Hwa Chong Institution (High School)
Projects Competition 2015
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Upper Secondary
Engineering Science
12- 17
Project Title
Light Milling Machine using Arduino
Prototyping is no doubt an important process in a world where new inventions and products are constantly being produced. With prototyping, current ideas of an inventor or a designer can be analysed, and the idea can then be improved. As such, we have embarked on this project to explore a possible alternative to current methods of creating prototypes, so that we can shorten the time taken, while being precise and accurate.
Link to Web-report page
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Link to Video page
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Dr. Tegoeh (NTU)
Mrs Ng-Ang Siew Hoon (Hwa Chong Institution)
Team Leader/Members

(Name & Class)
Team Leader :

This project was a new experience as it was my first time leading a group of people for an extended period of time. It did not start out well, as we were much more focused on our academics instead of the project, so when we started, it seriously very late. Hence, we lacked the motivation to start up our project, and the prelims ended up quite badly. We were able to pick up speed during the june holidays, but we were unable to complete it due to several design flaws, hence we were unable to come out with a workable prototype. This was when our problems really started. Some of the project members started to lose interest in the project, and eventually we had people who did not even want to participate in any form of project work, and not only would shirk responsibilty, but also make the morale generally drop very low. After a while of being angry at him, we just gave up and decided to just let him do the simplest of jobs, and if possible just avoid letting him do jobs. Eventually, due to feeling being left out and and guilty for shirking his job (I hope), he became somewhat more entusiastic in doing his job. This project taught me about managing people, especially those who are harder to deal with. Hence, I felt that this project was a good learning experience as it had given me an opportunity to learn a new life skill that I would otherwise not have a chance of experiencing. In the future, this would be very usefull as we would be meeting many different kinds of people, and we should be able to deal with them all accordingly, in the best way possible.

Group Members :

I think it was very interesting and i got to know some of the problems faced by engineers and in the process of making the machine found that it is not easy to make a machine. We faced many problems such as aquiring the materials, also forgetting to buy some materials, so it was very long and time consuming but was pretty enjoyable overall
Before I actually embarked on the project itself, I did expect a rocky road ahead. Having done an Engineering Science project before, I had an inkling that it was not going to be easy at all. There were many problems we faced throughout the entire journey. For one, the title of the project was extremely misleading. Light milling machine using Lego Mindstorms. The fact that it used Lego Mindstorms was really tempting as it seemed really fun. I had perceived “Light” milling machine to be one that used laser technology for cutting. However, it was later revealed that it was a milling machine that used Arduino that was “light” in terms of mass. Amidst the disappointment, we as a group had no choice but to go on with what we have. So, essentially, the entire project is about building a “light”, user-friendly rendition of the commercial milling machine, such that it is convenient for designers, engineers and inventors to produce prototypes quickly. We started by drawing a concept sketch of what we envisioned the machine to be, a tank-like robot that could move around on wheels and cut objects with a milling bit attached to the arm. However, our external mentor, Dr. Tegoeh, advised against this design as it would be flimsy. He proposed another design, where fixed supports are used to ensure stability and rail guides (sliders) are used for the movement of the milling bit. We took his advice and then sourced for parts. Sliders were not readily available and it was very difficult finding parts for the machine. Thankfully, the school had connections with Misumi corp., where we were able to obtain sliders and Tai Soon D&T, where we obtained servo motors. We also went to the SRC to obtain PVC pipes for supports. Just when we thought everything was alright, coding was another issue. With limited to no knowledge of Arduino, it was difficult for us to the coding. However, with some online assistance, we managed to create a working machine. Finally, we managed to build the machine, but PVC pipes proved to be too unstable to be used as supports, dealing us a huge blow in the semi-finals. We then changed the pipes for wooden supports which had proven reliable as we were able to use the machine for actual cutting. However, most unfortunately, the machine tore apart on the day of the finals itself, where the judges saw this as an opportunity to undo the stitches of the previous wound and pour even more salt into it. Oh well. Through this project, I have learnt many important lessons. First, the importance of time management. This is because we had to allocate time to get things done in this project. We procrastinated way too often and left things to the last minute, which resulted in many things being rushed, such as the finding of parts. If we had not procrastinated, we may have been able to have found better supports. However, external factors such as unavailability and conflict in schedules are also responsible for our delays, but mostly it is our innate laziness and lack of time management. Next, I also learnt about teamwork and how everyone has a role to play. If one does not perform his role well, it will lead to the downfall of the entire group. All for one, one for all. I learnt the importance of accommodating others’ needs and my own contributions. I also gained respect for engineers, as I had a glimpse into their lives and realized the difficulty of their job but the benefits their jobs can bring as well in solving real world problems. I became more aware of problems existing in the real world and the pains of designers and inventors. It had been a rewarding journey, I had become more aware of my existing issues and how to become a better team worker.
This project definitely had many highs and lows, but all in all, it was definitely an enriching one which has taught me a lot of lessons. First of all, time management is the key to effectively juggle everything that we have. Secondary 4 is no doubt and important and stressful year, as we have to focus on our academics in order to progress to JC. However, we cannot completely ignore our project as well. Hence, time management will allow us to find time to do everything that we need to do, including doing homework, studying for tests. resting and recreational activities, and of course project. In this project, I failed to manage my time properly, which had caused multiple setbacks over the duration of this project. Next, teamwork with the team mates is a must-have. While this may seem obvious in a group project, it has allowed me to gain further insights as to just how important teamwork is. In our group of four, one of us is always rather stubborn and refuses to cooperate, and this often affects the mood of our project meet-ups. What we did was to let his stubbornness affect us, and we were then unmotivated to work on our project. What we should have done instead was to find a way to motivate the stubborn member to work on the project, while staying motivated. Dealing with uncooperative teammates is an important aspect of teamwork as well, as it is impossible to have a perfect group where everyone is always motivated. Another important aspect of teamwork is to constantly communicate with each other. Constant communication with each other will ensure that everyone is updated on the progress, and will know what they have to do next. This will allow greater efficiency, as everyone is clear on their roles. Not just that, another key aspect of teamwork is of course working together, be it each member performing the role that they were assigned to or meeting up online or in person to discuss the plan. In our project, there were constant disagreements with each other over various issues, and one of which was to head over to Sim Lim Square to source for materials that we require in our project. As Sim Lim was inconvenient to travel to for all of us, we were unwilling to head over and source for the parts, even though two of us were assigned to find materials. The main reason as to why we did not want to head down was due to the time that was spent, not just on travelling but also at Sim Lim going into shops to find the parts. Eventually, all of us headed down together, as it would speed up the process so we can spend less time sourcing for parts. Not just that, when we were constructing our machine, it was extremely tedious and it was impossible for a person to do a certain part of the machine, as the building of each part required more than one person, mainly for stability and precision purposes. Hence, we had to work together and help each other before we were able to build the prototype of our machine. Last but not least, another important skill that I have learnt about in this project is improvisation. There quite a number of unforeseen circumstances that we were hit by, and not everything worked out the way we wanted it to, and to deal with them we had to improvise. For example, we could not find the tracks that we were looking for when we were sourcing for the parts to build our machine, and thus had to improvise to find a suitable alternative. Not just that, right before our finals judging on the day itself, our machine fell apart and we thus had no end product to show. However, that was not the only thing that was affected, as a main portion of our skit had to be changed, as that particular portion was originally planned to have a live demonstration of our machine functioning. Hence, we had a very short time to improvise and change our skit to suit the change in context, and we did it to the best of our ability. To conclude, this project may seem insignificant, but it has many learning points that have allowed me to grow as a person, and I have also improved on some important life skills that will no doubt be useful in the future.