Project teams in college are a great thing to participate in as a student. They generate a sense of community, time management skills and give you more sound knowledge of what you are learning.
My grandfather was a mechanical engineer for many years for IBM. The best advice he gave me when going into the field was to start from the bottom. He told me that he worked on the production floor for a few years before moving up on the ladder. During that time he saw good designs and bad deigns. Some engineers had never seen or knew how things were made and for this reason designed parts that were impossible to make. In project teams you get to move up through the ladders starting in manufacturing and machining and then move up into design. By this method all of the designers have had machining experience and know how to design machinable parts. By this method you also do not have people that don’t understand how system works designing parts.
In class students learn brand new concepts and work on problems that often will work out nicely. There are many classes mechanical engineers take like CAD (Computer Aided Design), Material Science, Statics, Dynamics, Calculus, Multivariable Calculus, Deferential Equations, Linear Algebra, Strengths, Circuits, and Internal Combustion Engines just to name a few. These are all great classes, but they are almost always one and done courses– you are done once you pass them. At RIT they have senior design where multiple multidisciplinary students work together on a project. This culmination project brings all of what you have learned to the test. This is great but it happens in your last year of school. Project teams work with students throughout their whole college career. They bring what you are learning in class into real world scenarios daily. The projects incorporate skills attained from a variety of classes. Oftentimes you know what concepts are in play, but it takes some processing to think about how to implement them.
When I personally joined the formula team I thought it would be a very official where everyone works and no one talks, but that is the exact opposite of what happens. People are talking constantly. Communication is key within project teams and the work place because people are working on different systems that go on the same chassis. Building a car is not just a side hobby for the students involved, it is a way of life. The car is basically a full time job without pay. In order to do it, you have to love it and enjoy the people around you. Within the team you learn how to work with other people from a variety of backgrounds and skill sets. Everyone in the team must respect one another because it takes more than just a few people to build 3 race cars at once. Every time the driver hops in the car they are putting faith into everyone who designed a system, who made any of the parts, or assembled any component of the car. There it a lot of trust put into the team and this is why we have to be serious. The team is more of a family than anything else and we learn from one another. Our alumni moved on to work for big corporations, racing teams, Tesla, and SpaceX. These people have great experience and knowledge that they bring back to the team and keep us driving towards greatness.
Overall, project teams give college students meaning, motivation, family, priceless skills, knowledge and most of all, pride in what they do.
-Ben Yager (5/2/2017)