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Entry #3 BOO! Its Halloween!

This last week we completed our mini projects in which we designed and built animatronics that fit within the Halloween theme. We had just over a month to complete our projects and our group hit the ground running. Very quickly we had a general design of our main mechanism done and approved by the group, and not too long after this we had an approved CAD model of the design.

Our design was for a witches cauldron that had decorations that would move up and down above the top of the cauldron. Around these moving parts we would have a witch on a track racing around the cauldron. Our idea was to have an axel+cam system that would cause a vertical stick to move up and down as the height of the edge of the cam changes. The vertical sticks would be supported on all sides and the whole thing would be suspended inside of our 16" plastic witches cauldron. We would code a motor to move the center axel at the push of a button and our witch would also be moved by this center axel. The witch would be pulled by a string that was being spooled onto a wheel placed on the axel.

We got our design of the main components working in that first week. We were really proud of our efficiency and of how ahead of the game we were compared to the rest of the class. Then after a few hiccups here and there, we got our mechanism mounted to the inside of our cauldron and the supports strung in a grid like shape across the top. We got the support sleeves attached and the vertical guides with the followers on top of the cams and all we had left to do was attach our decorations and code the motor. We completed our project two days before it was due, and were the only group that weren't scrambling to finish in time. One more thing that went well, in addition to our timing and punctuality was our communication. Throughout our project we were in constant communication with the rest of the group and everyone knew what was going on and what they were supposed to be doing. Our workers knew what they were doing, and those working on the presentations or otherwise occupied knew what was going on with the building. The presenters knew what they were doing, and the builders likewise knew what the presenters were doing. We worked as a team and everyone knew how to help when called upon.

One thing that could have gone better was our planning. About halfway through the project we realized that the witch/rail part of our project would not be possible to accomplish within our time frame. There were too many unknowns for our group to be able to accomplish two different complicated systems within our timeframe. If we had maybe delegated workloads better or started working on this component from the beginning, we might have gotten it done in time, but we didn't so therefore we scrapped the witch idea completely. Additionally, at one point near the end of the project we ran into an issue with mounting the motor once our fishing line support grid was strung. We didn't have nearly enough space to mount the motor and screw it in as we should have to make it easy, so at the end of our project instead of the satisfying "last puzzle piece" feeling it should have been to put everything together, it felt more like we were octopi trying to unscrew a jar from the inside. While I love octopi and wish everyday that I could be one just to spend my days swimming in the ocean being an octopus, I don't really want to replicate this experience. So, with this in mind the main piece of advice I would give future capstone project me would be: PLAN AHEAD!

On the capstone project I hope to be able to map our workload ahead of time so that we can outline any potential snags in our plan. Hopefully we would be able to see a challenge such as the web and the motor before we run into into it. We would hopefully also be able to plan for solving the secondary or tertiary aspects to our design before we run out of time for those pieces.

All in all, I do believe that our project was a success and defiantly was a blast to complete.

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