FORM IN THE PRESENCE OF FAILURE (P4T3)

Ambition is a dangerous thing. An attempt at innovation, far reaching in all ways is prone to failure when production is spread thin. The battleship project was a trial for my group. Not because the content of the challenge was misunderstood, but because our ambition took the driver's seat, pushing execution to the sidelines. We were too focused on developing neat ideas, rather than producing a project that will work successfully with the time allotted. Our group saw the creation and replacement of many different plans for our mechanical functions. These functions being x rotation, y elevation, fire code, barrel supports and a pulley system later on.

When the project was announced, we planned to produce a cannon that elevated vis a vis strut slots at different angles in an arc; the system would be similar to a protractor with measurements at 15, 30, 45, 60, and 75 degrees, each with a gap wide enough to fit a wooden rod that would keep the barrel held up. The base of our cannon would have these protractor designs on either flank, so the rod would hold the barrel and air canister even. Upon realization that this was a popular concept among other groups, we went back to the drawing board. Every student and group in this engineering program thinks differently, and we wanted to make sure this was expressed well. We thought the production of a mundane product would be counterintuitive, since this is a design class after all.

Shortly following our development of a standard barrel brace that would be light on timber, we got to work on our cannon's body. Using the miter saw, we sliced the two and one inch PVC pipes into the necessary lengths. We cut the smaller sections first to make sure we had a long enough piece to hold onto while cutting the rest.

After cleaning the PVC sections with pressurized air, we primed the bushings and couplings for their merger. Using PVC cement, we joined the elbow sections to the barrels and pressure valve unit, ensuring a snug fit with lots of Teflon tape.

The next step was the construction of the pressure valve itself. We cut the bicycle tire valve into and drilled a hole small enough to fit it through the air canister. However, we drilled a few inches too far from the lip of the PVC, so it wasn't possible to maneuver the valve into the hole. We cut another pipe, and made sure our measurements were correct on our second attempt.

After capping the pressurized air section of the barrel, we began work on the rotation and elevation mechanics. We wanted to innovate with our ideas beyond the norm. We didn't want to put our name on a tired idea that every group was capable of. Our next plan was inspired by the x,y,z, axis seen on Onshape and other CAD programs. We thought of a free spinning disc within a circular plate. Each plate would be double layered, locking together but allowing fluid movement. After drafting our designs and finding proposed measurements, we looked to our options for elevation controls. Drawing from our VEX project from last year, a pulley system seemed like the option we wanted to attempt. Designing a mechanism like this would be unique in form and function, since we saw none of the other groups producing something like this. Technical sketches of our new plan came quickly. Each day we drew the proposed design, revising slightly over time: adding new structural components, revising angles, rethinking designs.

Eventually, the project became a complicated mess. Our deadline was coming closer and closer, we doubted our ability to live up to our ambition. A pulley system, mobile plate and long barrel brace pieces that couldn't laser cut added to the pressure. With weeks left, we struggled to prioritize. A few class periods were wasted trying to cut barrel braces on the laser, which did not have enough power to slice through the far edges of the pieces.

Trying to assemble the barrel, the pressurized tank fell off of the work table, cracking. When constructed, the rotation system barely allowed movement. The seesaw-esque rocking mechanism was constricted and only allowed 5 degrees of elevation. At this point, issues were abound, and enthusiasm was low. With midterms approaching, our vision became clouded. Talks of "dropping the class" became more popular at my home. I won't speak for my team, but I realized within myself that this class is not the one for me. I lack the enthusiasm and drive I experience when tackling a video or writing project in English, or an essay in Spanish. I feel immense amounts of stress just from being in the class. And although it is good to rise above and persevere in the face of stress, I didn't feel challenged from the projects. I felt miserable. With my visual-linguistic outlook on projects and life itself, I think my skills are not as useful as a gearhead or aspiring carpenter. With our Process and Design of Engineering projects being so utilitarian and function focused, my skills with form and aesthetics fall by the wayside. I understand how to make a project look pretty, but I lack the knowledge to get that project functional in the first place. The latter being more important in the grading process. To develop practical designs, I found myself racking my brain for ideas. Said ideas were usually far fetched and grossly improbable.

However, these low thoughts eventually died out. With the dawn of a new marking period, we developed new ideas and new solutions. My fellow members spent many hours after school correcting our flawed designs. The cannon and it's rotation kit saw a complete redesign, yet still keeping our fundamentals in place. We scrapped our pulley system for a friction seesaw, and cut new segments on the ShopBot.

Created By
C McDaniel
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