We have all heard it a million times– from professors, peers, LinkedIn Articles– that the best way to set yourself apart when it comes to your resume is a stellar portfolio. However, it can be very difficult to come up with those awesome ideas to fill said portfolio. This blog post will detail some tips about how exactly to go about coming up with your next great project.
Utilize constraints. It can be hard to start from scratch. Use contests or challenges, class assignments and seasonal opportunities (Halloween is coming up!) as constraints to help get you started.
Explore things you’re interested in. Start by making others projects. If you find yourself drawn to the world of robots, try building this awesome racing robot project by Dharshan. Not only does doing others projects expand your technical abilities, the hands-on construction and problem-solving involved gets the creative juices flowing.
It can also help to expand upon from other ideas. Take a project that you think is cool, and add your own twist! Just make sure that you give the original author credit for their contribution. For example, I think this Compass Umbrella project by EmmaSong is a really neat idea. But considering my extreme tendency to get lost and attachment to my phone, I think it would also be cool to try to build this project but using the PmodGPS, PmodBT2, and Google Maps instead so that my umbrella is dictated my step-by-step directions.
The umbrella GPS idea is totally up for grabs by the way, and I (and all of the places I am supposed to be on time) would be forever indebted to whomever could make that a reality.
Read and learn incessantly. Though it can be dry at times, the acquisition of knowledge is a fabulous way to jump start some ideas. Learning will ideally stimulate your brain, and the more you know the more possible connection you can make, and the higher level projects you can do! Also don’t be afraid to extend this to non-engineering topics. You never know in what field your next great idea might be lurking.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to be absurd. Allow yourself to think big and worry about realistic implementation later.Consider no idea too small. I can personally attest I have had and pursued some very far-fetched concepts. And while I know I may be wasting my time but I would find it hard to forgive myself if I wasn’t, and thus ended up missing out on an awesome project.
Look for needs. To quote a very reputable source, “Find a need, fill a need”. Try to think of something you wish you had, and then make it a reality!
Best of luck with your brainstorming!