General Engineering Introduction/Idea
Engineering projects are not successful unless the participants are enthusiastic. Enthusiasm does not seduce or blind or happen to us. Enthusiasm is found, nurtured, and explored.
Don't stop because you lack of experience or have doubts about your abilities. Don't worry about costs. These realities will be dealt with later. Not now. The goal is to dream and find enthusiasm.
Don't let the complexity of engineering limit your idea creation. Don't feel that the project has to be finished during this semester. Some of the best projects continue for years with different student teams working on them.
Don't worry about idea ownership. Write in your engineering notebook properly and you will own any ideas you come up with.
Starting New Project 
At anytime you can propose new project ideas to your instructor. The instructor may or may not create a wikipage for the project idea. In most cases you will be asked to choose between projects that others thought of and worked on. But if your idea is successful, the next step is to convince some other classmates to choose your project as their top preference when the next team formation cycle begins.
Writing a Project Idea 
The project idea could start with one of these phrases like a TV game show.
- I wish ................................
- What if .............................
- How to .............................
- We could ..........................
A project idea is short. The shorter the better. It should stimulate, inspire, trigger visions in those that read it.
Write all the ideas first in your engineering notebook. Collect them there. After a week, read the ideas. Do they still make sense? Can they be turned into a General Engineering Project? If so, propose them to your instructor.
Stimulating Engineering Ideas 
The following is designed to help stimulate ideas. You can also read about existing projects under projects.
Don't you hate it when _____________ ... when you have to take a bath (tedx video].
Fill in the blank. This could be a project. This is where many successful patents start.
Think of someone you know that needs something. Prude focuses on NGO's (non government organizations). Athelas, here in Columbia, is always a source of service projects. Volunteers for Medical Engineering (VME) serves the needs of handicapped people in the Baltimore area.
Issues are frustrations that people have given names to. Ask someone what their issues are.
Orange text is ugly. Many people have a sense of beauty that guides them. Ask them what is ugly in their lives.
Accustomed to Irritation 
This is different than "Don't you hate it when" because accustomed means that you don't notice it. You may have lived with an outhouse your entire life and don't know that that a toilet even exists.
A problem is a matured issue. Someone has owned the problem. I have a problem. This doesn't mean the problem is fixed. It means that someone is willing to put the time, money, enthusiasm into fixing the problem.
Improve something that already exists. NOT REPAIR. Improve so it does not need to be repaired.
Dream up an idea that could lead to a patent.
Make money building and then selling something.
Repeat Science 
Look through Science News (there is a magazine by this name), Nature Magazine, New Scientist, or listen to science pod casts for stuff that is interesting. Find an experiment or project that can be replicated. Look through the magazines in the front of the class. Read.
Do something that inspires, educates, attracts attention.
There are lots of robot, engineering competitions. The AIAA needs people to help design wind tunnel competitions. Some engineering colleges make up competitions just for the freshmen. For example: make a clock with an alarm from material left over from a ship wreck.
Think of the project as a job. Perhaps you have had a part time job where you noticed something that could be improved. There may be a way to get paid for this work.
Reverse Engineering 
Perhaps there is something that you have always wanted to take apart to see how it works. Has to be something complicated like a disposable digital camera.
Laziness is the mother of invention.
Read about other Engineering Projects 
Read Engineering Magazines. Here are some ... not all.
- Civil Engineering ASCE magazine
- Engineering and Management
- Mechanical Engineering ASME magazine
- Experimental Techniques SEM Society for Experimental Mechanics
- Physics Today .
- Bridge Design & Engineering.. bridge news
- Tech Briefs engineering solutions from NASA
- Defense Tech Briefs engineering solutions for military and aerospace
- Embedded Technology .. electrical engineering
- Electronics Products.. electronics magazine
Read Mechanics Illustrated or Science News. Listen to pod casts of Science Friday. Monitor the technology section of Gizmodo or reddit. Pay for AUVSI and ASEE news feeds. Pick two. Create a daily discipline of reading something stimulating. Pay attention to what engineers are doing in areas that spark your interest. Go to other colleges and look at what engineering projects they are doing. Figure out how new stuff works:
- Steve Gass visualized the most absurd concept: a saw that cuts wood but would not cut off the user's finger if the blade came in accidental contact with it. The blade stops and retracts within 5 ms. The company selling this table saw is sawstop.
- Paul Kateman, founder of MooBella video can make a fresh scoop of ice cream from non-refrigerated ingredients in 45 seconds.