For fourteen Loyola engineering juniors December 7th was the last day to work on their Mars Rover Replicas project. This was the backbone of the newly offered course called Engineering Design Fundamentals. The course centers around taking an existing design and introducing a significant modification to add new capabilities. The basic platform is an open-source model of the Mars Perseverance rover (https://youtu.be/NOZZMsMAGh0). At the beginning of the class, student teams assembled the rover from already designed and prefabricated mechanical parts, and basic electric motors controlled by an Arduino microcontroller.
During the following two-thirds of the course, the student teams worked hard to come up with their own team modification to the base rover which they then tested, refined, and presented. Examples included, lifts, arms, cameras, and even a ‘bug zapper’. This work inevitably involved both mechanical and electrical design, programming, fabrication, prototyping, and testing. In this fast-paced course working in teams and effective time management was crucial. There were three “Snapshot days.” These days were milestone reporting points where the teams prepared documentation to explain where their project stood. The teams created posters that addressed specific requirements associated with project milestones.
At the conclusion of the course, the students demonstrated that they could work in teams to design, fabricate, and document a device or system that addressed a well-defined, multidisciplinary problem. Students applied technical analyses, techniques, and knowledge from their prior coursework. They then went beyond that in learning how to constructively interpret the results of experimental tests and how to troubleshoot both software and hardware when problems arose. They necessarily had to identify gaps in their knowledge, seek sources with information relative to those gaps, and use their understanding of that information to meet project objectives. All of these are things that our Loyola engineers are likely to experience in the workplace and wherever they go.
Student feedback about the course was positive and enthusiastic with appreciation for all they have learned and the confidence in the skills they have built. All of this will serve them well in senior year and beyond, successfully facing global challenges as our world outside stretches to Mars and beyond.
“Engineering Design Fundamentals helped me gain practical hands-on experience in areas of engineering that my previous coursework hadn't focused on. Until now, I had minimal experience with 3D printing and Arduino programming. Now, I am confident in my CAD abilities, and I am able debug complex Arduino code. The replica Mars Rover was my first academic project which incorporated all engineering concentrations. It helped me break out of my comfort zone. Instead of only focusing on electrical engineering, I gained experience with metal machining, hand tools, and RF debugging. Overall, I highly recommend this course to any engineering student who enjoys using their hands to make their designs a reality.” Hesh Tunick
“The junior Engineering Design Fundamentals course offers a unique opportunity to gain hands-on engineering experience through its semester-long project-based curriculum. The course is distinctly interesting and exciting by fostering high levels of creativity among small project groups that make you want to work harder, with the goal of succeeding at the project. It provides a strong foundation for the skills that will be used in the Senior Design class and left me feeling prepared and inspired to begin that next project.” Harrison Wenig
“The Junior Design class gave me an introductory experience in the workforce of engineering. It allowed me to collaborate with classmates and combine the skills and teachings of mechanical and electrical engineering. In this class, we were given the creative freedom to create our own attachment for a rover that would obtain a positive social or environmental impact, which I had never done before. We were taught necessary engineering skills such as CAD and laser cutting, as well as experiencing the machine shop. On a personal level, I gained confidence in my leadership abilities which has influenced communication within my group and will lead me to a successful future.” Beth Dunn
“EG 397 Engineering Design Fundamental has been one of the most challenging and rewarding classes I have taken thus far. The class pushed me to utilize and apply engineering concepts that up until this point were purely theoretical. The most challenging aspect of this class was not the construction of the rover itself; it was the team collaboration. This was so challenging since as engineers we are so used to studying our own way to achieve good results through hard work and repetition. In other classes collaboration is frowned upon but in EG 397 it is promoted. We were tasked with using every group member’s strength to contribute to the overall goal of constructing the rover and then adding an additional attachment. It was interesting to think of new ideas with individuals that for the most part think differently to myself and having to hear what they had to say and try and meld our thoughts together to create a realistic idea. Another thing I love about Fundamental Design was that I was finally able to get hands-on engineering experience. I learned the basics of many new things in this class. I was taught how to solder, build custom circuit boards, design objects in CAD, create files for laser cutting, and 3D print. If I didn’t participate in this class, I would still not know how to do any of these tasks. I feel like this class is critical for preparing students for the next level and classes like senior design where there is an even greater emphasis on new ideas.” Ameer Jamal