Capstone Design (EECE4790/2)


Prof. DiMarzio | Summer 2017 Syllabus | Spring 2013 Syllabus

Please note that the information on this site is for my students only. Everyone is welcome to read it, but other faculty may have different rules.

Welcome to my Capstone Corner. The Capstone course will taught by three different faculty members, Profs. Shafai, Harris, and DiMarzio. Prof. Shafai originally developed the Capstone program, and has led it very successfully for over a decade, so I will adhere quite closely to the rules that he has put together. Nevertheless, anything you see here is intended only for my own students. There will be some minor differences from the way in which other faculty handle the details.

Announcements (2 October 2017)

(Mon 2 Oct 2017) Here's a competition that some of you might find interesting. https://www.hackster.io/contests/ASU .

(Updated 6 Sep 2017) Thanks to everyone for choosing your meeting time. We are scheduled for an all-sections meeting next Tuesday, 12 September, from 8:30am to 9:30am. However, if you look at the room assignments, each section has a different room. In particular, I have two sections (regular and honors), meeting in two different rooms at the same time. Therefore, we've decided that there will be no all-sections meeting this term.

Let's start our weekly meetings next week, unless you have something specific you'd like to discuss this week. As usual, send me an email update the night before your meeting.

(9 August 2017) (1) Next week, please continue with weekly emails. Let me know in your email whether or not you want to meet. I have kept your meeting time in my calendar, but if you feel your final written document is in good shape and you don't have any issues, you may choose to cancel the meeting. It is up to you.

(2) Look at my fall schedule and pick your meeting time. First-come, first-served.

(7 August 2017) As you now know from email and meetings, the presentations are the 9th and 10th. They will be in 201MU, from 11:40 to 1:20. Teams will be chosen at the moment, so be ready Wednesday. If you divide 200 minutes by 15 groups, we have about 10 to 12 minutes per group, allowing for some transition time. Written proposals are still not due until 23 August. This deadline may be different for other Capstone faculty.

(31 July 2017) Presentations will be 16 and 17 August during regular class time. Written proposals are due Wednesday, 23 August by 6pm. It is important to meet this deadline because the registrar requires my grades by 2pm on Thursday the 24th.

(19 July) Purchasing instructions are in the section below under the title "Purchasing."

On Friday, you will receive an email asking for you to provide peer reviews for yourself and your teammates. Please respond within a week. To see some characteristics to evaluate, see this document. Do not complete this document; it is just to give you some ideas.

(8 July 2017) The summer 2 syllabus is posted above.

(3 Jul 2017) Welcome to Capstone. I've been a capstone instructor for several years now, and I really enjoy the variety of projects developed by the students. Here is a little bit of information. Each group will be assigned one faculty advisor, based on interests of the group and availability. The faculty member listed on your schedule may or may not be the one assigned to your group. Assignments will happen in the first course meeting. After that, you will meet with your team and advisor at times to be determined. The goal for the summer is to develop a proposal for your project. At the end of the term, we'll gather as a group for proposal presentations. This may happen in the last week before finals. In the fall, you will implement your design. Read below for the answers to most of your questions.

New this year: Purchasing procedures are changing. You will no longer buy your own parts and wait until January for reimbursement. More on this at the meetings.

Look at my schedule and pick a meeting time. We will use this meeting time for the rest of the summer 2 term. It is important to pick a time when every team member can attend.


Purchasing

To order parts, fill out one of these forms for every purchase:
https://airtable.com/shrgViWRfm6miACsX
Maria's office will submit the order and receive the parts, and Eddie will take the received parts to the Capstone lab and coordinate with the students to get them the parts. This way, no receipts or reimbursements are needed. The department will not reimburse them for parts they purchase any other way. Students can monitor their purchase requests at this link:
https://airtable.com/shr11oMFjhAuvM4dX

Useful Links

Please help me with this section. If a link breaks, let me know. Engineering students are very resourceful. If you find something new and useful to the general Capstone population, let me know, and I'll consider adding it.

Here is a Sample Proposal. Every project is different so your proposal may vary from this format.

Tax Exemption Forms. Use these if the vendor asks for them to avoid paying sales tax.

The ECE Department Capstone page has some more information about the course.

Sample course documents from previous students, are online at samples/index.html, each provided with permission of a team member.

Twice a semester, I will request that you fill out the Peer Review Form .
Some reminders about reports are located at http://www.ece.neu.edu/courses/eceg105/2003fa/reports.html
Proofreading marks I use in correcting papers are at http://www.ece.neu.edu/faculty/dimarzio/10436.jpg

Here's some help with printed circuit boards. pcb123 or PC Express .
Here's a really small computer with a lot of capability. One of my teams had great success with this. Gumstix
A couple DIY sites. http://www.sparkfun.com and http://www.nutsvolts.com


If you need a creative jump-start, here's an interesting idea for a project.


Some Information about the Course

Let me try to answer some of the common questions.

