Day 2: Research Part 1: Requirements & Exploration — Creative Engineering with Mark Rober

Research Phase = Pick Requirements

Engineers are planners and problems solvers. Breaking a problem down into its basics allows them (us) to build way more complicated and awesome things.

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Research Phase

We are on the R phase of the BRPF engineering process. Remember the mnemonic, Big, Robots, Pop, Footballs or

  1. Brainstorm
  2. Research — we are here
  3. Prototype
  4. Final Build
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Break it down

Take your problem and break it down to bite size chunks. What are all the things it has to do / accomplish?

These are called requirements or constraints.

Requirements = constraints.

Constraints breed creativity.

Example requirements: NASA Mars Rover requirements.

  1. 10 instruments.
  2. Has to withstand X amount of shaking.
  3. Has to work between -135C and 70C

Functional vs Non Functional Requirements

Functional are things it needs to do.

Non functional are extra things. How it looks, sounds, etc.

Essential vs Non Essential

Important to break down the requirements into critical and non critical.

Non essential requirements are a great place to cut corners. If you can cut days, weeks, months off your build, do it.

You want the biggest bang for your buck. Effort vs reward.


Cheap to explore things with just research.

4 step process to explore requirements.

  1. Take it one at a time, build it out.
  2. Look for background information
  3. Brainstorm ways to accomplish
  4. ? If anyone knows what the last step is, please share.

1. One at time

Don’t mix all your requirements together. Separate them out, take it one at a time.

2. Look for background information

What info do you need to know. If you are making a safe squirrel launcher you need to know how many Gs a squirrel can take. If you are making a candy launcher for humans, you need to know average human reaction time so you don’t shoot it so fast no one can catch it.

3. Brainstorm ways to accomplish

Ways to brainstorm and research ways to accomplish

Google things.

Think of parallels.

Look at patents.

Nothing is original, everything is derivative, take ideas and synthesis.

Search on google images.

Caution — don’t watch someone elses video so you don’t get stuck on their ideas.

Talk to friends and family. This phase can be collaborative.

Keep an open list of science projects, questions you can’t answer with google.

Not only are you coming up with the ways to accomplish the thing, you are coming up with the story.

Engineering — Ways to move an object

  1. Gravity
  2. Springs
  3. Pneumatics — air
  4. Motors — electricity

Sub Reddit for Mark Rober’s Class

I wanted a way to interact with all the different students in the course, so I made a little subreddit.

Code, design, cook. Make stuff. Cookies. @BYU grad.

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