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Capstone Design In The Ece Curriculum: Assessing The Quality

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.96.1 - 1.96.5



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Paper Authors

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William Michalson

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Robert Labonté

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

Session 1232

Capstone Design in the ECE Curriculum: Assessing the Quality of Undergraduate Projects at WPI

William Michalson, Robert Labont6 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Since adopting the WPI-Plan in 1972 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, one of the degree requirements for undergraduates has been the completion of a Major Qualifying Project. Although this project significantly predates the current ABET requirement for providing students a capstone design experience, as implemented within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, it captures both the spirit and letter of this requirement. The objective of this paper is to provide a brief description of the Major Qualifying Project at WPI and to provide some quantitative data showing the effect of the MQP on Electrical Engineering students over a six year period.


As originally conceived, the Major Qualifying Project, or MQP, was intended to provide students with a final project to link their academic experiences to their future career as engineers. Today, this project manifests itself as a serious, year-long effort to complete an engineering project quite similar in nature to the type of project a student might be assigned as an entry-level engineer. Within the context of this project, students have designed, built, and tested electronic systems to perform sophisticated signal and image processing, to evaluate computer network performance, to measure water flow in the canals in Venice, and even to develop experiments which were carried on the Space Shuttle. Given the nature of an MQP, it provides a unique opportunity for students to complete serious projects that apply current technology to solve real engineering problems.

Perhaps even more importantly, the MQP provides an ideal mechanism for fulfilling the ABET-required capstone design component of an undergraduate’s education. Since most real engineering problems often start as loosely specitled ideas, successfully completing an MQP requires that students develop design specifications, evolve efficient designs, evaluate their designs relative to performance specifications and human factors, and finally implemen~ test, and document their designs. These activities directly address both the spirit and the letter of the ABET capstone design description.

This year, the ECE department completed its third biennial review of the MQP process. During this review over 60 project reports from more than 100 senior undergraduates were evaluated based on a wide variety of criteria, most of which directly overlap the ABET capstone design definition. As a result of this review, we found that the goals of the MQP were satisfied by the vast majority of projects. In addition, we found dramatic shifts in the types of areas that students were addressing in their projects which, we believe, is a direct consequence of major curriculum overhaul in the ECE department over the past few years. This paper will put these results in a context that will allow other ECE departments to benefit from the experience we have gained at WPI.

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Michalson, W., & Labonté, R. (1996, June), Capstone Design In The Ece Curriculum: Assessing The Quality Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--5907

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