General Engineering Introduction/Requirements

Engineers end up writing or re-writing most project specifications or requirements.

Complaining that the project is not clear enough, or that more information is needed is a mistake of young engineers. If everything was known, Engineers would not be needed. When it appears more information is needed, when something is unknown, when nobody knows what to do, rejoice! You get to be an engineer. Don't use this as an excuse to stop the project.

Choose the most simple, cheapest, easiest specifications. Find something that makes sense. Requirements turn into opportunities for conversations with your instructor or the client.

Large Primate Example

For example, the project was to build the first draft (mock-up) of the large primate experiment that eventually flew on the space shuttle. The Principal Investigators (PIs) would be designing experiments to document bone loss and why fluids build up in the legs rather than circulating properly. The Principal Investigators needed a microprocessor system built into a pacer like package that could communicate wirelessly through the skin to monitoring equipment. The young engineer wanted to know exactly what in the body was going to be measured and what types of electric signals the measuring devices were going to create. How could the "microprocessor system" be built without knowing what it was supposed to do?
The solution was to study all body processes, plan for all possible experiments and generalize. The fear of the Principal Investigator demanding something outside a best attempt at specifications should not stop the project. Excuses are pillars of mediocrity that build monuments to nothing.

Dos and Don'ts

Don't chant lack of time/money over and over.
Don't state the obvious such as 1 screw driver, paper and profit.
Don't put yourself, the school or engineering down by listing reasons why something can not be done.
Do list things that are needed.

Then people can be found that sell, donate, or contribute. Most engineers are very willing to help each other out.

This is the fine print of a problem statement/project proposal. Here is where detail is listed that a client may not understand. Be ready with a sound byte and anticipate what the client may not understand.

These are the details that normally only other engineers are going to be interested in. Form factors such as weight and size, strength and elasticity, durability and ease of repair, are all specifications.

Narrow the project requirements down to what can be achieved in the time, with the personnel, with the resources at hand. Rejoice where things are vague, because then you have more freedom ... create, invent, art!