How to kick start your DIY engineering project.

As a kid it might be hard to get things done. You might have a lot of ambition but a whole lot of people telling you no–either because you’re “under 18” or because you “don’t have a degree” or some other lame reason.

At times like those and, indeed, like many other times in your future, you can’t just wait for someone’s permission to do something. If you want to make it happen, you’ll have to do it yourself.

Check out this article about some California high school students who are building their own flight-simulator cockpit. Or just watch this video:

It sounds like tough work, and it surely is.

What can you learn from this group? Don’t get scared off by the idea of a big project. They sure didn’t. In fact, you can use it as motivation to try and get even more done. Engineering is, at large, all about breaking down huge projects into manageable pieces.

Camcorders are ideal, but if you or a friend owns a smartphone with a camera, that can record video too.

One thing that’s making this group successful is that they’re documenting their progress on film, and uploading it onto their website. Especially for big DIY projects, it’s cool to share your work–part of the beauty of DIY is that it can inspire others to do it themselves.

But getting a website hosted and getting a camcorder is expensive. On top of that, what about the cost of the project itself? Don’t get turned off by the need for money. Sometimes big projects need big funds, and for that there are services like kickstarter which let you present your project idea and, in return, ask for donations. All you need to do is promise to give a little back.

But even then, sometimes there are clever ways to cut corners. And that’s another important lesson: don’t squander your resources:

  • These guys are using an open-source (free and editable) flight simulation program, because buying one could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Plus, open-source means they can edit the program if they want, to customize it for their needs.
  • A lot of high schools have a multimedia program with cameras that they lend out to students, and even editing software. If your school doesn’t have one, ask your teachers about which schools do, and contact them!
  • Furthermore, web hosting can be free. There are services like Google Sites and Weebly which offer free website building. As a matter of fact, the group making The Viper used Google Sites for their website. And there are many other free hosts.

A lot of these tips are “don’t”s. That’s because when it comes to your own project, only you can decide what to do, because you’re not waiting for permission from anyone else. We’re just advising that you avoid letting these potential turn-offs demoralize you, because they’re challenges everyone faces all the time, and there are good ways to solve them.

Read on:


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