Written Design Proposal
Your major task this quarter is to write and defend a detailed
proposal describing the work to be done on your project. The proposal
is an argument that your idea solves a real problem that no one else
has solved, and that you have the time, money, parts, and expertise
needed to create a working prototype by the end of the course. Your
proposal will be evaluated on the degree to which you do a good job of
making this argument. Imagine that you are trying to convince a
funding agency to give you these resources.
Your writeup should be both precise and concise. Give just the
information the reader needs to know and nothing more. The proposal
will include the following sections:
Abstract: a half-page, self-contained summary of your
entire proposal. Write the abstract assuming that the reader will
only read it and not the full proposal. The abstract describes your
project, the problem it solves, and explains briefly how it is better
than competing products.
Introduction and related work: introduce the reader to the
problem you are solving and argue that this is a real problem that
people want to solve. Describe competing products and generally
explain how your project outperforms them. You can outperform another
product in terms of cost, functionality, ease-of-use, or in some other
way. Assume the reader does not believe that your project is novel.
It is your job to convince the reader that you thoroughly understand
the field and that you did not miss anything. Give references to
papers, books, or websites that you used in gathering information.
Discuss how much your product will cost the consumer.
Design specification: a detailed description of the
functionality of your product -- i.e. what the product does. You do
not need to describe the actual design. Think of the design spec as
being the information that the consumer reads on the outside of the
box. It explains how fast, how much, how large, what functions, and
what limitations it has, but it doesn't explain what computer
language, what chips, how many components, how they are
interconnected. A detailed and complete design spec demonstrates that
your group has thought carefully about every aspect of the project,
and has come to an agreement.
Component breakdown: a breakdown of the overall project into
components and a description of how those components interact with one
another. This section usually consists of a block diagram showing
major components, with a description of how each component will be
implemented. In many cases the components will be circuits or
software. Describe the implementation of each component in as much
detail as possible. Dependences among the components should be
described. Note that component integration is typically very
difficult and often consumes a significant amount of time.
Technical approach: describe the approach you will use to
address the technical problems associated with each task. Describe
design issues you will need to solve, and the steps you will take to
solve them. Describe design tools that you will use, and aspects of
the design that will be needed to help you meet the design
specification. Demonstrate that you have thought carefully about the
design issues that will arise, and that you either have the solution
or know how to find it.
Parts: List the tools and equipment needed for your
design. In each case, explain where you will get it (NU has it, a
group member is contributing it, you will buy it, a co-op employer can
donate it), how much it will cost you to obtain for the prototype, how
much each item will cost in final production, and the current status
of each item (do you have it right now, has it been ordered, when
will you get it?) Remember that buying one item can be expensive, but
when you buy in bulk the cost can be much smaller. Give the overall
cost of the prototype, and the overall cost in final production.
Schedule: A project organization plan that carefully
explains how you will complete the prototype by the end of the course.
The plan can include work done during the semesters when you are on
co-op if group members have time. The plan should graphically
indicate which group members are working on each subtask each week.
Any dependences between the tasks should be identified. Make sure to
schedule a significant amount of time for component testing and
integration. You should not assume that your subcomponents will work
the first time, or that they will easily interconnected. The
organization plan should also include major milestones, and time to
complete both the final written report, which will be based on this
proposal, and the final oral presentation.
References: List all sources of information that your relied
upon in creating the proposal. My rule of thumb is that if you give a
piece of information without a reference, the reader is free to assume
that you made it up. Carefully document all websites, manuals,
papers, and books that you used in creating your proposal.