Sorting Robot
This second year engineering design course is known as the bane of the engineering science program at U of T, and with good reason. This one course consumes more time than the other 5 equally weighted courses we took at the same time. I wanted to bring up this project because it was the first real engineering design course I took where I was expected to teach myself everything I needed to know to get the job done. It was also when I realized that so many engineering tasks that seem impossible are 100% within reach given enough effort.
The task was: work in a team of three to design and build a fully functional autonomous robot capable of sorting and packaging ping pong balls. More specifically:

• Propose a complete design for the robot.
• Justify all design decisions with research, simulations, prototypes.
• Follow sound engineering design and managerial frameworks.
• Mechanical, electrical, or software subsystems.
• Integration of subsystems.
• Complete documentation.
We were more or less left on our own, which felt terrible at the time. In hindsight it may have been the best learning experience I had at school. I'm very grateful that we had a the chance at a design course and some hands on work in only second year.
I was the team lead and my specific role was to program a PIC microcontroller in assembly and interface it with sensors. I helped out with the circuits too. Trolling through that 400 page PIC manual (and many others) definitely did me good. We just had to get in the mindset of teaching ourselves and powering through what seemed to be impossible amounts of work.
It was remarkable to see
Which was one of my first sketches about a mechanism, end up as part of a full fledged functional machine:
Looking at a robot project back when I knew nothing about anything was an intimidating thing. So were 400 page manuals about assembly code that are written for professionals in industry. But somehow we got through.
Now when I look at some new challenge, I'm sure I can do it if I put my mind to it. This is one of the reasons I got more into software outside of school after this project.
Video of Ball-E in action
Watching the video above makes me cringe for two reasons. The first being the memories of the all nighters. The second being the desire to fix up everything that I realize in hindsight we did terribly wrong.
I have to thank my great team Carson Clark and Thomas Dingle.