Friday, December 27, 2013

No Breaks on Break

While on break, the class has come back in for a full day of work. The class started their morning at 9am and each group gave their 2 week progress report presentation. We used these presentations as a dry-run for our midyear presentation on January 14th. Working all together in the school allows for intergroup communication that would be harder to achieve at home. The other reason to work in the school is for the use of the laser cutter and CNC mill. However, due to a computer malfunction, the machines are not connecting to a computer rendering them useless for today.
Despite this, the class has made good progress and we might have even come up with our product name! After break, it's only two weeks until the working prototype, so until then, it's nose to the grindstone! Now back to work!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Presidential Address

These last few months have been nothing short of difficult for the Saratoga InvenTeam. The class has faced challenges and setbacks nearly weekly as we strive to complete our printer by the end of the year. From botched stepper motor drivers, to shoddily made wooden mockups, our lows have been down there. However, we have had our fair share of achievements: the class has programmed the stepper motor, completed part of an amazing graphical user interface (GUI), created templates for ease of printing with small part, built a sturdily made second prototype, and completed resin testing.

My job as Project Manager entails delegating work, motivating students, devising a way to hold people to what they say they will complete, as well as providing an image, keeping the class on track, and keeping the class working efficiently. We’ve recently set about a new approach to increasing productivity to have students own up to what they have accomplished, letting them feel proud when they’ve completed outstanding work. Each group has to face the class in two week presentations, and “create” some new motivation as they stand in front of their peers and explain their progress. It goes without saying, not having much to show for these presentations could prove to be slightly embarrassing. Also, sitting down with students on an every-other week basis to create goals, has also contributed to our success as we move forward.

The next few months won’t be easy, with a laundry list of tasks to complete. We still have to get the slicing working for the .stl files, create an aesthetically pleasing design, and market our product to the public, but I’m positive the class has what it takes to come out in June with a product that we are proud to stand behind.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Stepper Motor is Working!

At long last, the stepper motor is finally working!  Using the new driver that came in, we were able to have the motor successfully spin at regular intervals.  Our work day will be spent improving this, hopefully implementing microstepping and the z-table if possible.  We've also been busy testing out each of the sensors that we will be using.  The infrared sensor was tested the most thoroughly, and the temperature sensor also works as expected.  We were able to complete some testing with how the resin affects the infrared sensor, but we need to do more to obtain actual data. We are very happy with our work and feel that we at a good location right before the break, and hopefully we can continue to be productive even outside of school.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Code for Kids

Throughout the month of December, the Elementary Engineering group has been working to further develop the programs that we have instated in the local elementary schools.

In Geyser Road Elementary School, the students have been working on using the LEGO WeDo programming to make their creations come to life. To help the students bridge the hardware and software aspects of LEGO Engineering, we created physical blocks to represent the blocks on the program. These blocks were laser cut out of Lexan and engraved with the name/ function of the block. They were then spraypainted the same color as the blocks that they represent in the program and stickered with the image of the block that appears in the program. Theses blocks really helped the students to make their “programming sentences” and the students enjoyed automating their LEGO Legs so to kick a ball into the goal! This Pilot is becoming a true success!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Beagle Bites Back

Currently, half of the programming team is working in collaboration with the electronics team in order to getting the stepper motor working with our program. We have run into several problems, but now we have narrowed it down the possible causes for glitches and are working on fixing it. One major change that we have decided to make is that we are now using an Arduino board instead of a Beaglebone. Recently, the Beaglebone has been temperamental about working, so we think this switch will help us complete our goals much faster. The rest of the team is working on how process the code to process what the consumer wants to make, and turn that into the actual printed object. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bookfair Fundraiser

Come one come all to the EDD Book fair at  the Saratoga Barnes and Noble, this Sunday, 11/15, to help support the production of our 3D Printer! For any purchases make on site that day, 15% of the profits will be donated directly the Engineering Design and Development class of 2014 to aid in our continuation of our 3D DLP Printer. A few of our students are also musically talented and will be playing throughout the day and more of our students will be around and would love to talk about our project! It's the perfect environment and time to get some holiday shopping done.

