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A Capstone Senior Design Course: Building A Simplified Computer Network

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

ECE Capstone and Engineering Practice

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.14.1 - 9.14.6



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Paper Authors

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John Greco

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3232

A Capstone Senior Design Course: Building a Simplified Computer Network John Greco, Ph.D. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Lafayette College Easton, PA 18042

Abstract This paper discusses a capstone senior design course for electrical and computer engineering students. The course builds on the fundamentals of an ECE curriculum, and offers opportunities to learn new material, and to design, simulate, debug, build, and test a local area network. The six-node network that is realized uses either a Token Ring Protocol or an Ethernet protocol for sending short text messages on twisted-pair cable between network nodes. Students implement four of the Open Systems Interconnection layers: the application layer; the network layer; the data link layer; the physical layer. The node hardware consists of a Motorola 68HC11 microcontroller development board, plus additional hardware interfacing which students design and test. Working in groups of two, students appreciate the importance of exhaustive testing before connecting their node hardware to other nodes. The course includes various topics from previously taken courses: digital design (microcontroller programming, timing and interfacing); electronics (differential line drivers); electromagnetic fields (transmission lines, crosstalk, ground noise); control systems (phase-locked loop for clock recovery); electric circuits (power supply noise). The course also introduces students to new material for understanding network protocols. Once the network is functioning, students devise tests and take measurements to determine the network efficiency under various traffic conditions. This paper focuses on three questions: how is this capstone experience tied with the core courses of the curriculum; how is the course set up to meet the requirements of senior design and ABET’s expectations; how other institutions can develop such a capstone experience, i.e. what should they expect from their students, and what hardware is actually needed to offer the course.

Introduction A typical undergraduate course in computer networking focuses on the high-level behavior of networks, including their architectures, protocols and performance 1–5. Laboratory work associated with such courses concentrates on software, using either available network cards as part of a physical network or simulating the behavior of a network 6–17. The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department currently offers a networking course that emphasizes the lower-level operation of a network, including the physical medium, the packet format, and simplified protocols for Token Ring and Ethernet networks. In the laboratory component of the course, students realize each type of network using a microcontroller in conjunction with peripheral hardware. The

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Greco, J. (2004, June), A Capstone Senior Design Course: Building A Simplified Computer Network Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--14038

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