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One Last Tool for Their Toolbox: Preparing Students for Capstone Design

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Capstone Design and Innovations in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.944.1 - 23.944.9



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Paper Authors


Barbara E. Marino Loyola Marymount University

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Barbara E. Marino received the B.S.E.E. degree in 1989 from Marquette University, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 1993 and 1996, respectively. In 1996 Dr. Marino joined the faculty at Loyola Marymount University where she currently serves as Associate Professor. Concurrent to this academic appointment Dr. Marino has been involved in research with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her
interests are in the area of image processing and electronic imaging. She is a member of ASEE, SWE, Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu.

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One Last Tool for Their Toolbox: Preparing Students for Capstone DesignIn many electrical engineering programs, students are required to demonstrate thesuccess of their capstone design project by building and testing a prototype. Dependingon the nature and complexity of the design specifications, the final product may be acomposite of analog and digital, hardware and software, discrete components and off-the-shelf parts. The students are challenged not just by the design, but by theintegration of these various types of technology. There are two ways we fail to preparestudents to meet this challenge.First of all, course work and laboratory work are compartmentalized. A student may takea digital electronics course with a complementary laboratory component. The labexperiences gained may be very suitable for demonstrating the analysis and design ofcombinational and sequential logic circuits, but do not teach the students how tointerface digital circuits with analog circuits or computer software.Another way in which we fail to prepare students to meet the challenge of their capstonedesign project is by not providing enough experience in working with off-the-shelf partsand systems. A capstone project may require integration with a solar panel, motionsensor or electronic keypad. But nowhere in the curriculum are students taught how toresearch parts, read data sheets and verify operations, all necessary considerationsbefore the design can progress.To address these challenges, a series of open-ended laboratory experiences weredesigned for first semester seniors. These experiences were designed to be completedin two weeks (including six hours of lab time). With only a basic understanding of thefunctionality, and perhaps a datasheet, the students spend the first week tinkering witha part or system that they have not used before. They must learn how it responds tovarious inputs and categorize each output. Between the first and the second week thestudents then design a system to operate the part or system in some predeterminedmanner. The design is implemented and tested in the second week.These open-ended laboratory experiences will be described in the paper andpresentation. Survey results were used to assess the effectiveness of theseexperiences. These will also be presented in the paper and presentation.

Marino, B. E. (2013, June), One Last Tool for Their Toolbox: Preparing Students for Capstone Design Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22329

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