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Teaching Engineering Design The Evolution Of A Senior Design Course In Electrical Engineering

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1202.1 - 10.1202.8



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Paper Authors

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Glen Dudevoir

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Carl Fossa

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Teaching Engineering Design – The Evolution of a Senior Design Course in Electrical Engineering

Carl E. Fossa, Jr. and Glen P. Dudevoir Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science United States Military Academy, West Point, NY 10996


Engineering students typically take a core set of courses that include both laboratory exercises and semester design projects. These courses provide the students with practical laboratory and experimental skills, as well as teaching them to apply these skills to a well- defined design project. However, the core engineering courses do not normally teach some of the topics necessary to successfully design less well-defined, “real world” projects. This paper describes the evolution of the integrative senior design course in the Electrical Engineering Program at the United States Military Academy (USMA). In the early 1980’s the senior design project in the Electrical Engineering Program at USMA was an individual project completed at the end of the final electronics course. The design project has since evolved into a two-semester design course with interdisciplinary group projects. Throughout the two-semester course, students work with a dedicated faculty advisor to develop a written project proposal, several in- progress reviews, a prototype demonstration, and a final report. The course includes lectures covering topics unique to the engineering design process such as project management, design economics, and engineering ethics. It also includes laboratory exercises designed to give the students practical skills they do not typically acquire during the core electrical engineering course sequence. Examples of these laboratory exercises include designing a printed circuit board, packaging circuits, and integrating sensors with microcontrollers. Both the senior project and the laboratory exercises reinforce the technical, economic, political and social aspects of the engineering design process. The course today provides students with the skills they need to successfully perform as part of an interdisciplinary design team.


Twenty-five years ago, senior design projects in the Electrical Engineering Program at USMA were little more than extended laboratory exercises, customized for individual students. Today, teams of three to five students complete design, simulation, fabrication and testing of systems solving a variety of real-world problems. This paper examines the evolution of senior design projects and the surrounding curriculum and identifies what we believe to be the essential components of a program that effectively balances breadth and depth of engineering science with a progression of engineering design problems culminating in a year-long design experience for seniors. This review reveals that the essence of creation, implementation and maintenance of a successful design program is design itself. The process is iterative, constantly seeking to improve the program. Moreover, the surrounding curricular and administrative constraints require annual review of the assumptions and design decisions based on those assumptions. The result is an

Dudevoir, G., & Fossa, C. (2005, June), Teaching Engineering Design The Evolution Of A Senior Design Course In Electrical Engineering Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14969

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