Deterministic Design: Play 


An engineer or a team with focus can follow a natural progression of events and they will likely be successful. A large part of the process will require the engineers to fully immerse themselves in the development of the solution. In the case of a mechanical problem to be solved, this often means a lot of physical play. In the case of a software problem to be solved, virtual play rules! In all cases, just as we learned as children by playing, playing continues to be a very important part of the adult learning process. 


• Playing with problems and available resources enabled humans’ brains to evolve. Play involves all the senses, and as they send signals to our brains, our bio neural nets are activated, and the ideas begin to flow: 


• Look at the problem and resources available to you:


 • Create mental 3D images and movies of the problem and manipulate them in your mind so your bio neural net can work on solutions while you do the laundry.


 • Touch the parts of problem and resources available to you: 


• The weight and size and feel of the physical elements enters your neural net through your fingers and you become one with the hardware so you can better imagine the actual physical response of the system. 


• Listen to the sounds that are associated with the problem and the resources:


 • Patterns in sound often give rise to identifying the true performance of a system. 


• Smell the problem and resources to build a better actual bio neural virtual net model of the challenge. 


• Taste victory (or the resources if this is a food-based challenge) by imagining your solution is the one that wins! 


• Sketching the problem and possible solution strategies and concepts is how we communicate with others, including ourselves: 


• Sketch the problem so you can look at it from different perspectives.


 • Sketch possible solution strategies and concepts so you can tape them to the wall and scan them all simultaneously and search for strengths and weaknesses. 


• Modeling the problem and possible solution strategies and concepts allows you to better play and develop and evolve solutions: 


• Simple physical models allow you to better play with the system and they often help to identify the system’s most sensitive parameters. 


• Analytical models can allow you to identify the most sensitive parameters of the problem and help guide your solution path:


 • Analytical models can identify equine orientation BEFORE you hitch your wagon to them (and then try to beat them to move). 


• Analytical models can enable you to optimize your solution to minimize cost and effort.


 • Analytical models allow others to understand your intent. 


• Detailing the solution before you build can help identify minute yet critical features that may otherwise cause failure: 


• Bolt holes should be drawn so you can envision how the system will be assembled. 


• Every little chamfer need not be put in if you are creating a bench level prototype.


 • Building and testing your solution is the physical realization of all that you have worked so hard to achieve: 


• Like ourselves, most things have to evolve, so finish early and be your own toughest customer! 


• If you were continually assessing risk and planning countermeasures, if tests reveal a problem, you will be more likely to recover. 


Following pages will systematically describe a design process that can be a useful catalyst to help you develop your ideas. 


Play with the contest table and the kit parts. Sketch the different operating conditions of the table and animate them in your mind to see what might be most easily exploited. Make a solid model of the table and collect solid models of the kit parts. Use the solid model of the table to acquire mass and inertia properties and combine these with the power of the motors to get an idea of what might be achievable in the allotted contest time. Create some simple physical models that allow you to better play with the table and to help you better identify scoring opportunities and develop elegant strategies. Think ahead about how much detail will be required to realize your strategies, and determine if you have the resources to actually build and then test your solution. Update your web page (as you should do every time you have a significant advance. No more reminders will be given; you all are big geeks now). 







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