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A Project-based Computer Engineering Curriculum

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Engineering Curriculum Design and Evaluation

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.90.1 - 26.90.20



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Paper Authors


Jeremy N. Thomas DigiPen Institute of Technology

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Jeremy Thomas has been at the DigiPen Institute of Technology since 2010. He has a BA in Physics from Bard College, and a MS in Physics and a Ph.D. in Geophysics both from the University of Washington (UW).

Before joining DigiPen, he was a Postdoc at the U.S. Geological Survey and held faculty positions at the UW and Bard College. Currently, he holds affiliate positions at the UW and NorthWest Research Associates. His areas of specialization are space physics and electrical engineering, including atmospheric electricity, radio wave propagation, and digital signal processing.

He and his students are currently conducting research in both geophysics (e.g., fusion of lightning and satellite data) and computer engineering (e.g., human interface devices and handheld gaming consoles). He has authored more than 20 peer-reviewed publications, including some with DigiPen students.

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Christopher Theriault DigiPen Institute of Technology

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Charles Duba DigiPen Institute of Technology


Lukas P van Ginneken Digipen Institute of Technology

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Lukas van Ginneken is a professor of computer engineering at Digipen Institute of Technology. His interests are digital logic, field programmable gate arrays, computer architecture, hardware description languages and microcontrollers. Formerly Mr. Van Ginneken was Chief Scientist and a co-founder of Magma Design Automation Inc. Before joining Magma, he was at Synopsys, where he worked in the Design Compiler group and the Advanced Technology Group. From 1989 to 1995 he was at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center, where he worked on logic synthesis. Mr. van Ginneken holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Eindhoven University.

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Nicholas James Rivera

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Brian Michael Tugade DigiPen Institute of Technology

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A Project-based Computer Engineering CurriculumA project-based undergraduate Computer Engineering curriculum, with an embedded systemsfocus, has been offered since 2004 at a small, private college in the Northwestern US. The maingoals of the curriculum are: 1. to engage students in engineering problems starting in the firstsemester of the Program, thus provide them with a sense of pride and ownership in their work;and 2. to prepare students for engineering careers by involving them in sophisticated projectstypically only conducted at the graduate level or in industry.Most undergraduate Computer Engineering programs only require a 2-semester senior capstonedesign course. Whereas, in this Program, team projects start in the first semester and are requiredin each of the following semesters. As they develop through the Program, students haveincreasingly more creative control over their projects and are responsible for componentselection, design, testing, and implementation of their own hardware and/or software systems.Design constraints that are encountered in industry are followed, such as use model, cost, power,and portability. Examples include robotic toys, human interface devices, hand-held gamingconsoles, and a stratospheric balloon data acquisition / telemetry system. These projectscomplement rigorous coursework in computer science, engineering, programming, mathematicsand physics.In this paper, we describe the project-based curriculum in detail, including examples of studentprojects. Student outcomes related to both technical and soft skills are assessed using student andalumni surveys and project evaluation rubrics. We discuss these assessments results andhighlight some successes and limitations of the experiential curriculum. We also discuss jobplacement of Program graduates.

Thomas, J. N., & Theriault, C., & Duba, C., & van Ginneken, L. P., & Rivera, N. J., & Tugade, B. M. (2015, June), A Project-based Computer Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23431

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