5 Tips for Beginning Your Student Design Project

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Florida Tech provides you with a variety of opportunities to be a part of a team and to work on projects. However, there is one large project that will typically define the end of an engineering undergraduate degree: student design. Student design projects bring together groups of individuals to unite them around one goal. For some this is their first project, and for others this is one in a line of projects. For engineering students of all backgrounds and disciplines, I hope to bring you five tips on how to set your team up for success.

1. Pick a Realistic Topic

You only get a year, or, if you’re lucky, a year and a half to plan, design and complete your project. All too often there are teams that will plan to a do a large scale project that won’t fit into the timeline of student design. One very important rule of the class is that you have to accomplish what you set as your goal(s). If you don’t, you will start to lose letter grades, so plan smart. Make sure your goals are attainable for the time frame and the number of people you have working on the team.

2. Leaders Come from Unexpected Places

One of the first tasks each team will face is choosing a team lead. When you are looking at the members of your team, don’t just look for the person with the most extra curricular activities. If someone is already leading an organization, your team’s best option is to not choose someone who will have to divide their attention. You do want someone with experience in project leading. On rare occasions, you will find the perfect candidate. A team member with experience, little outside commitment and motivation.

Team Vulcan Senior Design Showcase 2015

Team Vulcan Student Design Showcase 2015

3.  Set Group Boundaries

You may be good friends with your group members. Realize that you will be seeing a lot of the people on your team for the rest of your undergraduate career. Boundaries are essential. Set times that you can text each other about the project, like from 10 am to 7 pm. After or before those hours, you can should have time to talk about other parts of your lives. Save some time for your personal selves. This project should not be your entire life.

4. Have Senior Design Team Bonding

Set aside some time to spend with your team that doesn’t revolve around your project. Have lunch together without talking about design. If you set some time aside to become friends with the people you work with, you will be more likely to hold each other accountable. You’ll also be more likely to help each other out when someone is struggling. This is also a good way to avoid gossip and drama that might start from teams that you are in.

5. Use Your Electives Wisely

There are two courses that count as technical electives that I would recommend to anyone interested in helping to plan out a senior design project. Project Engineering was an elective that I tool with Professor Fabregas. During this class I learned how to properly define, plan and leave room for error in a project. Even if just one person on the team can take this elective, your team will have an advantage,

The other elective that I think would also be helpful for a team is System Requirements, also taught by Professor Fabregas. This class teaches you how to properly define a project, and how to go about choosing your project topic in an appropriate manor. If you have one person from your team in each of these classes, your team will be able to set yourselves up for success.

Avoid being that team scrambling at the end to make a design worth of the Student Design Showcase, and bring help yourselves to avoid mistakes that have already been made for you.

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About Author

Gabby received her Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Communication at Florida Tech. She is now working on her Systems Engineering master’s degree. She works on campus as a Resident Director in the Residential Quad. Gabby really enjoys art whether its painting, sculpting, or photography, but her favorite thing is combining her two interests, engineering and art!

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