Can't attend? Not a problem. If you order online at any time from 12/15-12/20 and use the Bookfair ID 11232345 at the checkout, we will still get 15% of the purchase!  
This is a great cause to help before the holiday season as we rapidly approach our prototype deadline of January 14th. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

3D Makeover

Today, a major decision had to be made regarding the aesthetics of the first prototype for our 3D printer. Up until this point, the design we had been going with was simple and over used. We wanted our machine to stand out, so it was time to once again hit the drawing board. For homework, everyone on the build team had to design and sketch up a 3D printer based completely on aesthetics. Our team leader, Deirdre, compiled our ideas and narrowed them down to three different exterior possibilities. Prior to splitting off to do our individual work for the prototype, the whole team met and discussed the design possibilities.  After the vote, it was unanimous that we go with the rounded front version, the green-colored one in the picture. We decided that this version was unique and different enough from the competition so it would be noticeable, but also efficient and not out of range for our resources. Our next step in deciding aesthetics for this design will be figuring out the fine details of our printer: how the door will open, the specific dimensions needed for the z-table to fit, and  how the components will fit inside the machine. For now, we have the main aesthetic design for our 3D printer figured out and in the works.

Monday, December 9, 2013


A huge goal for the Marketing team is to end the year with more money than the initial value that we started with. Fundraising is a huge asset to our success and we have been doing very well making the funds to stay on top of our "bills." In the past month, we had our 99 Restaurant fundraiser which consisted of dining profit and some locally donated raffle baskets. Most recently, we just concluded a Spa Day raffle (donated by one of our student's mother), which brought in a significant amount of money. Today, we began a fundraiser to raffle off one of our assistant principal's parking spot for the month of January, a treat for any senior at Saratoga High School. He kindly donated the spot to us and we are excited to have it! We are also selling candy bars at a table in the front of our school with the raffle tickets. On December 15, we are having a Barnes and Noble Book Fair fundraiser where we will discuss our project to customers, as well as feature some of our multi talented students who will be playing music. In the future, we plan on hosting a fundraiser at Chipotle and at our local Bow Tie Cinema, and also, selling more candy around school. Thus far, fundraising has proven to be a successful endeavour.The Marketing Team continues to develop our products image, and we hope to have a name and logo by January 14, 2014!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Retracing Steps

While the stepper motor control software is functioning correctly, we are encountering technical problems in trying to actually run the motor. We have checked and double-checked all of our wiring and we decided that the problem may lie in the driver chip itself. A fresh new chip has been ordered, so we will soon begin retesting, rewiring, and keeping our fingers crossed.
In the meantime, the electronics team will be starting to work on configuring our infrared sensors. Using lasers and photocells, these devices will be used to measure how much resin is left in our storage tank, and notify the user when the "printer runs low on ink", so to speak. We hope to get these sensors and the stepper motor working soon, so we can include them in our initial prototype.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Murphy's Law

For the last few weeks, the programming group has been working on a variety of tasks. Several members of the team are already working on GUI related programming to create a more user friendly interface for our rapid prototyper. On top of that, we have also written a script to test the stepper motors and a stepper motor class to be used in later programming. Working with close association with the electronics group, we have been trying to get the stepper motors up and running. From the programming side, the stepper motor programs have been successfully debugged, however, we have had issues regarding the wiring of the stepper motors. According to Murphy's law, everything that could possibly go wrong will go wrong. Just as we were reaching the wire (no pun intended) for a deadline, the electronics group may have accidentally fried a BeagleBoard by running too much voltage through it while testing the stepper motor. Despite this, we still believe and have hope that the BeagleBoard will be usable. Upon the completion of the stepper motor system, we will be able to move forward on the other tasks that await.