Basic design: part 2 - creation
By midsemester, we all had gotten a hang of what we needed to do for design subjects. There were still a ton of things that were out of reach and many more things that kept on popping up along the way, but now at least, we weren't completely lost anymore. We could now present our work better. We understood what was needed from us in order to pass. The first few Basic Design exercises made us regain our footing. Now it was time for something that would up the challenge considerably. Something that wouldn't just strain our brains, but also test our analysis and dexterity. It was time to learn from the Ultimate Design Guide itself. Mother Nature. The project was to analyze the insect/animal/reptile given to our group and make a mechanical working model of it. This model was supposed to walk and catch prey. The project started off as fun and everyone (including the faculty) dreamed quite big. There was a 'hunt' planned on the last day of the project where we would use our insects and animals against each other!
There were five groups of 12 each. Considering the amount of research and manual work that needed to be done, our faculty thought it would be better to have more people in one group (in reality, it only caused more problems because that big a group has free-loaders). But this time it wasn't just the free-loaders. I could feel that not many people were keen on this project. Most of them had never really worked with any kind of hardware and making a working model of an insect is no joke. But all the negative points aside, I was extremely happy to be given a project such as this. I love biology, insects, reptiles and everything that was related to this project. I even love making working models. It was like the perfect stage to display my abilities. There was another person in our group who had the same grin on his face as me when they announced this project. He was Rishi. And by the end of the project, we both would become very good friends indeed.
We both had similar tastes in most design related matters and he excelled at sketching and putting down his ideas. We spent many lectures trying to figure out how our insect, The Spider, worked. It was grueling work and by the end of the third week, we were nowhere near understanding the mechanism as we were on the first day. Most of the people in the group took care of the research and presentation work while we both tried to come up with the mechanism for actually building a spider. We spent many a sleepless night watching and re-watching videos, going through encyclopedias and asking people for help. But to no avail. Though we did start to understand how the legs actually moved, there was no way we could replicate it without some elementary knowledge of actual mechanics. We soon learned that even the faculty was completely out of their depth and never really having done a project like this themselves, they couldn't exactly point us in any sort of helpful direction. They mostly monitored how the group work was progressing and tried to help us work out the mechanical part of the exercise.
Our first major breakthrough occurred during the fourth week. Both Rishi and I had gone down to Lamington Road in search of the mechanics set that I used to play with as a kid. It had all sorts of parts and I thought it would help us to at least build something that would move. After spending the whole night trying to put it together, I finally managed to get the legs moving. It was nowhere near complete and it didn't walk on any surface but at least the legs were finally moving. As usual, the faculty didn't like it one bit. There was no encouragement from there and all the other people in the group were getting listless. But it was Rishi that managed to find a video on YouTube that finally shed some light on the mechanics behind a spider's movement. (some guy had actually built a vehicle that walked like a spider). That day, we both stayed back and analyzed everything from that video. Once we figured out how to assemble the parts, it was quite easy to make it.
It still took us the next two weeks to perfect the dimensions for the limbs. But by the final submission, we had a walking spider ready! It felt awesome when that spider walked along the tables and we even emulated the way it caught its prey! After all those weeks, we had finally succeeded in making a (very cheap) copy of an insect. At that time, I felt like it was a huge achievement. Now, I just feel microscopic in comparison to nature. Maybe that was the lesson all along…