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Using the EcoCAR Challenge as a Non-Traditional Domain for Software and Computer Engineering Capstone Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Technical Session

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1643.1 - 22.1643.12



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Paper Authors


Richard Stansbury Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach

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Richard S. Stansbury is an Assistant Professor of computer science and computer engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. He instructs the capstone senior design course for computer and software engineering. His current research interests include unmanned aircraft, certification issues for unmanned aircraft, mobile robotics, and applied artificial intelligence.

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Massood Towhidnejad Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach

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Massood Towhidnejad is a tenured full Professor of software engineering in the department of Electrical, Computer, Software and System Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. His teaching interests include artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and software engineering with emphasis on software quality assurance and testing. He has been involved in research activities in the areas of software engineering, software quality assurance and testing, autonomous systems, and human factors.

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Using the EcoCAR Challenge as a Non-Traditional Domain for Software and Computer Engineering Capstone CourseAbstract:This paper presents a unique capstone opportunity in which seniors in computer engineering andsoftware engineering were given the opportunity to take an active role on a multidisciplinarycapstone projects.The EcoCAR Challenge is an international competition in which 17 universities compete toproduce the next generation of hybrid vehicles over a three year period from 2008 - 2011. Thiscompetition is the successor of a number of previous challenges hosted by the United StatesDepartment of Energy including Challenge X.While traditionally, teams competing in competitions such as EcoCAR are traditionallycomprised of mechanical engineering students and only a small handful of students from otherdomains. During the 2008-2009 academic year, as part of their computer and softwareengineering capstone project students majoring in computer engineering, software engineering,and human factors formed a new sub-team focused upon developing a new pre-emptive controlsystem for hybrid vehicles.The course’s final product was the initial prototype of the Intelligent Drive Efficiency Assistant(IDEA). This high-level control system is designed to observe the hybrid control system, thevehicle’s state, and the anticipated future state of the vehicle (based on GPS, terrain maps, etc.)and make recommendations regarding which hybrid configuration the vehicle should operate.Unlike traditional hybrid vehicle control systems, this system preemptively selects the “best”hybrid mode so that it is ready ahead of demand versus traditional control systems that only reactwhen the current demand on the drive train changes.By integrating a software team into a traditionally mechanically engineering focused project, thestudents were able to receive a unique opportunity to experience work on a truly multi-disciplinary team. Unlike traditional projects in which these students worked primarily withother computer and software engineers, this project forced them to interact with other studentsand faculty from other domains and learn to communicate effectively across domains. Studentswere encouraged to use tools not typically used in software engineering courses such as theNational Instruments’ software tool suite. Software validation and verification using softwareand hardware in-the-loop simulators was introduced. Hardware was interfaces for interactingwith the vehicle’s systems were developed. Given our curriculum’s focus upon safety andreliability, an automotive application reinforced past lessons learned. Some students were alsogiven the opportunity for professional training in some of the tools used.This paper shall discuss in greater detail:  The scope of the project and the unique issues it created, such as o Incompatible educational objectives for capstone design, e.g. emphasis on process and product (course goals) vs. emphasis on product only (project goals) o Lack of understanding of the domain o External influences on project plan  A literature survey of competition-based multidisciplinary capstone courses  Unique and beneficial student experiences, such as o Interaction with peers outside of their domain o Interaction with professionals in industry o Training with industrial strength tools and methodologies  Lessons learned  Transition of the capstone project’s work to a new extracurricular team for graduates and undergraduates

Stansbury, R., & Towhidnejad, M. (2011, June), Using the EcoCAR Challenge as a Non-Traditional Domain for Software and Computer Engineering Capstone Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18900

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