Ideas for Engineering Course

I have basically gained the knowledge through FIRST of all my highschool’s engineering classes offer, courses such as CAD I and II are basically a waste of time after participating in FIRST for 3 years. I have talked to the engineering teacher and she has suggested a course called Engineering Graphics which involves inventor, but I am not sure to what detail (it could just be an introductory course), because I know the basics of creating parts and assemblies, so this could just be an easy A.

That being said I need your ideas for this independant study. Advancing to a college level course is not an option due to scheduling, so I need something to do for the class and I figured who would be able to tell me more about learning to be an engineer than the FIRST community. I would like to do something involving inventor, or solid works (although I don’t think the school has it) possibly learning more about parametric design…I’m totally open to suggestions, remember no idea is a bad idea.

Thanks for the help,

Is the program in PLTW (Project Lead the Way)?

I’m taking an engineering class (Intro to Engineering) and I find it a nice relaxing period to do whatever.
The class is kinda helpful because they at least teach you a few different design methods, but nothing you can’t learn in FIRST. And less than one year experience in FIRST, and I knew stuff the teacher doesn’t even know about.

If anything, take the class. Sure, it’s an easy A, but that’s about an hour a day devoted to messin around on Inventor, and a bonus hour during the build season to design the robot. And you never know, you might learn something new.

I guess there are no machine shop / wood shop / auto shop / electronics courses at your school and that you have already maxxed out on Physics, Math and Calculus courses?


The more Inventor/CAD experience the better, especially for college. At least one of your freshman engineering courses in college will be entirely based on CAD design.

I would say figure out a way to challenge yourself with something new in Inventor or grab a bunch of your teachers miscellaneous classroom materials and draw. Teachers don’t mind students who want to make up a library of CAD parts that other students could use in the future for assemblies!

I know this isn’t an actual school class, but you could defintely get some of what you want from the Solidworks Robotics Summer School program they have going on. Check out the ad on the front page of CD and the thread,

I’m sorry I didn’t clarify this better, I’m taking the easy A engineering class and an independant study course which is not part of PLTW, and I definitely will enjoy the extra hour. However I want to learn more, I just don’t know where to go from here.

I’m not sure if this is being sarcastic or not, haha, The school does not have any shop classes because of what we’ll call past behavioral issues, I don’t know details, but all my teachers advised against classes such as that anyway as they sometimes look like blow off courses. Plus we sort of took over the shop with robot stuff so now they don’t even have a classroom :smiley:

I’m in AP Calc and AP Physics right now, and dual enrolling next year for Calc II. Not much left in high school for me…

The practice of random drawing would be nice, but I’m not sure it would be very engaging, I’m looking to challenge myself as you said, but what I was hoping to get from the FIRST community is how the best way of doing this would be. What is the next step in inventor? What would be an interesting topic to study, my teacher is willing to let me do most anything.

I considered this, however my time to fill is the required time in school, I have plenty going on over the summer, and unfortunetly I don’t think I can make time for a class.

Thanks for your time.

Sounds like you are looking for a challenge. As I am from the area and know a little about your school/team, why don’t you do a complete design study for a system that your team may someday want to use.

I.E. do a complete parametric crab drive design using FIRST components. If you are doing AP physics you should have the background to complete spec out a system from component design, speed, wheel torque, and robot pushing power.
Personally I prefer 6WD bots, but having a well thought out crabdrive in your back pocket would be a great Ace in the hole. The big thing on this would be keeping ego in check should your design be great, but your team does not want to build it.

In college I did a design for a CVT transmission as an independent study. This included doing the stress calculations and tractive power transmission. Doing independent study is tough. As you have already realized you can get as much or as little out of it as you want. What area of engineering do you want to go into? Hope this helps.

Michael, See if your local community college has Calculus 2/3. Calculus 3 is sometimes called Vector Calculus or Multivariable Calculus. If you receive AP Physics credit, try an Engineering Statics class at a community college. You will be able to transfer the credit back to your high school if needed for graduation credit and use it for the college you will enter next year. However, always check with the college you plan to attend if they will accept transfer credit or AP credit. Your local community college or local technical/vocational school may run machine shop classes in their night time programs.

Another way is to take an AP English class, yes English, because if the college you are attending will accept AP English, then you can concentrate on you engineering courses freshman year. Sometimes an engineering college will accept AP humanities credit over AP science/math credit.
If you want to obtain a BS in an Engineering discipline, there are math courses you will have to take beyond Calculus. So the more math you can take the better - Statistics and Linear Algebra come to mind. Most engineers have to take computer science classes so be prepared.

Does your school offer an electronics class? Even mechanical engineers have to take an electrical engineering class. Electical engineering is quite calculus based, but labs are very practical and an electronics class would help. Also, some colleges offer online classes through their continuing education programs.

SolidWorks Robot Summer School is also a good option, especially you can investigate the analysis tools. Although this summer we will concentrate on 3D design and simple analysis with forces and displacement. I would run through the exercises on heat transfer, static and dynamic analysis, and design scenerios. This would show you how to simulate the physics behind the 3D model and to define the boundary conditions to a problem.

You are focused entirely on the design of the robot, how about learning about presentation, I know Inventor has Inventor Studio. How well do you know that? Or taking it a step further, learn 3d Studio and how you can interact with it. i know RUSH hasn’t had anyone that does animation since I left. I’d like to see that brought back. Maybe you could independent study that. I know RUSH has copies of 3ds that they get from FIRST so you could use those… Having a robot to show a sponsor is cool but having a 3d model to show sponsors over the internet is just as cool and slightly more environmentally friendly.

