Veronica Spencer
Engineer, Designer, and Maker


Iteration, Schmiteration: Capstone Trophies

We've all been there. You look at your project - presumably 5 minutes before the deadline - and say something along the lines of, "Well, it isn't perfect, but at least it's done". It's never until you take 5 steps back from the final result that you realize all of the quick, easy decisions that could have drastically improved your final deliverable. Fortunately, as the Capstone TA, I had the chance - nay, the privilege - to iterate upon one of my past projects. This semester, I made 140 of the revised Capstone Design trophies to be distributed at the Spring 2018 Capstone Design Expo on April 24th.


The Spring 2018 Trophy

Featuring: A stained pine base, a clear acrylic stand, and a two-tone brushed gold acrylic plaque.

Last semester, I was tasked with making 100 Capstone Trophies for the Fall 2017 Expo. I made a cascading series of poor decisions that led to a very aesthetic design that required a significant number of man-hours to make. This semester, when I was asked to make 40% more trophies, I took a long, hard look at the process last semester, and I shaved time off of everything that I could think of. Carefully reevaluating my design allowed me to spend less time on each trophy while also improving the aesthetic value of the design. I ended up spending roughly the same amount of time on the build for 140 trophies as I did for 100 last semester.

Changes to my process that made a huge difference both temporally AND aesthetically:

  1. Switched from yellow acrylic and spraypaint to two-toned acrylic from Inventables for the plaques on the trophies.

    1. Previously, I engraved a mask onto the acrylic, painted it, then spent a significant amount of time removing the mask from the surface - including the insides of the letters, which was tricky and frustrating. It also created an opportunity to smear/ruin paint.

    2. With the two-toned acrylic, once I nailed the settings, I only had to engrave/cut the plaques and peel the plastic off. NOTE: The plastic stays in one piece while you're engraving, so you no longer need to weed out the insides of letters!

  2. Wood bases instead of plywood bases.

    1. I thought that laser cut plywood would be the answer last semester, but I misjudged the effectiveness of a laser versus 1/2" thick plywood. I ended up still having to trim everything down by hand, even after waiting for a lengthy laser cutter job. They also didn't look so great.

    2. This time, I did a rapid fire series of operations that created a more elegant base out of 9 1"x3"x8' boards, using my new best friend - the tablesaw. I was able to churn out all the bases in a few hours.

  3. Stain and seal the bases.

    1. Last time, I sealed all portions of the base after laser cutting/mitre sawing everything.

    2. This time, to make the brushed gold acrylic really pop, I actually added time to my process and stained the bases. This elevated the look from a simple pine to a darker wood, which provides significant contrast to the rest of the trophy.

You can see a selection of my process photos from this semester's build down below:

So what now?

I just dropped off the trophies for their appearance at the Capstone Design Expo, which means I've just crossed this temporary finish line. For the immediate future, I'm going to let the design be, and I'm going to get some sleep. Since I'm also serving as the Capstone TA in the Fall, I'll presumably get another chance to iterate upon my design for that batch. As hindsight is 20/20, "Future Veronica" will make the design even sleeker, sexier, and easier to make. And then she'll probably rag on "Now Veronica" for making silly decisions, just as I've done for the Veronica of Fall 2017.

See you at the Expo!

Veronica Spencer