My STEP project was to design and create my own 3D-printable robotic hand. This involved lots of designing and planning to construct a 3D-printable design using SolidWorks software. It also involved plenty of time familiarizing myself with Simplify3D, a 3D printing software and Arduino, the programming language I used for the robotic hand. To create the robotic hand, I only used PLA plastic, fishing line, and servo motors. At the the time of this post, I have completed a working finger, which I plan on adjusting before I create a full robotic hand this summer. I also hope to use motion capture software to have the robotic hand mimic my movements.
By completing my STEP experience, I gained valuable experience into running my own project and working on a long term goal in an engineering project. My project was an unusual research project, as it was an exploration to find the best design for a cheap and easy to make robotic hand that is still not fully finished. Even so, I have learned so much from this extraordinary experience. The main lesson that I learned was how to better deal with the issues of managing my own project. These include setting due dates, planning the best design with multiple conflicting parts, and considering every option. Completing this project assured me that I can do something like this in a professional setting. Especially with more motivation and more resources, I would be able and very happy to run projects such as this one in a future career.
All of the issues that I came across broke into two main categories: caused by myself or by the nature of engineering projects. With a long term project, it was hard to motivate myself to work on it instead of the more pressing issues in my life like schoolwork. In addition to this, I had trouble putting together all my thoughts to make a final design. In classes, we are often guided to a final design, but in my project I had to come up with all of the ideas and how they worked together myself. This was difficult, as I often found myself with two great ideas that did not work together and so I had to create a new design. For example, I wanted to have the wrist mounted on a servo, but this caused issues with running wires through the wrist. I solved this problem by designing the wrist so that it was actually closer to the elbow, preventing the turning of the wrist from decreasing the motor’s strength or getting in the way of the wires’ paths.
My project, while difficult at times, was actually quite enjoyable. The planning phase was definitely fun, although time consuming. It gave me a reason to do research into multiple different 3D printers, other designs for biomimetic hands, and similar projects. I rarely do this kind of research, but it was actually a lot of fun. Furthermore as I started putting together a design, it got more and more exciting as the pieces started coming together into the final project. The sense of achievement that I got from working on this project will make it way more likely for me to do other projects like this one in the future.
Actually completing the design and having a physical, working model of a finger also had a big impact on me. Not only had I spent a lot of my time on this project, but it had actually worked. This project was a huge goal for me, and I was really hoping that my design would work, as I had not tested any parts before I assembled all of it. I’ve completed large projects before, but this one was completely independent. It helped reassure me that I can do large, dedicated projects like this and I am motivated to do more in my free time.
Furthermore, the completed and working design that I presented last month reassured me of my choice in major. I am a Biomedical Engineering major, which is a highly specific field of engineering and one with fewer large companies searching for new workers. While I have a lot of prospective future careers, my main ones are prosthetics and biomimetic robotics. Having completed the design for a robotic hand, I am confident that I would be a desirable potential worker for companies working in those fields because I have a very unique and applicable experience. While helping me towards a career, my project also showed me that I enjoy this type of work, which reassures me that I chose the right major.
My STEP experience had a significant impact on me. Not only was it an incredibly enjoyable project, but it was very fulfilling. I gained invaluable experience in the field I want to work in after college. This experience will help me in the pursuit of a career. It also showed me what I can do. A lot of the time I have ideas for what projects I can take on, but then they usually don’t happen for one reason or another. This project showed me that I can do a lot with some dedication. I am very thankful for the chance to have had this experience as it has definitely changed me fore the better.