Large Project Teams at Olin

By Jennifer Anderson '16

As you may be aware, there are currently four large project teams at Olin: MiniBaja, REVO,  HPV, and Sailbot. All of these teams have different goals and ideas. I was able to interview members of all four teams to learn more about their experiences and plans for the year.

 

MiniBaja - Phoenix Racing Team

Team Contact:  Justin Poh '16

 Phoenix-Racing.jpg

Website: https://www.olin.edu/giving/StudentProjects/SP_MiniBAJA/index.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OlinPhoenixRacing

 

Project and Team Description:

Build an off-road racing go-kart and competition. Competition is to design a kart capable of off-road racing.

What are your goals this year?

The most important goal is to focus on driver training. We have a decently-working car, but are limited by the skill of our drivers.

What has changed since last year?

Management. Team dynamics shifted, and there's a much more obvious push toward people learning about things beyond their specialty. This existed a little last year, but is more prominent and important for us this year. There's a big shift in understanding electronics and software. Traditionally, Baja has been very Mech-E oriented, and we've tended to worry about E/C later. This year, we shifted to be more data driven, and pay more attention to the software.

How does being on a team prepare you for the real world?

Being on the team is a practical experience. If you stay on the team for all 4 years, you will be involved in a complete redesign. You take design from starting with all the ideas on the table to a complete and finished product, which is comparable to an engineering job in the real world. In designing a car, you start with ideas in the air and move on to produce a final CAD drawing. Along the way, you pick up skills on how to create accurate professional, clear engineering drawings, learn what needs to be considered (dependencies), who needs to be contacted, and what needs to be done for changes. I find that sometimes you get more out of Baja than you do from classes. Also, fabrication is a big part of Baja, learning how to design for efficient, accurate manufacturing.

 

What have you learned by being on this team?

Way more than can be described in words. In the beginning, I had no knowledge of SolidWorks. I didn't know much about mechanical design. Now, I get to lead the drive train. It's not so much domain knowledge, but how to produce accurate, professional CAD, know what the dependencies are, what needs to be considered--more the soft skills than domain knowledge.

Has being on this team changed your thoughts about what you're doing after Olin?

Sort of, but not really, It confirmed that I want to be in practical engineering, not a teaching tract. Before, I kind of knew, but I am much more sure now. However, I have shifted toward maybe going into a job rather than grad school, but not a lot. Overall, it has given me a reason to think about going into industry rather than grad school.

 

REVO - Research of Electric Vehicles at Olin

Team Contact:  Emily Tumang  '15

 REVO_Blog.jpg

Blog/website:  https://www.olin.edu/giving/StudentProjects/SP_Revo/index.html

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/OlinREVO

 

Project and Team Description:

REVO is a club focused on designing and building electric vehicles: theoretically from the ground up.  We're working on that.

What are your goals this year?

We want to have a go-cart and retrofit it using parts from building/electric motorcycle. Theoretically, we will compete with that. Basically, we want to build t, get it working, activate sensors, have a sturdy frame.

What has changed since last year?

We have a new goal: last year we just made a bike. This year, we want to actually compete, with a go-cart. We have also had a slight leadership change. There's more focus on getting things ready for competition and getting stuff done as compared to the optimizing and playing around that we did last year. This is mainly because we are actually trying to compete this year.

How does being on a team prepare you for the real world?

The biggest thing is deadlines. You have your project, and you have to make sure that it's finished by the time your team needs it. However, you also have to think about how to figure out what is good and not good in an idea without getting graded. You also have to work out what questions need to be asked in order to complete your project.

What have you learned by being on this team?

Double check everything many times (especially with PCBs). It helps to know what to ask people if you know you don't have enough time with them: make sure you have a plan beforehand. Also, communication outside of meetings is important.

Has being on this team changed your thoughts about what you're doing after Olin?

It's changed them a little bit: I was influenced more toward EE, and less ECE. I enjoy circuit design.

Any other comments?

It's a lot of fun. People should join it!

 

Sailbot - Olin Robotic Sailing Team

Team Contact:  Me!  (Jennifer Anderson '16)

 Sailbot-Blog.jpg

Website/blog: http://olinsailbot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OlinSailBot

Official website: http://sailbot.org/

 

Project and Team Description:

Sailbot is a student run team that designs and builds a 2 meter long robotic sailboat every year to enter in a competition.

What are your goals this year?

Our goals this year are:

-          to continue studying the feasibility of a trans-Atlantic autonomous robotic sailboat,

-          design and build a new hull to mount a wider array of sensors on in order to better understand the conditions under which the boat functions,

-          and to redo our code so that it is divided into three distinct sections that deal with different aspects of sailing.

