A Showcase for creative projects

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Invention

It works by the wheels!

From a very early age I was fascinated by vehicles and transportation. Cars, trains, boats, planes and space-craft intrigued me. I filled whole sketch books with scribbled ideas for brilliant new conveyances. I even managed to destroy my father's technical tracing pad by drawing all over the graph paper sheet behind the tracing paper block. My father was quite upset but my mother calmed him down and explained it was just a fad. I would get over it and future blocks of tracing paper would be safe.

She was only half right. I did start buying pads of squared graph paper for myself so my father's stocks were out of danger, but it wasn't a fad. This was not a fleeting obsession. It stuck and became a cornerstone of who I am. For me being an engineering designer isn't a career path or even a course of education, it is a lifestyle choice. One of the projects in this section records my efforts to perfect this lifestyle.

After years of practice, I am now a compulsive inventor. My wife is forever rolling her eyes as I explain some new invention for doing something in a new and improved way that no-body has ever thought of before. Stoically, she waits till I have finished and then tells me that it is all very interesting but right now what she really would prefer is a nice fresh pot of tea. She always finishes with a smile. I like it it is a very charming smile. Fortunately, I also like making my wife pots of tea so everything turns out well in the end. Nevertheless, my inventions deserve a bigger audience.

Along with my work on design theory this section collates my wild and wacky ideas. It is not only about presenting the invented artefact itself but far more about recording the thought processes and methodology employed to get to the final result.

By the way, if you are an investor of some kind and fancy a shot at commercialising anything I present here then please get in touch. I would be happy to discuss with you what we might be able to achieve together. I am always open to opportunities for mutual benefit.

Design Theory

Where are the scissors and tape?

The beginners guide to becoming a champion designer

It was surely my early beginnings as a junior inventor that lead on to me becoming a design engineer. My interest in Sc-Fi stories and comic books inspired me to start sketching all sorts of vehicles, airplanes and space ships. It didn't stop there. I also developed a reputation for unpacking toys and other presents and then ignoring the contents in favour of the boxes. No box was too big or too small to be turned into something else. Scissors and sticky tape were my cohorts as I created everything from laser pistols to vast dragon besieged castles. It drove my poor parents to distraction.

As I got older my projects became more targeted, more specific. I became unhappy with mere representations of things, I wanted to actually create functioning objects. The problem was, I had no idea how to. My next direction was to try and learn from those that had gone before me. If I could understand how other things functioned then I could select and duplicate the bits I needed for my own projects. This resulted in a phase in which I started taking everything apart. Toys, tricycles, hair driers, vacuum cleaners, cassette tape players, radios, televisions. Nothing was too sacred for me to not attack with a screwdriver or spanner or occasional hammer in order to take it apart and study its inner workings. The problem was that I wasn't very good at putting the things back together again. Our house slowly filled up with things that no longer functioned because their innards were now spilling out all over the floor. You may be able to imagine that this was probably the most stressful stage in my development for the rest of the household. You could never be sure if anything you put down within easy reach would ever work again. Worse still, I never really learned very much either. The only big take away was that once in pieces, the relationship between features and behaviour became even more difficult to understand. The problem was that I simply lacked the necessary skills. I hadn't yet acquired the analytical tools or methods needed to find the link between form and function.

This had to wait until I began my formal training as an engineer. One of the first lectures I attended at university was about Engineering Design. The lecturer explained to us that Design was the core of engineering. He went on to explain that the root of the word Engineer was not 'engine' it was 'ingenious'. Engineering was all about design and design was all about invention. I was entranced. Suddenly, I had my mandate. I realised that a formal education in engineering wasn't about stifling my creativity. It was about giving it the opportunity to expand and grow. Now instead of just pretty pictures, I could actually design REAL things! I threw myself into my studies with great energy and became fascinated by the methods and theory of engineering design.

My interest in the principles of design grew throughout my studies. My first great design project in industry was the next logical step. I didn't end up designing a product, I ended up designing a method of designing. The design theory project is a record of that research.

Transportation

Do the locomotion

It works by the wheels

There is something intriguing about transportation. It has the almost unique power to polarise people absolutely. Whether it be beasts of burden, pedal power, steam propulsion or the power of flight, transportation seems to awake arousal and repulsion in equally large measure in almost the whole population. Some obsess over their personal favourite forms of transport. They preen, polish and pimp or watch, record and log with a passion that often far exceeds that for their fellow humans. They lock themselves into pursuit of the superlative biggest, shiniest, fastest, rarest, loudest, oldest, strongest, lightest, highest or indeed cheapest. Fascinatingly, this isn't a new phenomenon. It has been going on for millennia. In many respects it is the pinnacle of achievement for man's two earliest technological acquisitions: fire and the wheel.

I was enraptured from an early age too. I was especially intrigued by the spaceships that inhabited my imaginary Sci-Fi adventures. Strictly speaking it was more the other way around. I would dream up fantastic interstellar conveyances and then try and think up stories about them. The same went for the cars, planes, boats, trains and submarines I conjured up. There had to be some history and purpose behind each one. The imagined shapes, colours and abilities, which were often inspired by nature, weren't enough in themselves there had to be function and purpose. As I matured and completed my education and training as an engineer the roles reversed again. Purpose became the original inspiration which then necessarily lead to function which only at the very end became form.

In the transportation project you can find a catalogue of some of my wide ranging mobility inventions. There is everything from sports equipment to space vehicles. In each case there is more than just a pretty picture and a shallow description about what it is for. In accordance with axiomatic design I try and depict the whole genesis of each device as far as is possible. Though the objective is to get all the way from perceived purpose and need right the way through to manufacture and test, some of the more ambitious projects are obviously going to take a bit longer to get there. In the meantime I am sure it is still going to be exciting enough, and just a little bit scary, when even the smaller projects get turned into working objects and tried out in real life.

The Mathuitar

The Mathuitar

An uncompromisingly mathematical musical instrument

I grew up amongst music and musicians. We had a wide variety of musical instruments at home:

  • a few wooden recorders;
  • at least one guitar;
  • two upright pianos;
  • a bandstand's worth of brass instruments;
  • also a violin;
  • and maybe even a flute.

My two older sisters were always playing something. I went along by default and for many years was a passable 'First Second trumpet'. Then one day, at the age of about 15 and after a particularly discouraging event at band practice, I just stopped.

Years went by and I played no music at all. Then for no particular reason I decided to learn to play the guitar. I bought a cheap one as a complete beginners set wth books and electronic tuner and started to learn some simple tunes. It didn't take very long before I could manage two or three of the simpler party favourites. Then I hit a wall. Further progress needed more practice than my busy weekly family and work schedule permitted. I stopped progressing. In frustration, I almost gave up entirely on a second instrument.

Then an old adage came to mind.

'A bad workman blames his tools, a good one fixes them'

Could it be that the problem was not my personal ability? Perhaps the instrument itself was to blame! I began researching the theory of both guitars and music. As I dug deeper and a question began to form. Is it possible to make a guitar that is both easy to play and musically versatile? From this question the Mathuitar project was instrumented in order to enumerate the design.

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