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Home : Application Briefs : Camera Model in the Classroom Helps Train Better Engineers

# Camera Model in the Classroom Helps Train Better Engineers

The Challenge
In a first year engineering course at a prestigious university, students are required to reverse engineer a shutter on a disposable camera as part of an engineering design course. Based on different design requirements, the students must increase or decrease the film exposure time by modifying the shutter. Each group of students is given a camera and asked to measure the shutter and flash speeds. The students are then given a 3-D CAD file of the shutter. They must then modify the design, fabricate the part on a rapid prototyping machine, use the new shutter in their camera, and measure the results.

Although this experiment is relatively inexpensive to perform, the process in the lab does not implement the best engineering practices to achieve the desired outcome. The students must guess which modifications should be made and then build parts to test their guesses. In a relatively inexpensive experiment like this, the cost of guessing incorrectly may be low; however, on a large-scale project in the workplace, the cost would increase drastically. The university wants a solution that will allow its students to implement good engineering design methods while retaining the tangible, hands-on nature of the project.

The Solution
What the students really need is a modeling environment that can be used to build and modify a model of the shutter. That way, they can see the effects that these changes have on the overall performance of the camera before they produce their physical parts. Using MapleSim, the students can do just that. In MapleSim, they can create a shutter model using contact models to measure the position of the shutter, and a timer block to measure the speed of the shutter. The students can also create a model of a camera spring that returns the shutter to its start position. Additional markers can be added to indicate pivot points along the shutter. Once the model is complete, CAD geometry can be attached to the model.

With this accurate model, students can now modify their original designs within MapleSim and run simulations to see if their modifications provide the desired operating criteria, all before fabricating the new part. This iterative design process allows students to explore the effects of changes without the cost of creating a new part every time, while teaching them the benefits of using virtual models in the engineering design process.