What has changed since last year?

The major changes are in our code. However, we are also changing how the team is run; last year we had to rebuild our team's management since all the team's founders had graduated. We are doing our best to ensure that all members of the team feel that they are contributing and having a good time. Changes are also being made to our sensor array--we are adding more of them and increasing the places on the boat where measurements are being taken. Finally, of course, we are planning on making a new hull that will be different from any of our previous boats.

How does being on this team prepare you for the real world?

Sailbot definitely prepares you for the real world: you are collaborating in a small team as a part of a much larger team. You have to worry about status reports, budgeting, and getting along with as many of your teammates as possible, all very important aspects in an engineering job in the real world. Not to mention, being on Sailbot gets you ready to deal with iterations--and inherently, failure. Sure, the mast may break off the boat sometimes. But what you learn from being on the team is how to take that in stride, not freak out about it, and work with your team to repair it.

What have you learned by being on this team?

What I've learned from being on this team is that it is extremely important to make sure that everyone on the team has a job and feels useful. Last year, it seemed like some people didn't feel as appreciated as they could be, and so many people left the team. This year, we are trying to change that and so far appear to be succeeding. I also learned that it's important to do your best to work with your teammates to your best ability, no matter how annoyed you may be on that particular day. 

Has being on this team changed your thoughts about what you're doing after Olin?

I think Sailbot has definitely impacted my ideas about what I'm doing after college. Of course, only being a sophomore, none of these plans are definite yet, but I have found that I greatly enjoy doing the final build on things: getting the whole plan put together and working correctly. Also, I've found that I really rather like boats and the ocean, and might want to do something involving that particular element.

Any other comments?

Sailbot is totally the coolest vehicle team at Olin!

 

Human Powered Vehicle  (HPV)

Team Contact:  Kari Bender  '15

HPV-blog.jpgBlog/website: http://hpv.olin.edu/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OlinHPV

 

Project and Team Description:

HPV is a student team that builds a Human Powered Vehicle every year for a competition while encouraging students to learn design manufacturing stuff that they wouldn't learn in a classroom.

What are your goals this year?

We don't know yet. We're currently doing a six week bike build off--we're planning on building a mono-wheel and leaning trike. With those, we're mostly worried about learning to steer the leaning trike and figuring out how to sit in the mono-wheel. So we're doing a design build for those.

What has changed since last year?

Last year our goals were "do exactly what we did before" except smaller, lighter, faster, and better.  That didn't work out so well. So we had to reconsider and think - why was that our goal? We decided to change to something exciting, fun, and different. We're participating in the bike build challenge to figure out our ultimate goal. It's cool because one of our possible goals is to get freshmen involved, since they were just introduced to these new skills. We want to keep them involved, and have them doing hands-on work. After the Bike Build Off, we'll decide what we want to do for the rest of the year.

How does being on a team prepare you for the real world?

Mostly CAD design, machining parts, and specifically designing parts to manufacture. You don't get much experience with that at other colleges. There you may learn to CAD, but have no concept of how the thing is built, which can lead to poor design. Then you get a part that works in Solidworks, but have no efficient way to make it. There's also a large teamwork aspect: you have 4-5 person teams in class, but here you are working on a team of ~30. You are all working toward similar goals,which is a difficult thing from a leadership perspective.  We kind of have a whole team of leaders, so it's difficult to run efficiently. Later, we will split up to work in 4-5 person sub-teams.

What have you learned by being on this team?

A lot of design manufacturing that we won't get in a classroom, (which is a part of being on all vehicle teams).   Of course, I've also gained design manufacturing experience. And I'm in a leadership position, so I have to keep people involved and efficiently run the group. It's really really fun, and I have good friends on the team.

Has being on this team changed your thoughts about what you're doing after Olin?

Hard to say. Originally, I had no idea.   Now it's changed my overall views on things. Not specifically from being on the team, but from being around the people. I want to do something with clean energy: work on a meaningful problem that needs to be solved. HPV has a lot of underlying values of clean energy, clean transportation, etc. I really want to do something hands on since I've enjoyed that a lot. I like to design a part, machine it myself, and then put it on the bike. It's a powerful experience to see the whole process. This happens way more at smaller companies, where you can watch your parts from beginning to end. I worked at a start-up and had some experience with that.

Any other comments?

HPV is the most fun of the vehicle teams at Olin!

Posted in: Because I Wanted To, Just Plain Fun, Learning about Design