STEP Reporting Back

Name:  Emmanuel Adu

Type of Project: – Creative Endeavor 

  • Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

For my STEP Signature project, I was part of a four-person team tasked with developing the ADAS or Advanced Drivers Assistance Unit for the EcoCAR 3 competition.  ADAS are systems in place that assists the driver in the driving process.  Commonly this is cameras placed behind the vehicle that activates when the vehicle is backing up, giving the driver further visual assistance. The EcoCAR competition is a four-year competition where students from different majors, grade levels, and universities in the United States are tasked with redesigning a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro to improve its efficiency while also adding emerging automotive technology.  For the later parts of my Signature Project, I worked with the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) a product development, design, commercialization port at the University that pairs students with professional engineers to complete real projects for consumers like Honda, GM and more.

  • What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

The biggest transformation for me while completing my STEP Signature Project was my ability to learn new material at a faster pace and the increased attention I now pay to the smallest details.  My project was very technical, I had to learn how to do things that I was not comfortable doing such as computer programming and 3D CAD designing.  At first, I was confused, there were many times when I thought it would be simply impossible for me to learn how to code or design.  Eventually, I started asking questions, looking up tutorial videos, reading books, and in time everything started to make sense.  I was tasked with several high budget design projects; this experience taught me the importance of detail orientation.  A miss calculation in my CAD design could lead to a missed deadline or the entire item breaking down.

  • What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

Studying Aerospace Engineering, computer programming had always been a skill that I lacked; I would even say I was afraid of programming due to the learning curve that is required.  I knew what I was getting into, my first team meeting everyone was either computer science or electrical engineering, they all had sufficient experience coding, and my goal was to learn as much as possible from them.  My first team meeting with the ADAS team was early January, my team had already made the ADAS code with MATLAB, a language I was familiar with but hated and used in several classes.  They wanted to transfer the MATLAB code to Python because Python was more industry-friendly than MATLAB, and didn’t have nearly as many troubleshooting.  This was a great opportunity because I was able to learn the Python language along with my team.  My role specifically involved calibrating the front camera to the point where it recognized the back of sedan style vehicles, if the car was about to get in a collision, it would assist the driver in slowing down.  I was introduced to Open Source programming by my team. ‘Open Source’ is an internet community where anyone can go to learn how to code, solve coding issues, or build on things that have already been code.  I particularly went to https://opencv.org/ and https://opensource.google.com to get assistance whenever I got stuck.  These community blogs and websites helped me substantially in my coding progress.

At CDME I was paired with Dr. Ko, an injection molding expert.  Injection molding is the process of creating plastic parts with molten thermoplastic polymers that enter an injection molding machine and then forms into a plastic part as it leaves the machine.  This is an effective method of mass producing many plastic parts. Prior to working with Dr. Ko, I had zero knowledge of injection molding and very little knowledge of 3D designing, to make it worst designing a mold for injection molding not only required good 3D design skills but also required the ability to visualize the flow of fluid as it entered the mold, design engineers typically spent their entire careers perfecting this skill.  Similarly to how I learned how to code, I started reading articles, then watched videos, and eventually had to buy a textbook.  After some time I began to enjoy designing molds or running the injection molding machine, it was a huge learning curve but I was able to do it.

  • Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

My view of learning has been transformed ever since my signature project.  I have come to a realization that when learning a new subject that is different from what I am used to, sometimes the biggest obstacle isn’t the difficulty associated with the subject but the fear of my inability to learn that subject.  This realization has had a very significant impact in my life; I now believe there is nothing I can’t learn.