Mechanical engineering uses the principles of physics and the physical sciences to design and create a variety of mechanical objects, from pushbuttons to automobiles. Mini projects in mechanical engineering can help you learn the field's basic principles while still allowing you some room for creativity and self expression. Many of these projects are also very cheap to produce, allowing you to perform multiple projects at once.
Keep it Simple
A mini mechanical engineering project doesn't have to be complex to make up for its relative lack of size. Even a project as small as setting up dominoes will demonstrate how spatial manipulation can influence the speed at which dominoes fall in order. Try setting up dominoes in a straight line and using multiple spacings to determine the variable speeds caused by your manipulation of space between the objects. The use of space and energy are key elements in the field of mechanical engineering.
Testing Scientific Laws
Testing the laws of science can make for effective smaller projects in mechanical engineering. For example, showing the effect of friction on objects in motion may only take some materials and different surfaces already found in your home. By shooting a rubber band across different textures, such as bare plywood, finished wood, marble, concrete and laminated flooring, you can measure how friction affects the distance the rubber band travels across these differing surfaces. Repeat the experiments using something with greater mass and less friction, such as flicking a large paper clip across the same surfaces. This project shows how friction and mass act on objects in motion. Friction is of particular importance to mechanical engineering because it is necessary to allow parts to move, yet too much of it can cause damage to a design's internal components.
Maintain the Fun
As a mechanical engineer, you might view any project in your field as fun. Focusing on a more widely accepted definition of fun can keep others interested in your small project as well. For example, stacking three wooden blocks on a table and attempting to knock these blocks off the table with balls of varying density can help you measure how distance, density and velocity affects the outcome of carnival games where a customer must knock objects down with a ball to win a giant stuffed panda. This can also help you determine whether an amusement park game is cheating you by providing a ball which is too light to actually knock those pins or blocks over. Vary the distance to the table, the distance of the blocks from the edge of the table, and the ways the blocks are stacked to see how the variables affect outcome.
Build a Robot
A robot isn't necessarily a complicated mechanical system. Any mechanical object that can perform a repeated task within a defined set of parameters or perform a finite set of proprietary commands is technically a robot. According to the Society of Robots website, building a robot can cost as little as £32 and can help you explore the larger principles of mechanical engineering as well as allow you to express yourself creatively in making a machine that's an expression of your own vision.
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