Learning Projects for Engineering Students

I'm setting up an intro course for mechanical engr. students to learn the basics of shop practice - machining, fabrication, woodworking. We want them to be safe and reasonably competent for simple projects. I'm looking for suggestions on projects that they will learn from.

The main equipment/skills we want them to have are:

- hand and power hand tools, measurement

- woodshop: drill press, table saw, bandsaw, belt sander

- machining: lathe, vertical mill, drill press, cutoff saw

- sheetmetal: stomp shear, box/pan brake, bench punch?, notcher?, Beverly shear?, riveting That might be too much... we can trim if so. They'll learn welding, CNC, and plastics in their next manufacturing class.

Ideal projects would

- develop the basic skills above

- be just challenging enough for a complete beginner

- not have unnecessary safety risks

- give them a product that's interesting and useful to them, even if they aren't very interested in manufacturing (so, a hammer is better than a qctp holder).

- all be doable in a total of 13 3-hour lab periods.

On the one hand we want them to have respect for and experience with the basic prep work (e.g., grinding tool bits) but on the other hand we need to teach them how to actually make the product. So we'll need to gloss over some things like tramming a mill. Some kind of balance of prep-skills and product-skills is ideal. Some ideas out there: Small engine teardown & reass'y - hand tools and measurement intro. Grinding HSS lathe bits - almost certainly we'll do this one. Plumb bob - simple Center punch - also has hardening/tempering Hammer Machinist's clamp Stirling engine - fun but might be too much for a first course? The ubiquitous sheet metal box - how to make it more interesting/useful? Process plan and inspection of everything they make of course.

We have most of the wood and metal machinery above, except for sheetmetal. We're about to get those (see my other post).

Thanks for your input! David Malicky U. San Diego

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David Malicky
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make a toolmakers finger clamp for holding and machining small pieces. (4" square cast iron base about half an inch thick. square profile clamping groove on all edges. quarter inch threaded post in the centre. a 45 degree groove across one edge of the top face for holding round objects, clamping finger with jacking post at one end, hand filed semicircular holding saddle with a nurled hold down nut in the middle.) then each use them to make a paint ball gun. that'd get their attention :-)

hammer, plumb bob, centre punch etc, honestly these can be bought from cheapie tool stores for next to nothing. the guy's would find them as boring as hell. to really get them interested the projects need to be slightly naughty or interesting/offbeat.

brewing beer... first make the bottle capper and brewing accessories.

whisky/moonshine ...research and design then make a still using copper beating and fabrication techniques to food handling standards. then prove the construction by making a brew. each make a part of the overall project ...and sample the experimental results :-)

unconstrained single acting compressed air (or sparklet bulb CO2) piston device. (aka an air pistol. ...sometimes called a CATastrophic :-) ) make them design the device themselves and solve all the design problems in getting it to accurately shoot a .177 air pistol pellet on a 10m range. (there is actually an international air pistol shooting competition to basically this set of specs.)

compressed air/water rocket. make the rocket and launcher. compete to see who can get the straightest and highest rocket launch off the nearest oval using the air from a normal shop air compresser.

something that explodes is pretty good. :-)

most guys lose interest in metalwork because the projects are boring and allow for no innovation or thought. brainstorm a design for a little beach buggy/go cart and each make a component of it. develops innovation and teamwork. let 'em race it around the car park to irritate the dean :-)

c'mon you've got to allow for some creative talent to burst forth! dont just make something. get them to make something to solve a ball tearer problem!

Stealth Pilot

Reply to
Stealth Pilot

Excellent advice, truly.

Perhaps you could squeeze in some functional tolerancing? Like, two pins in one part matching two holes in the mating part. Maybe do a lesson as to how you came up with the tolerance required for the job (using math of course). Engineers need to appreciate that stuff(!)



Reply to
Robin S.

You'd need a permit for the moonshine still and taxes paid to drink it. Damn revenuers. Karl

Reply to
Karl Vorwerk

I took an introductory course in machining long ago. The first thing we made was a bushing knocker. A piece of steel cut to length within maybe 20 thou. Turned between centers with various diameters as 1/2 inch plus nothing minus .030, 9/16 ths etc. 5/8 ths ....3/4 with part of it knurled .


