ECE 1503: Capstone Design

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.