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Learning Project Implementation And Management Skills In The Culminating Design Experience

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Capstone Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.805.1 - 7.805.10



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Paper Authors

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Pamela Neal

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Erlind Royer

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Kenneth Soda

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Session 2425

Learning Project Implementation and Management Skills in the Culminating Design Experience

Pamela J. Neal, Kenneth J. Soda, Erlind G. Royer Department of Electrical Engineering United States Air Force Academy, CO

1. Introduction The contemporary undergraduate curriculum of an Electrical Engineering program is packed with required courses, making it a challenge to complete in four years. By necessity, nearly all of this work is theoretical, supported by laboratory work that is too often limited in scope. The more practical aspects of project estimation, implementation and test are, at best, given very limited coverage. Therefore, it is not uncommon for students reaching their capstone design project to possess little, if any, experience with the practical aspects of successful design. We have developed a one semester-hour course, El Engr 463, Design Project Techniques, which addresses some of the practical aspects of design project planning and implementation that are not covered in other courses. In this paper, we describe in detail the course topics and methods used to introduce them. The course is divided into two parts. The first half of the course focuses upon practical hardware considerations. We discuss and demonstrate printed circuit board fabrication, including board layout using a contemporary software tool, circuit board fabrication, and soldering of both through-hole and surface-mount components. We also discuss practical circuit design considerations including board component placement, trace routing, noise mitigation, power supplies, voltage regulators, digital signal transmission, signal isolation, safety grounding and chassis shielding. The second half of the course is devoted to instruction in and implementation of the design process. It begins with an engineering ethics case study that demonstrates the importance of establishing and rigorously following a systematic project process. Students then select a capstone design project and faculty mentor. Using a “just-in- time teaching” philosophy, we then discuss a seven-phase project life cycle including the contents of the documents produced at key milestones in the life cycle. The students then execute the project life cycle by developing technical specifications and a schedule in the context of their specific project. After a discussion of test design and planning, the students develop a high-level design as well as integration and test plans for their project. Progress is assessed with a design review at the end of the semester. Students complete detailed project design, fabrication, and test the following semester.

The main objectives of El Engr 463, Design Project Techniques, are to provide students with the practical hardware skills they need to successfully complete the capstone design project and to introduce a systematic project life cycle process that allows them to organize and design their project in a logical manner. El Engr 463 is a one semester-hour course so no outside preparation by the students is expected except when class does not meet at its regularly scheduled time. El Engr 463 provides the students some additional practical engineering knowledge not normally found in an undergraduate curriculum, which is applied as they start on their capst one design project. The design project is completed in El Engr 464, Design Project, a three semester-hour course in the Spring semester. Approximately 30% of El Engr 463 is spent on hardware lessons,

“Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

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Neal, P., & Royer, E., & Soda, K. (2002, June), Learning Project Implementation And Management Skills In The Culminating Design Experience Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10437

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