Senior Design Projects

I’m in the process of figuring out what project I want to do for my mechanical engineering senior design project at NDSU. Because NDSU’s mechanical engineering program has grown so much in recent years, they are very willing to take project ideas. NDSU is always looking for sponsors to partner with for senior design projects. I had the idea to get a senior design project sponsored by an FRC team. The team would define the scope of the project and provide the funding for the project.

Has anybody else ever done something like this? What did you do for your senior design project? What would make a good FRC related senior design project?

An alum from 234 was on this team–it’s a snow blower robot. There are some AM parts on it.

Not FRC specifically, but it’s quite common for competition teams to be a senior design project at Rose-Hulman. I’m working on the Shell EcoMarathon competition as mine, and I know that there at least two other groups (Formula SAE, ASME Human Powered Vehicle) doing the same. Here, funding comes from the team budget, and the “client” for the senior design project is typically the faculty adviser of the competition team.

For FRC specific stuff, there is the classic 254/968 gearbox that was a Cal Poly Pomona senior design project.

To help answer the question, what facet of mechanical engineering are you aiming towards focusing this project in? Mechatronics, statics/structural engineering, control theory, materials, etc are all fields that would be applicable since Mechanical Engineering is so broad.

Those are some awesome examples! I’m not 100% sure what area I’d like to focus in. My initial thought was building a swerve drive and putting some difficult design constraints on the project (<5 lb modules, shifting, easy implementation etc.). Implementing carbon fiber in FRC components would be really interesting as well.

Yeah, similarly the Baja team sponsored a senior design project here. They designed a shifting gearbox for their car. I know at other universities, project team work is commonly used as senior design credit. So it’s definitely something you should able to do, although I don’t know that most FRC teams would be able to find the money to fund it.

Being as it’s an engineering project, make sure you are solving an identifiable real-world problem, not just creating a neat thing. Outside of a demo or a competition, it’s rather difficult to find a problem that is solved by a lightweight swerve drive that could not also be met with omni or mecanum, or that would be better met by an automated x/y/theta table.

I’m not terribly sure why an engineering project necessitates it to be something directly applicable to the real world, especially since with a senior design project we’re talking about the academic world.

I think perhaps a better suggestion would be to make sure you’re working with your advisor to ensure that the project will meet your institution’s standards for senior projects, which it sounds like Ryan is.

Also, a philosophical aside, I have somewhat of a difficult time suggesting people not create “neat things” as opposed to only creating things that solve problems that are visible now. For sure in industry, it’s necessary for companies to operate that way, but in college, which is an excellent time to try new things and expand one’s horizons, I can’t really see it.

Apologies for soapboxing. Ryan, I wish you the best of luck in your senior design project. It sounds like an excellent idea to at least pursue, given your interests.

How about doing rigorous, methodical testing of the 775Pro motor in drivetrains? We know the 775Pros aren’t as rugged as CIMs, but can they be used to power a drivetrain that lasts a season without replacing drive motors every other match? And then give data about how many motors, what gearing, what programming, and all that good stuff. I think that’d make for a fantastic but challenging project that would really benefit the entire FRC community.

OK, if a “neat thing” meet’s your customer’s (professor/engineering department) needs, then carry on. Everything I remember hearing from engineering students when I was in college, reinforced by a few current engineering students (team alumni for the most part) seem to stress that an engineering project should fill a real need. Maybe it’s just a Louisiana state colleges thing.

Vex dyno tested all the standard FRC motors and enough data is there to determine this fairly easily.

Personally… I think you have enough inspection experience sticking your head in robots to have a feel for something more teams have trouble with. Sure, swerve is cool and an interesting engineering problem, but if your goal is to benefit teams, go for the 90% of teams, not the 10% (or less) that will attempt swerve in the next few years!

I probably have a slightly orthogonal view of engineering to yours, since I’m not a “real” engineer (I’m a computer science guy). From that perspective, I’ve always seen a value in pushing what one thinks is possible from oneself. I suppose I see innovation as a key part of it, and sometimes that means pushing the boundaries of what might be possible without knowing what the gains might be.

As in many things, my opinions on this subject aren’t entirely formed yet. I can see how my ideas might seem a bit odd or immature to you, given your perhaps more extensive experience.

Love this tack on it. Of course, perhaps the greater challenge is figuring out how to help those teams benefit from your work.

This is great advice Jon, thanks! I’m certain I can think of something that will benefit more teams!

Thanks for the input as well Nick!

It’s just so amazing to think of how products have come up to serve the FIRST community over the years. There never used to be gear boxes, drive trains, or chassis designed for FIRST robots. Achieving the minimum robot design is more accessible than ever, and the goal for anyone looking to improve things should be to improve the minimum capabilities for teams!

For your design project you could look into making motor driven linear movement more accessible to FRC teams. From what I know of, most forms of motor driven linear movement are out of the reach of most FRC teams. DART Linear actuators are really expensive, and belts and lead screws are somewhat difficult to work with. I’ve seen lots of hypothetical designs for alternate mechanisms, and I think it’d be really cool and beneficial if you could make an alternative motor driven linear actuator that is affordable for most FRC teams and can hold up against the rigor of an FRC match.

Some time ago there was a post about someone building an UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) that shoots airsoft pellets on the FRC Subreddit
It looks like a pretty cool idea that I personally would be all over doing

The NASA Lunabotics Competition (now martian) is one of the closest experiences to FRC I could find in a senior project. Lunar mining is not easy, and full autonomy is even harder. I competed with a team of eight individuals on some insanely tight constraints.

This was our monstrosity. It was the first rover from my university to be successful in competition at mining and depositing lunar simulants.

Very cool design! Bison Robotics is actually competing in the NASA Robotics Mining Competition already. I would agree that it’s a great next-level competition from FRC. As per Bison Robotics’ policy, I won’t be able to do this competition as a senior design project, but it’s a great suggestion!

The one FIRST-specific senior design project that stuck out to me is the 254/968 2007 super-duper-lightweight 2-speed.