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ECE115 - Fast Prototyping

ECE115 Fast Prototyping Course - Pinball


Course Description:

This lab-based, design-focused course will discuss how to prototype a mechatronic solution as quickly as possible, covering the following topics: (1) cheap/accessible materials, adhesives, fasteners, and suppliers; (2) fast prototyping techniques such as laser cutting and 3D printing, and (3) fast assembly and system integration shortcuts. The students will learn to materialize their ideas in the shortest possible time and make design decisions that will result in a cheap, robust, and well-designed mechatronic system.

This is a hands-on course. This course is taught in a series of modules through which the students build and then apply skills in electronics and mechanical design, fabrication, and characterization to meet modular sub-system requirements.  You will create fantastic projects that you are proud of ONLY if you dedicate and manage your time and teamwork wisely. This will likely be your most time-consuming course this quarter. A significant time commitment is required. Do not underestimate the time it will take to complete each module and integrate them into your personalized mechatronic system! However, with dedication and commitment to the lab modules and the project, as well as your team member, you will not only excel in the course but produce a piece of work that you can be proud of and show to your friends and colleagues.

A project involving building a mechatronic system will be the glue for all lab modules. Students will be paired into groups of two. You may choose your own teams. As a team, you will work through modules and design your own, unique mechatronic/robotic system (the theme of which will be announced in the first week of class). By module 4, your system should be complete and functional. In module 5, each team conceives, develops, integrates, and presents an extension module that improves the capability of the original system. We will have an open-house at the end of the quarter to show your creations to your friends, students, faculty, and the local community.

Course goals:

  1. Hands-on skills and experience with design, fabrication, integration, and characterization of practical electronic and mechanical hardware systems relevant to engineering students.
  2. Practice using modern rapid prototyping and device equipment and techniques, including CAD, 3D printing, laser cutting, microcontrollers, design thinking
  3. Experience working as a team to build an end-to-end functional, intelligent robotic system


(Optional) Practical Electronics for Inventors, 2nd or 3rd Editions (Scherz and Monk); Tab Books

Lab Module Summary:

1. System design and mechanical parts

system-level design, with block diagram and requirements; mechanical design and construction

Tues 1/15

2. Servo systems

Driving high-current actuator circuits (e.g. motors, solenoids); controlling blocks with digital logic through an Arduino microcontroller

Tues 1/27

3. Sensing and signal Processing

LED and phototransistor circuits; analog signal processing; digital logic circuits

Tues 2/12


Team proposal for new/improved features for Module 5, including the additional system requirements, module specifications, and designs

Thurs 2/14 (discussion)

Tues 2/19
(final proposal)

4. System Integration

State machines; verification and validation measurements of system performance;

Functional system demo to teaching staff

Tues 3/5

*note the extra week

5. Final, customized electromechanical system and additional lab module

Team demonstration of system + new/improved features in open house

Thurs 3/14

Documentation of feature design and performance exercises

Tues 3/19


Lab module 1-3 deliverables/demo     45% (15% each)
Lab module 4 deliverables/demo        25% (completely working pinball machine)
Lab module 5 deliverables/demo        20% (10% open-house demo, 10% module 5 addition)
Teammate evaluations                        10%
Total:                                                  100%

Grading and Late Policy:

Lab module grades will be based on accumulated points for each deliverable, with emphasis on setting appropriate specifications and demonstrating that the specifications have been met. 

Re-grading of deliverables can be requested by a team for any two of the five modules with a 20% late penalty.  For example, if a team has not completed a module by the deliverable due date, and hence receives a low score for that module, it can work to complete the module and receive up to 80% credit for the module. There is no last date for this.