I know this isn’t exactly answering your question, but have you considered doing something non-robotics related? You might have fun taking a photography course or something. Just a thought.

If you want to do something productive, consider learning some linear algebra. Knowing how to do matrix row operations and compute eigenvalues will be very useful when you get to college. Knowing basic vector operations is a good skill set, as well. Be careful with self-study courses, however: I did a linear algebra self-study my senior year and had a terrible time getting myself to do work instead of just putter around the shop.

You can never have enough practice with any kind of CAD software. I had a lot of fun drawing my trombone in Inventor. You could pick something really intricate to draw that will take you a long time.

If you’re all CADed out, you could also start learning how to use MatLab (I think you can get a one-year license for ~$30). It’s an immensely powerful tool, and if you’ll be majoring in engineering or any of the hard sciences I can guarantee you’ll use it in college. It’s also a good skill to put on a resume; an engineering intern who can use MatLab effectively is orders of magnitude more useful than one who can’t. (If you’ll be majoring in math, like me, you could also start learning how to use Mathematica and/or Maple.) If you don’t already know some, knowing how to do at least a little C programming is also a good skill to have.

If your school has any advanced chemistry courses, you could take one of those. I took IBH Chemistry junior and senior year and had a blast. It was no small amount of work, but I learned a lot. I got a lot of interesting problem solving practice, and I learned a surprising amount of stuff that was directly applicable to FRC.

It is a shame that your school does not have any shop courses. I am at a bit of a loss to understand why you would see such advice as sarcastic, and at even more of a loss to comprehend how a teacher could recommend against taking a hands-on course where you improve your abilities working with materials, tools and technology.

I will just have to assume that what constitutes a “shop class” in your area is quite different than in ours, where a shop course is most definitely not one that would be considered a “blow off course”, nor one of the “easy A” type courses you are referring to. The majority of our robot build team is *expected *to be enrolled in a metal working, wood working, or electronics course in order to learn the skills required to build the robot.


This actually sounds really interesting, although the idea seems overwhelming and I’m not sure it’s within my ability, but I’m sure I could get some help. I’ll definitely consider this. I plan on doing into mechanical engineering.

I am taking Calc 2 and 3 at Oakland community college or Oakland University (depending on when it’s offered) next year, as for physics that is undecided because I may need to get in a graduation requirement and not have an open slot to take physics or any time outside of school. AP English classes, from what I’ve heard, are a lot more work than college language classes, that is the AP class is based more on literature, where a English class at an engineering college would be more business based, but for all I know this could be myth, that’s just what counselors have told me. English is also not my strong point and with an AP English class my grades would drop. The extent of our electronics classes is probably A+ cert which is rarely offered because of lack of interest. As for summer school as stated, unfortunetly I am busy, my problem is what to take in the school year.

Photos and me never seem to work well together…something about dropping a camera…Linear Algebra would fry my brain if combined with calc 2/3 and I would never dream of independant studying it. Although I definitely can see what you mean by you get out what you put in, which is why I’m looking for the perfect topic so I will actually want to put effort in (effort school :confused: who knew?) I’ve learned the basics of Maple, up to what I know how to do with math, and I’m enrolled in an introductory Java course right now, it’s quite different from what I’m used to but I’m not very far in yet so I’ll see how it goes. I took basic chemistry 2 years ago and haven’t yet recovered…it’s not my favorite subject, but I do have the option of AP chemistry, so I’ll consider it.

It seems like I want to go to where you are to take shop, unfortunetly we don’t have much to that extent here, not even anyone to teach the course. The counselor’s advice was that colleges typically see that as less important than say a calc class, and they are encouraging me to excel in more academic classes, not to say shop wouldn’t help me. They believe shop is more vocational. I apologize for thinking you were being sarcastic, I guess I just read it wrong, I meant no offense.

Great job taking Calculus 2 and 3. This will definitely prepare you for any Physics based class. Try to get a Physics class somewhere in the Fall. As far a AP English versus College English, this is college dependent. I went to a pretty theoretical engineering school and all engineering students were taking a english literature based class their freshman year. The best advice I can give you is look at the English class that is required by the colleges you are going to apply to. I did take AP English in High School but I didnt get a 5 so I had to take it over again in college. My college english class used the same book - lucky. Marie

I absoutely dreaded my freshman college english class. This summer I have to take the 3rd year writing class, lets hope its not too horrendous.

I have been trying to organize a CAD training course for my team this summer. The focus would be on transforming 3D models (which the team can already make quite well) into 2D shop drawings that would pass muster in a “real” machine shop. This seems to fit well into your questions regarding the “next step.” Here’s the intended curriculum:

1. Overview of the design process, from the back of an envelope to the finished part

2. Communication between designers, drafters, and fabricators
      a) How would a machinist fabricate a given component?  What information would he need from the drafters?
      b) How would a drafter create plans for a given component?  What information would he need from the designers?
      c) How would a designer design a component?  What information would he need from his customers/stakeholders?

3. 3D modeling in Autodesk Inventor
      a) "Basic to Intermediate" session
      b) "Intermediate to Advanced" session

4. Making shop drawings from 3D models
      a) What is a shop drawing and why is it important?
      b) Layout and appearance
      c) How to use the standard views (orthographic and isometric projections, auxiliary views, section views, etc)
      d) Dimensioning practices (including how to avoid overconstraining dimensions)
      e) Tolerances and precision, fabrication notes, material information, and other data
      f) Assembly & explosion drawings, cut sheets, inventories & material lists, and other advanced subjects