Home / Blog / Engineers as Dreamers

Engineers as Dreamers

At the heart of pretty much every engineer I know – and I know a lot of engineers – there’s a tinkerer, an inventor, a dreamer. It’s just the way we think and operate. So I very much enjoyed an article by Cabe Atwell, “10 Universal Projects Every Engineer Dreams Up” that appeared last week in EE Times.  In compiling his roster of projects, Cabe mentions that he’s “never met an engineer that hasn’t mentioned something in this list, so much so that they qualify as cliché projects.” He also notes that these were ideas dreamed about in isolation, pre-Internet. Everyone playing around with an idea was pretty much doing it on their own.

Cliché or not, I have to admit that this engineer has dreamed about some of these DIY projects at some point.

What’s interesting (or depressing, depending on the way you look at it, i.e., if you weren’t the one to realize and commercialize your dream) is that all of these DIY dream projects are now in the market as real, honest to goodness products. As Gabe advises, the fact that products are commercially available should NOT stop you from using them as a “starting point” for having some DIY fun. As he writes, “flash back 10 or 15 years ago, most of these would be near impossible…now they’re easy builds.”

In this spirit, Cabe’s list focuses not on the pricey commercial products available, but on the DIY approaches, sometimes available in kit form,  that will let us tinkerers – or, as we’re now called, makers – come up with our own versions on the cheap.

  • Self-mowing Mower: The product showcased here is a 3D printed robotic lawnmower built by Andreas Haeuser. A Roomba for your yard.
  • Hoverboard: Despite all the problems with hoverboards last year, the hoverboard from Tom’s Workshop, which uses plywood and a leaf blower, looks like fun. I don’t know if I’d go so far to stand on one. But it looks like fun.
  • Mailbox Phone Alert: Sure, if you don’t want to have to be there to see the red flag go up, there are products that alert you when you’re got mail. But Nicole Grimwood has come up with her own version.
  • Wifi Automated Blinds: Motorized blinds have been around for decades; smart blinds have been around for years. Thus, there are many commercial products out there – and many kits as well. For sheer affordability, Cabe recommends BRUH Automation’s DIY IoT Automated Blinds. Only $15. Warning: the end result isn’t all that attractive, and you probably won’t get permission to use it in your home. Maybe if you’ve got blinds in your garage…autoblinds
  • Automated Hydroponics: Austin Simonson’s platform will let you create the ideal growing environment with sensors that make sure your fruits and veggies get the right amount of light and water. (Keep it legal, please.)
  • Arcade Machine: Bob Clagett’s retro arcade machine may be even more fun than that hoverboard. Oh, for the days when games took up a lot of physical space!
  • Sunrise Alarm Clock: Jason Poel Smith uses small LEDs for his “minimalistic approach” to creating a DIY clock. “Simple, yet ingenious and a great starter project for fledgling electrical engineers and makers alike.”
  • Drink Mixing Robot: This is Cabe Atwell’s own invention: My Drinkmotizer. Among its other clever features is a chaser station “actually controlled by a pressurized paintball tank.”
  • Automatic Laser Level: If you want to make sure that your pictures are evenly hung, and you don’t want to invest in a commercial laser level, you can build your own by following Cripndry’s version, which repurposes parts from an old hard drive.
  • Go-kart: Admit it. You definitely wanted a go-kart when you were a kid. Now you can build your own based on the design from Liquidhandwash. Like a number of the other projects, this one is on Instructables.

For each project on the list, Cabe provides technical detail and links to the source for the instructions.

You know you want to, so why not take some time this weekend to DIY something for yourself.