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Senior Elective Communications Systems Courses as Pathways to Capstone Projects in Electrical Engineering Technology Program

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering Technology Capstone Projects

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Engineering Technology

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Paper Authors


Otilia Popescu Old Dominion University

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Dr. Otilia Popescu received the Engineering Diploma and M.S. degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest, Romania, and the PhD degree from Rutgers University, all in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Her research interests are in the general areas of communication systems, wireless systems, control theory, signal processing and engineering education. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Technology, at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and serves as the Program Director for the Electrical Engineering Technology Program. In the past she has worked for the University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at San Antonio, Rutgers University, and Politehnica University of Bucharest. She is a senior member of the IEEE, served as associate editor for IEEE Communication Letters, and has served in the technical program committee for the IEEE ICC, WCNC, RWW, VTC, GLOBECOM, and CAMAD conferences.

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Murat Kuzlu Old Dominion University

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Murat Kuzlu (Senior Member – IEEE) joined the Department of Engineering Technology, Old Dominion University (ODU) in 2018 as an Assistant Professor. He received his B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. degrees in Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering from Kocaeli University, Turkey, in 2001, 2004, and 2010, respectively. From 2005 to 2006, he worked as a Global Network Product Support Engineer at Nortel Networks, Turkey. In 2006, he joined the Energy Institute of TUBITAK-MAM (Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey – The Marmara Research Center), where he worked as a senior researcher. Before joining ODU, he worked as a Research Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech’s Advanced Research Institute. His research interests include smart grid, demand response, smart metering systems (AMR, AMI, AMM), home and building energy management system, co-simulation, wireless communication, and embedded systems.

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In any engineering program the capstone project is the most comprehensive work completed by the students, and is regarded as the pinnacle of their engineering studies, with all their course work culminating with this major design, implementation and reporting product. In most of the programs this is a two-semester course, with one semester for selecting a topic and creating the grounds on which in the second semester the actual project is conducted. However, coming up with the actual topic of the project is sometimes the most difficult part of the project, especially in programs where the project topics are not solely proposed by the faculty, and they are for the student and advisor to develop together. This is especially the case of engineering technology programs, where a large percentage of students have work background (either from military training or industry, as interns or full-time employees) to which they can relate their senior projects, and the programs allow and encourage them to apply their coursework studies to application areas where they have strong hands-on skills. While core courses of any curriculum provide the foundation of the engineering education, the elective courses give the students the chance to refine their education path and focus on the area of their interest. Senior elective courses are defining the areas of specialization within a major, and they may also serve as grounds for the students to explore potential options for the capstone project, and to have the opportunity to get a good starting point for it, ahead of the capstone semester. In this paper the senior level courses specific to communication systems area of concentration within an electrical engineering technology program are discussed, their course content and the term projects included, and how they offer venues to capstone project choices. The paper also presents specific examples of how these course projects gave students successful pathways for capstone projects. The course content that can be covered by the curriculum of an undergraduate technology program is somehow limited, especially for a broad field such as communication systems, and beyond the fundamental theories, the courses can go in more details only on very few narrow areas. Therefore, with a term project in an elective course, students have the opportunity of a semester of deeper study of a topic of their choice, and the learnings and new skills developed can be later applied for the completion of a capstone project. Topics such as software-defined radios and corresponding software packages, antenna design also with specific software package, radars, or computer networks protocols, are not necessarily topics covered in details in a course. Nonetheless, as part of a course assignment, students can develop the necessary background and get this way ready for a capstone project in the next semesters. The paper will also discuss students’ opinions on capstone topic selection, about the option of developing initial results or skills as part of course work, as well as how their selection is related to their background, previous experience and future goals.

Popescu, O., & Kuzlu, M. (2021, July), Senior Elective Communications Systems Courses as Pathways to Capstone Projects in Electrical Engineering Technology Program Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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