For my STEP Signature Project I researched, designed, and built a coffee table. Through the use of technical design, machining, welding, and other general engineering I was able to complete this project.
Throughout the project I gained a lot of invaluable experience, which has transformed my view on engineering projects and honed my skills for the future. Taking a project from the start and seeing it through to the finish was more difficult than many other ventures in my life, but the reward of self-accomplishment in the end was worth the effort. Seeing how many different aspects of my education intertwined into one gave me a true appreciation for how academics translate into real world success. On a more personal side this project changed how I viewed my own abilities. Before this project I was unsure I could handle myself outside the classroom, however, now I have physical proof I can build a real world project if I put my mind to it. Lastly, I found out how important perseverance is in long-term projects. Despite various setbacks suffered throughout, I was able to the task I set before myself. Of course how these changes and realizations came about is almost, if not more, important.
In the beginning of the process I learned a great deal about planning a budget and how to engineer a project to fit within those constraints. With only a limited amount of money and resources available I had to challenge myself to think through problems creatively and thoroughly to find the most effective answers. Researching the tools I would need, the best prices, and getting them in time for my project presented a challenge I was not expecting to be so difficult when I started. Simultaneously I was drafting the technical drawings and trying to balance the budget I had for materials with the base and top design. In industry I can see the connection to the critical importance communication would play in correctly finishing a project.
Once materials and tools were in and designs were drawn I was ready to start manufacturing my table. I set up and began testing my welder to dial in the parameters I would need to make clean welds for the base. During this time I was learning how troubleshoot mechanical issues that would pop up. Then one major problem delayed my project timeline by over a week. I was going to use an older miter saw to cut the metal tube. In order to do this I had to replace the wood blade with one designed to cut metal. Unfortunately while doing this I forgot the bolt holding it on was reverse threaded, so when I attempted to unscrew it I sheared the head off the bolt. It seemed like a quick trip to the hardware store would fix this issue, but the bolt was an old metric one and, as mentioned before, reverse threaded, making it extremely difficult to find. Issues such as this are events I would need to plan for in the future when meeting deadlines in the business world.
Finally, I came to the conclusion of my project. Looking back on all the time and work I had invested into doing this project well, and seeing the end result, gave me a great deal of pride. To hear people compliment the craftsmanship has shown me I might be more ready for my future than I had thought before this summer. One side effect which I greatly appreciated was the time I was able to spend with my father. As an engineer himself he helped oversee some of the project. It created a deeper bond between us I was not expecting to find at the beginning. All of these events have shown how they transformed me, but the most important part of this project is how it affected my life.
Extrapolating this smaller project to much larger ones, I have gained an understanding of professional projects which will be the cornerstone of project based work when my industry career begins. Another important factor for the future is that this project becomes an excellent talking point for future interviews. Also, as a result of one project, I will try to do more complex projects in the future building a better and better resume. Standing out amongst competitors is crucial for securing a position after college. In academics this project has shown me the deep underlying connections between classwork and the outside world. Finally, as a more personal accomplishment it gives me another way in which I can spend more time with my father with future projects.