Capstone Design

Welcome to ECE Senior Design 1!

Graduation is fast approaching, and one of the last major challenges to your undergraduate engineering degree is this Capstone Senior Design course. This is an opportunity to develop and demonstrate skills and knowledge acquired over the past few years to formulate and solve a complex open-ended problem. Many of you will soon start the interview process for your first engineering position in which employers will not only want to know about your technical skills, but how well you understand your strengths and weaknesses, ability to work on a team, deal with conflict, and other skills important for today’s workplace. This class will provide a series of experiences and challenges that when met with hard work, creativity, and diligence, will build your skills and knowledge and result in tangible engineering outcomes with stories to tell!

Through interactions with your team, course instructors, and other mentors/sponsors you will choose a project consistent with your skill set. Then your group will work through the design process, from project selection to marketing and engineering requirements that clearly define the problem without committing to a specific solution. Next you will brainstorm and research technologies to propose a good/best solution documented in a preliminary design report (PDR). The PDR ties the engineering requirements along with constrains on time, budget, skills etc. to a proposed solution. Each team member is expected to become an expert on one or more of the project subtopics. At the end of the first semester your team will have the preliminary design report, and sub-components your project assembled to demonstrate the likelihood of success. The semester culminates with each team giving a poster presentation to the students, faculty, and sponsors at ECE Senior Design Day on Friday of Dead Week.

In the second semester you will continue developing these projects to refine the solutions to the lowest level of detail by the end of January. This is documented in the critical design report (CDR), where all design decisions are described and there is sufficient detail to complete the programming, assembly, and analysis required to get to the final product. February and March will be dedicated to system integration and testing. By the beginning of April, you will present your final design report and prototype to the instructor team. You will also work with the E-Studio to create a 90-second video that presents your ideas, hard work, and professionalism in an attention-grabbing way. There will be another Senior Design Day in Dead Week of Spring once more show-off your skills and ingenuity in a now finished design!

Expected Student Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this course should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate good engineering judgement in the design process.
  2. Develop project specifications and work plans for completing the design as a team.
  3. Apply varied subject knowledge in electrical engineering to the solution of engineering problems requiring interdisciplinary efforts.
  4. Identify and describe aspects of environment, safety, quality, cost, and contemporary issues in design.
  5. Articulate the principles of teamwork.
  6. Solve open-ended engineering problems, such as those where information is under-specified or over-specified, and where methodologies are not specified.


Ralph M. Ford and Chris S. Coulston; "Design for Electrical and Computer Engineers"; McGraw-Hill; 2008; ISBN 978-0-07-338035-3

Grading Policy:

A total of 1000 points equals 100%.

Letter Grade Assignment:

from 100% to 90% => A, from 89% to 80% => B, from 79% to 70% => C, from 69% to 60% => D, from 59% to 0% => E

To pass the course, students must earn an average grade of C or higher on Composition and Communication assignments (lab note book, individual research report, project proposals, project proposal presentation, preliminary design report, preliminary design presentation, poster presentation at ECE Senior Design Day).

Engineering Notebook/Journal

The engineering journal tracks the development of the group project, and in particular, YOUR contributions to its progress. The journal is a great resource for writing reports and helping focus your thought processes and structure your efforts. The use of a journal follows required practices of industrial/accademic/government laboratories, where complete and accurate records are vital. The journal is a legally recognized paper that is essential in documenting project progress, discoveries, billable work time, and patent disclosures. Engineering notebooks in this course will be check periodically and graded according to the following rubric:

  • Proper form, 20%: Pages must be bound, no torn-out pages, entries in ink legible, Entries titled & time-stamped, no blank pages between entries
  • Individual Efforts 50%: Evidence of independent ongoing work relevant to the project, problems identified and solution/resolution
  • Team interaction/Group Effort 30%: Meeting documentation, coordination of efforts
  • Scaling factor: On notebook check days, a minimum of at least 4 entries per week are expected with at least 2 of those from individual effort. Less than this results in the score being scaled down. Missing the individual work quota, results in lost point under individual efforts category.

Self/Peer Reviews

Personnel reviews are a part of project management responsibilities. You will be having regular reviews with your supervisor, and you will need to provide reviews for those you supervise. This is often a difficult, but necessary thing to do. To give you some practice we are asking you to complete an evaluation form for yourself and your project partners. This activity is critical to the growth of the profession, so much so that it is included in the IEEE code of ethics (#7 to seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others). The grades you give to yourself and your project partners will be confidential and used solely by the course instructor. There will be at least three evaluations performed during the semester.

Report Format

The format of the reports and proposals will be discussed in class. The final form will be an amendment to this syllabus and handed out to the students in class and will be published on the class' webpage.


There will be different assignments throughout the semester. These will help the students to train some of the skills they need to finish their projects with all deliverables. Assignments will be announced in class and/or via the class website. Assignments will be marked as team or individual work. No student is allowed to submit an individual work for a team assignment. All team members are responsible for team assignments.


Attendance of all class lectures is required. For days with no scheduled lecture attendance in team meetings is required. That is, for any Tuesday or Thursday during class time students are expected to either attend a scheduled lecture or - if no lecture is scheduled - work with their team in a specified "Work-in-Team" location. These locations will be determined by the teams and have to be approved by the instructor team.

Each student starts with an attendance grade of 100%. For each unexcused absence (see below information on excused absences) there will be 15% deducted. Each student can have 2 unexcused absences without penalty.