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Classification And Assessment Of Projects In Computer Engineering

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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

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.279.1 - 15.279.9

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Paper Authors


Dick Blandford University of Evansville

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Dick Blandford is the department chair of the
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Evansville. He received a PhD in EE from the University of Illinois.

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Christina Howe University of Evansville

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Christina Howe is an assistant professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Evansville. She received a PhD in EE from Vanderbilt University.

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Anthony Richardson University of Evansville

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Tony Richardson is an associate professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Evansville. He has a PhD in EE from Duke University

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David Mitchell University of Evansville

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David Mitchell is an associate professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Evansville. He holds a masters degree in Physics from the University of Toledo.

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

Classification and Assessment of Projects in Computer Engineering


Computer engineering projects typically involve some combination of hardware and software. Students complete such projects in classes of the following subject matters: digital logic design, microcontrollers, digital systems, real-time systems, and less often digital controls or networks. More elaborate projects are done as a capstone experience. This paper is limited to non-capstone projects that include both hardware and software and are most frequently done in the sophomore and junior year of a computer engineering program.

Since such projects involve multiple areas within different disciplines, instructor's expectations, and work done over more than one year, it becomes difficult to assess how much of each topic a given student has covered. This paper suggests a way to classify such projects using the topics outlined in the Computer Engineering Body of Knowledge (BOK) document produced in 2004 by a joint task force of IEEE Computer Society and the ACM. A sample project is given along with its classification. Twenty-seven additional project summaries are provided. This data is used to determine how well the projects cover the required topics for purposes of assessment.


At most universities, computer and electrical engineering students do labs in two different styles. In the "classic style", the student is given a lab sheet which describes in detail the "experiment" to be performed. It typically has a sequence of steps to be followed much like a recipe for baking a cake where the ingredients are the components and lab equipment. There is a second lab style which we call a "project lab" in which the student receives a paragraph or two describing some device to be designed. Such project labs typically include a bullet list of specifications and a grading scale with points assigned based on what specifications are met.

Both of these lab styles have clear advantages and their own peculiar drawbacks. The classic lab is very good for teaching students to use equipment such as an oscilloscope or a spectrum analyzer and for giving students practice in lab work that they are expected to understand as professionals. For the classic lab, it's easy to verify that any student who completes the lab has had experience with specified topics. For example, if a course objective is to provide students with experience in the use of a particular software tool such as MATLAB® or PSpice, a classic style lab where this software tool becomes one of the items on the "recipe list" will provide an easy-to-assess method of meeting this objective.

The project style lab is much more open-ended. Particular hardware and software tools are not specified, since the lab is described in terms of specifications to be met instead of methods which must be used to complete the lab. A student may choose to use a calculator or a custom computer program in place of MATLAB® for a project. Project labs do, however, provide the student with an experience that is closer to what that student will encounter in the professional workplace. In addition, students tend to remember better those experiences where they

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