The Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 4th Annual Capstone Design Competition (MAE162D/E) was held on June 13, 2014 and winning teams received plaques in recognition of their excellent design. This year’s senior mechanical engineering design project was an “Autonomous Material Transporter.” The challenge to the students was to build a 11 x 11 x 11 inch electromechanical device, which can locate a billiard ball randomly placed on a 48 x 48 inch platform, approach and retrieve the ball, and then find the entrance to a 16 inch wide ramp and navigate the ramp with two inclines and three 90o bends and finally deliver it into a collection bin at the end of the path. After delivering the billiard ball the device has to return down the ramp back to the starting platform. The entire process had to be autonomous, except for pushing a start button on the device. Winning scored depended on the number of fully autonomously delivered billiard balls, within the allowable time span of 5 minutes.
The first prize went to Team-14, whose vehicle delivered 5 balls, the second prize went to Team-15 with 4 deliveries, and the third prize winner was Team-13 with a count of 3 billiard balls.
The MAE162D/E Capstone Design course spans over two quarters. In the first quarter, students are provided with tools to complete the design of device (CAD software, FEM-analysis, and hands-on feedback & control hardware). In the second quarter, students focus on fabrication, programming feedback & control, and ultimately demonstrate and testing/evaluation of their device. This sequence of design activities exposes students to a complete cycle of design of a product in the context of engineering, starting with a need-statement, concept development, analysis of the product, procurement of parts and components, machining, fabrication and assembly, and testing and evaluating whether specific design requirements were fulfilled.
In addition this course introduce students to mechatronics, the combination of electronics with mechanical devices, which is critical for engineering product development. Industry is very interested in students who’ve taken our hands-on design course MAE-162D/E, because this course provides the valuable hands-on learning experience sought after by many companies. The sequence also encourages teamwork in design, fabrication, and resource management, written documentation, and oral presentations. Because the students are grouped into 5-member teams, the course also encourages camaraderie and cooperation, all of which are essential for a successful career.
Leading the charge for this year sequence (MAE162D/E) was Professor Robert Shaefer, who taught the course with two other co-instructors, Dr. Jason Warren, and Prof C. J. Kim. Instruction for the first term focused on conceptual design and analysis, including mechanical component design and mechatronics. Lab work included CAD (computer-aided design), FEM analysis, Motion studies, Mechatronics and conceptual designs. Students began designing their projects in 162D in their CAD and realized it in 162E. Students were taught fundamentals of machining before fabrication. Project demonstration and finally competition with their fellow classmates were held during the last week of the Spring Quarter, 2014.
The 2014 class had 103 students who worked in groups of five or six students throughout the two course series. Each of the 21 teams were given a control board (courtesy of National Instruments) and a budget of $375 to design and build their autonomous vehicle. Students were given a set of high level design requirements that the design needed to fulfill, which included discovery of the billiard ball, retrieval of the ball, navigation up a wooden ramp with slopes and turns, to transport and unload at least 1 ball autonomously. In addition, strict design prerequisites like how the vehicle should be powered (only by 13 batteries), device dimensions, its movement along the pathway, and the limited budget. Students were also provided with a detailed description of the pathway (starting platform, two inclined ramps and three 90o smooth turns).
The allotted time during competition was 5 minutes and the total number of delivered billiard balls for teams on competition minus all penalties incurred (i.e. accidentally or deliberately touching/assisting of the device during the 5-minute race). In the end, the winning team delivered 5 balls, the second best was 4, and the third delivered 3 billiard balls.
Students enjoyed the competition element of the course, because it gives motivation to the students to produce the best vehicle. It brings the students’ spirits into the project and that desire to be the best helps in motivating students to give their best.
This year, we needed to give special acknowledgments and gratitude to the team of Teachers Assistants Chris Kang, Rashid Yasin, Sandeep Rai, and Grant Cavalier, without whose dedication, extraordinary hard work and eagerness to teach students mechatronics, students might not have been able to create this many functional and innovative devices (all 21 teams succeeded).
This was the fourth year of the capstone design competition, which is becoming a year-end tradition in the UCLA Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.