ASM Car Electronics students spent a lot of time in their second Semester completing a team project in the Electro and Microtechnology lab. This is their report
On a beautiful, sunny summer day in the Göppingen campus, my team comprising of 7 international students from the M.Eng. in Automotive Systems program successfully demonstrated the concept of our project titled, “2-wire power supply and communication network”. With the excellent support from the project supervisors Prof. Dr-Ing. Gerd Wittler and Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Jürgen Minuth, the team was able to realize a bi-directional Master-Slave communication with 2-wires (power and ground) that transmits data through the power supply line. The motivation of the project was to reduce the number of wires in the vehicle to reduce costs.
The project brought along with it many valuable lessons that could not have been taught in class and it also provided a great platform for us to combine and put our knowledge learnt in class into a "system" that functions. Through the countless hours with my teammates designing circuits, simulation, testing in the laboratory, I gained a much profound and deeper understanding of the topics that I have learnt during the program and also forged great friendships along the way. Like any other engineering projects, we were constantly faced challenges and setbacks that tested our will and determination to succeed.
Although the task at hand was purely engineering, what made it more challenging was working with other students from different countries (India, Mexico, Brazil, China, Singapore), cultures and experiences. Anyone who has worked in a group project knows how difficult it can be to manage expectations, understanding the other person and how to deal with conflicts in a group. Being in a group of 7 international students brought new meaning to term “group project” to me. It can be extremely surprising how something simple could have totally different meanings to people from different lands. We all know how conflicts or lack of communication can be detrimental to the project outcome and to the team dynamics. This is a problem for every organization to overcome to be successful and was also an issue for us.
Why then do we still bother working in a group? Would it not be easier to work on our own? The answer is simple. We can achieve much more together than individually. The ultimate goal of working in a group would be to achieve synergy, a total effect that is greater than the sum of individual elements. The world is a complex place and it is impossible for an individual to have answers for everything. In our case, it meant breaking down our project into smaller components and to have different persons to focus on different aspects of the project. If the tasks were clear and team has a clear direction and objective, combining the individual work will result in a symphony. If not, it will be a disaster.
My two cents' worth of advice to fellow students is take the time to get to know one another and be open to ideas, involve everyone, listen patiently and be explicitly clear when communicating. This means you do not only "transmit data in an open loop" but instead, use feedback from the group in a closed-loop manner for effective communication. Too often, such "formalities" are ignored because we wish go straight to the tasks and this easily lead to conflicts later on when misunderstandings occur.
Without a doubt, I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the team project and walk away having learnt more about myself holistically both in technical and non-technical skills as well as made good friends along the way. Once again, I thank our supervisors the master’s program and my teammates for the insightful and rewarding learning experience.
Abdullah Bin Omar Salleh, ASM, HS Esslingen