the circuit). I also learned about the importance of constant integration: by integrating each system as we developed it, we avoided large integration issues at the end of the project. I learned about the importance of communication with team members, as well as the importance of setting small, clearly defined goals. This course as a whole has allowed me to gain experience in some aspects of engineering in which I was lacking, which moves me towards my goal of being a well-rounded engineer.

Serena Chen: Microcontroller Interfacing, Project Documentation, Systems Integration

My biggest learning goals were learning microcontroller and low level programming better, as well as systems integration. I definitely learned a lot of systems integration, as I had a large hand in integrating the motors, LCD screen, and resistance measurer. I definitely learned a lot about interfacing different subsystems, and designed a lot of the protocol that interfaced the systems. I feel that I learned less about microcontroller interfacing than I would have liked. I felt like I was not given many challenging computing problems, and so, even though I did a lot of microcontroller programming, I feel the final project didn’t teach me much more than I already knew. I also learned a lot about communication between subsystems, and making sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing.

Uma Desai: Microcontroller Interfacing, Web Dev, Systems Integration

My biggest learning goals for this project were to gain experience working with different systems and understanding how to integrate them. Over the course of this project, I have developed skills in this area by programming in Arduino to control motors and servos, helping with fabrication and assembly of the mechanical system, and integrating electrical components into the machine. By working on the website and updating documentation weekly, I have realized the clear advantages to recording work effectively and routinely. This project has also taught me the value of modular design, as we became more effective each sprint at integrating our systems thanks to our easily interchangeable components. And of course I also learned about the importance of team communication and how clear, frequent communication can save significant time and energy. Overall, I have learned a lot over the course of this project about several systems and had a great time bonding with my teammates, and it has helped me become a more resourceful, collaborative engineer.

Mebatsion Gebre: Circuit Design, Electrical Prototyping, Mechanical Design

My main goals in this project were to learn electrical prototyping with complex components like relays and digital potentiometers as well as improve my mechanical design skills using solidworks. In the first few weeks, I got some CAD experience by designing the receiving end of our sorter. Later on, I focused on understanding and controlling electrical components that were new to me by following datasheet, consulting my professors and teammates, and, sometimes, through trial and error. I also got to learn quite a bit about I2C interface in controlling potentiometers with arduino, mounting small components on protoboards (for ease of use), and taking caution to prevent shorting the complex circuit we managed to build. We had to do a lot of debugging with the potentiometers, and this has taught me the importance of tackling small bits of task at a time to build a more complicated and functional product. Most valuably, I have learned to better communicate technical and logistical content with my teammates and the larger PoE population.

Nicole Schubert: Mechanical Design (CAD), Rapid Prototyping, Polished Fabrication

My learning goal for this project was to get better at generally all things mechanical. This boiled down to becoming more accurate with mechanical design (CAD), rapid prototyping, and actual fabrication. I feel that of these, the skill that I was able to learn best was creating more accurate designs using CAD software. As the project went on, I found it easier to create more complex models in CAD and I was able to create pieces and assemblies much faster than I had been able to before. Along with this, I was able to better express my ideas through CAD software before creating them in physical space. Insofar as rapid prototyping goes, I have gotten a little better, but have still found myself getting stuck in the rut of having an idea, focusing on it for too long, then finding it doesn’t work the way I expected it to. The feeder ramp of our project is without a doubt the aspect of this project I spent the most time on, yet I still feel like it is unfinished. While I may not have become much better at rapid prototyping, I certainly realize its usefulness and will use this experience to motivate me on my future projects to stay open to different ideas and not put all of my focus on just one that may not work. Finally, in terms of polished fabrication, I have come a couple steps further than I had been. Though I wouldn’t say that the mechanical portion of our project was able to come out “polished” due to general lack of time, I have learned to design around a couple of quirks on the machines that I hadn’t considered before and use them to my advantage for tight fits and appropriate tolerances (e.g. the laser cutter having a width of 0.002 inches, the 3D printers shrinking prints, etc). In addition to all of the mechanical skills I picked up, I also learned the value of constant communication with my team members and the importance of appropriately scoping out a project. Overall, this project was a humbling experience for me, showing that I have much more to learn about mechanical design to be effective, but it was a fun challenge and I enjoyed having the opportunity to learn alongside my teammates.