June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.117.1 - 14.117.8
A Student-Selected Team-Based Capstone Project in RF Communications
This paper presents the results of a capstone project in an elective RF communications course. The course is third in a series of upper-division communications courses in an Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology program. Students were allowed to select the type of project, create specifications and develop test plans. Students were then grouped into teams that were maintained throughout the course.
The project initially progressed slowly as students selected overall specifications, determined functional blocks and developed block designs. Weekly project team meetings required teams to communicate their progress and any discoveries to the remaining teams. As the project progressed, initial designs and test criteria were updated to reflect student discoveries relating to components, manufacturing and measuring capabilities. All specifications, test procedures, and designs for the entire project were completed individually by each team and submitted to all other teams. Submissions were reviewed in design review sessions in which all teams voted on the best submission, which then served as the standard for all teams. Upon determination of all circuit designs, the project was equally divided among all teams. Each team was solely responsible for the layout, fabrication and testing of their project block.
Course instructors facilitated project progression through comments on the advantages and disadvantages of proposed approaches. Course lectures and laboratories were designed to provide instruction in concepts relating to the project which were not covered in previous courses. The project, a 915MHz, multi-channel FM audio transmitter and receiver, was successfully constructed and operational by the required delivery date.
This paper presents student results for key project milestones, results of student interviews relating to their project experiences and preferences, and instructor observations. Additionally, comments regarding the suitability of this type of capstone project method for engineering technology students are provided.
Providing meaningful laboratory experiences to electrical engineering technology students becomes increasingly challenging as they advance through a curricula. Early fundamental labs are often highly structured, but as students advance in their experience and education, the need for independent inquiry learning emerges. Students nearing graduation face the future prospect of working or studying in an environment with substantially less oversight and direction. Additionally students will need to develop self-confidence in their abilities and decisions to allow for the level of independence desired by employers.
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