David Malicky wrote:

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According to David Malicky :

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How about a two-bar tap wrench? Not too different from a machinist's clamp in principle, but perhaps more useful for some? Make it an alternative to the clamp, perhaps?

I'm going to be guiding a friend through the making of such to hold a #3 Morse taper reamer for touching up the spindle of his lathe.

Enjoy, DoN.

Reply to
DoN. Nichols

I have the plans for a die wrench and for a machinest jack, I know the wrench had milling on it can't recal if the jack did or not. Also im making a floating reamer holder at the moment. Have to think about some of the other plans I have, I am in an intermidiate/begineer machining class at the moment. I have a schematic for a hammer but as others have said it seems like a boring/pointless project concidering you can go buy one anywhere.

In my beliefe if your going to take the time to make it it better be something worth that time involved, thats one reason why im not to fond of my machining classes however there are some good projects.

For example in my machining 1 class we made, 2 sets of bolts 1 single point threaded 1 die threaded, a set of parelell bars a set of 1-2-3 blocks and I don't even recall what else if there was anything else. But none of it was worth making in my book. Yes I learned how to use the machines etc but still I think there could have been better projects that were actualy usefull that would have tought the same things.

Example like about for a threading project practice threading a paintball barrel on roundstock then eather making a paintball barrel getting real cheep ones or whatever and threading them then letting the students make custom fake muzzle breaks/flash hiders/silencers etc, even if they didnt have a paintball gun if you did it to a spec that some painball guns already use for muzzle break threads they could sell there projects to others. The real reason I bring this up is a guy in my machining class was making a barrel for his paintball gun and another student was milling off parts of his and re contouring it to make it look better. Its not just a good idea they do this stuff anyhow.

Of course at my school we make the muzzle breaks/flash hiders for real guns but most colleges don't have a gunsmithing department :) "talk about fun machining projects" make a .50 bmg action put a barrel on it then shoot it in the indoor rifle range.

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Some guys at school got to make single piston engines that run off of shop air. Definitely cool and doesn't take very long to build.

I think making tools in the best idea, but I'm not sure what kind of tools a mech. eng. would use.

Maybe something like a telescoping inspection mirror.

Perhaps one of those tapered rules that you can measure holes and slots with. That would be good for a filing job.

Maybe a decent small flat screwdriver with a properly heat-treated blade/tip. That would be good for electrical engineers though.

A sheet metal 6" rule holster for their breast pocket.

A desktop business card holder. Good for practicing surface finishing with a file after milling.

A pen body which accepts some type of standard ball point ink refill. Making a top that actual slides over the body and then jams securely would be an excellent exercise. Obviously you'd have to use free machining steel or at least not use 1020 as they'd want a good surface finish.

Just some thoughts...



Reply to
Robin S.

"redice" wrote

What school are you attending for your gunsmithing? I went to Yavapai Community College in Prescott, AZ. 22 years ago. The projects we made early on were mostly small specialty tools for the trade. I use some of them now.

Reply to
Tom Wait

Pine Technical College in Pine City Minnesota. Ya we have a toolmaking course in gunsmithing which is gunsmithing specific tools for the most part. The floating reamer holder is one of those projects, also made a staking tool, a firing pin protrusion gauge, and an action wrench. If your going to use them the gunsmithing tools are definetly keepers since buying them from brownells is going to cost a heck of a lot more than making them for the most part.

For example the fireing pin protrusion gauge costs 30 bucks on brownells with the dealer discount, the first one I made "before I had the maching class" took maybe 2 hours to make using a stock thumbscrew and precision pin, the second one took a wee bit longer but there I made the thumbscrew and pin and ofset the piece for the one end. The first I made was a need it now, get er done project and it works great. The second I sold to a new student for 20 bucks :)

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In votech, we built 1-2-3 blocks. Among other things that were useful to us. When I was little, a cousin made a tool box complete with removable tray from sheet metal and gave it to me for Christmas.

Reply to
Dave Lyon

Thanks, all, for your helpful suggestions. Redice, that's a good point that we should give them interesting, fun projects instead of just assignments. Robin S, the shop-air engine is a great idea--thanks. David

Reply to
David Malicky

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