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Assessing Curriculum Improvement Through Senior Projects

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Pedagogy and Assessment in ECE III

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.198.1 - 15.198.13



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Paper Authors

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Jianbiao Pan California Polytechnic State University

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Albert Liddicoat California Polytechnic State University


James Harris California Polytechnic State University

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James G. Harris received his BS and MS in EE from UCB and the PhD in EE from Syracuse University. He was an Assistant Professor at Howard University, and an Associate Professor at the University of the District of Columbia, both in Washington, D.C. He is a Professor (emeritus) with the Department of Electrical Engineering, and the Computer Engineering Program at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. He served as the Department Head of the EE Department from 1982-89 and the Director of the Computer Engineering Program from 1993-97 and 2008-09. From 1990-92, he was a Program Director in the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C. He worked for TRW in Redondo Beach, CA for 11 years, primarily on signal processing projects. He is a member of IEEE, ASEE, ACM, AAAS, ASES and SHOT.

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Linda Shepherd California Polytechnic State University

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

Assessing Curriculum Improvement through Senior Projects


Senior project and/or capstone design courses are intended to provide a culminating design experience for students and to demonstrate their understanding of engineering knowledge and their ability to apply that knowledge to practical problems. It is expected that the quality and attributes of students’ senior design projects can be used as a good measure of determining how well the curriculum prepares students to engage in engineering design as well as a measure of faculty teaching and student learning. This paper reports the results of a study designed to assess whether the new computer engineering curriculum implemented at Cal Poly over the previous five years has had a positive impact in preparing students for engineering design through measuring the quality and complexity of senior design projects. A randomized complete block design was used in the study. Ten senior projects each were randomly selected from the population of three groups: computer engineering senior projects completed in the 2002-2003 academic year, computer engineering senior projects completed in the 2007-2008 academic year, and electrical engineering senor projects completed in the 2007-2008 academic year. A senior project evaluation rubric was developed to assess the quality and complexity of the senior projects. Members from the Computer Engineering Industrial Advisory Board used the rubric to score the randomly selected senior projects. The scores assigned by the advisory board members were compared to the letter grades assigned by faculty advisors for these senior projects. The results of the analysis show that the overall quality of computer engineering senior projects improved from academic year 2002-2003 to academic year 2007-2008. However, there is a statistically significant difference in the overall senior project grades assigned between faculty advisors as compared to senior project scores assigned by the advisory board members. The results also indicate that the rubric developed from this study is robust since different evaluators did not have a statistically significant effect on the grading of senior projects.


The Computer Engineering curriculum at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has been modified significantly in the previous five years to prepare students for a “system” level engineering experience and project-based learning. Three new courses include: CPE329 Introduction to Systems Design, IME458 Microelectronics and Electronic Packaging, and CPE350/450 Capstone course sequence. In the Introduction to Systems Design course, students design a custom computing platform using programmable logic with reusable intellectual property core Technology, instead of using a standard hardware development board in a traditional embedded systems course.1,2 In addition, students interface this computer system to external hardware devices that include digital and analog I/O, and develop firmware to best meet the system design requirements. In the Microelectronics and Electronic Packaging course, students gain a hands- on experience in designing and manufacturing a complex system through layout, assembly and testing an electronic device involving a multilayer Printed Circuit Board (PCB). The Capstone course sequence prepares students to work in teams of 4 to 6 people to design and implement a complex system that meets the needs of a real customer such as an industrial company or a non-

Pan, J., & Liddicoat, A., & Harris, J., & Shepherd, L. (2010, June), Assessing Curriculum Improvement Through Senior Projects Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15784

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015