In Fall 2017, my second-last semester at Queen’s, I worked in a team of 5 to design an Arduino-controlled CNC router that will engrave hard metals such as stainless steel. The design process has enhanced my design, teamwork, communication and leadership skills, which I believe are beneficial for my future endeavours.
During the idea generation phase of the process, it was important to compare the different types of existing designs out there, because the best design was generated by combining the most suitable features from each design. For this reason, the team has decided to communicate our idea in various forms due to the uniqueness of our design. I have learned that being able to visualize the design in different form (for example, in text, calculations, or visual models) was very helpful, because each audience may have different level of understanding of the subject matter, and prefer different methods of communication. Hence, having options for the audience was important, which also showed that our team was thoughtful and detail-oriented. During the design process, it was also important to recognize the fact that some sacrifices must be made in order to optimize the design – often, not all design and functional requirements can be satisfied. This situation allowed me to apply what I learned in my past project courses to this project – the importance of evaluation matrices and having open discussions within the team, which aided the decision-making process by allowing the team to make a sensible decision in a fair, organized and elaborated manner.
In terms of teamwork, I have realized that it was important for all team members to be on the same page and have the same goals, which ensured that everyone has an equal share of work, and that everyone put in an equal amount of effort and work into the project. For my past projects, I have always strived for equality between every team member, as it was certainly one of the most important aspects for all projects or teamwork that required collaboration. Another important aspect of teamwork would be regular and frequent communications between all team members, in order to make sure that the project and that every team member feels comfortable and confident about the status of the project.
With regards to communication within the team, I have tried my best to listen to everyone’s input, and also communicate myself in a clear and concise manner, because the ability to provide constructive input is a respectable quality. To make work more efficient, I have realized that it was important to be genuine and selfless, which contributes to a more relaxed and friendly team dynamic, making work more enjoyable. While schoolwork outside of the project course could get busy, I have managed to keep up with the team’s group chat and stay in the loop, allowing myself to stay informed and on track.
Lastly, while projects are team efforts, having strong leadership skill is important – to me, being a good leader encompasses a range of interpersonal skills: organization, the ability to be always stay motivated, and communication. I had the fortunate chance to work with a team of great leaders and have learned that the ability to initiate discussions and plan ahead for the team is a very respectable and likable quality when it comes to teamwork. For example, the team had two major deliverables due on the same day (progress report and proposal), so, we decided to split the team up into two groups, one group responsible for completing the progress report which was due first, the other responsible for getting started on the proposal. The groups then switched roles to finalize both documents and we were able to achieve outstanding grades for both deliverables. Being a good leader in a team also means being knowledgeable about areas I am responsible for, in order to guide and educate my teammates accordingly – since the ultimate goal of teamwork is to learn from and inspire each other while achieving collective goals. Overall, the MECH 460 project was a continuous learning process, both academically, technically, and inter-personally.