What is Capstone all about? Capstone Design brings together as many as possible of the skills you have learned during your undergraduate career in ECE, and maybe even in other disciplines. During the Summer term you will prepare a proposal for your project. At the end of the summer term, you will present your proposal as a written document to me, and orally in front of the class. In the final term, you will implement your design. At the end you will present the results in a written report to me, and orally in front of the class and a group of external judges. At that time you will also demonstrate the project. Monetary awards are given to teams selected by the judges.

Below are some pictures from Spring 2011. After the pictures, I have some more specific questions and answers.

I have the course on my schedule with a classroom and a meetng time. Is that for real? Only at the beginning of the term. There will be very few formal meetings of all the students in this course. Most of the activity will take place in weekly group meetings, where each group spends time with an advisor, reporting on progress and plans. We will arrange these meeting times to accomodate the academic schedules of all the group members. The whole group will meet a few times at the beginning of the summer II term, to establish groups, assign advisors, and select meeting times. At the end of each of the two terms we will all meet for oral presentations. These meetings will include the groups of all the faculty advisors. Don't make travel plans before the last day of classes, as that will likely be the presentation day.

So we only get to see the professor once a week? No. Our weekly meetings are a minimum. I expect a lot of informal contact through visits and email. First, it's my intention to wander by the Capstone Lab now and then during the white spaces in my schedule, and likely some evenings before I leave the campus. If you have regular hours your group plans to be working, let me know and I'll try to get down there to visit. I am very agreeable to discussing projects by email as well. However, it is your responsibility to initiate this. Let me know when things are going very well so I can see your accomplishments, or when they are going very badly so I can try to help find solutions. I will wander by the Capstone Lab on occasion to give you a chance for informal meetings. Please do not worry about approaching me. The Capstone course is considered to be one third of my activity for these semesters, so I expect to put in at least two hours per week per group.

What is expected? This is a 4-Semester-hour course, for two semesters. Let's see what the workload would be for such a class:

Normal Weekly Class Time 400 min 200 min
Weekly Outside Time 1200 min 600 min
Total Time Per Week 1600 min (26 Hr) 800 min (13 Hr)
Semester 7 Weeks 14 Weeks
Semester Workload 182 Hr 182 Hr
Total Workload per Person 364 Hr

If a group has 5 people, that's close to 2000 hours of working time, which is about one working year. You are all seniors, one year short of entering the working world or graduate school. Thus, I expect that you will accomplish about what a new engineer would do in one year on the job. I also expect you to attend meetings and submit all written work on time.

What is a good project? I think the best projects are ones which cover as many aspects of your engineering education as possible; circuits, EM, signal processing, computer engineering, and perhaps something outside engineering. See the information below describing what the judges want to see. However, try to pick something you find interesting. You will work harder on it and your enthusiasm will show. The concept does not have to be original. Innovative design solutions are important, but an innovative concept is not. Commercial potential and market analysis are not normally part of the course. Cost effectiveness refers to your effective use of money to complete the project, not cost effectiveness in production or use.

Do we have to build something? Yes. A pure research project, that could be an excellent MS thesis, is not sufficient to be a Capstone project. The purpose of Capstone is to bring together as many different aspects of your engineering education as possible to design and fabricate a component, device, or system. A computer program or a research project, no matter how complicated, does not qualify.

We are doing a consumer project. Do we have to discuss the cost to the eventual consumer? No. Your budget should reflect the amount you have to spend to build your prototype for the capstone course. You do not need to discuss what the costs would be in production (or any other details about production). I am not an expert in this aspect of engineering, and I'm not going to grade you on it. There are issues such as certification, marketing, packaging, distribution, support, repair, etc. that contribute to the cost of a commercial product, and unless you have expertise in this area, it is probably best not to mention it. If the main idea of your project is to replicate a commercial product at lower cost, and you are not an expert in these matters, it might be best to consider another project.

My (coop employer|research advisor|mommy|etc.) would like to support my project. Is that ok? Yes. We are happy to have outside support for projects. They can contribute money, expertise, equipment, facilities, support, and more. However, the project must still be appropriate to the Capstone course, it must involve a team of students who all participate, and the presentation is made in public, so if there are potential issues about intellectual property, it's important that we talk about them early (preferably before the start of the course).

What do the judges want to see? This list is given to the judges prior to the competition. Individual judges may interpret these somewhat differently, but it is a good guideline.

1) Definition of a design problem
Description of the design
Clarity of the presentation
Degree of difficulty

2) Conceptualization of a solution
Means to achieve the design goal
Innovation and creativity
Feasibility of the solution

3) Implementation of the solution
Analysis and simulation results
Hardware and/or Software construction
Realization difficulty
Functionality of the systems
Cost effectiveness
Report and presentation

Where do we work? Most of the groups will do work in the Capstone Laboratory in 008 Hayden. You will be assigned a locker, a table, and a computer. There will be a good assortment of test equipment and tools for your use. You will probably get to know Steve and Eddie in the teaching labs, as they are good sources for equipment and supplies. Treat them well! Some of you may do projects that are sponsored by a faculty member or other source, and the sponsor may provide you with facilities.

How much money can we spend? The maximum reimbursement per team will be $1000. Cost effectiveness will be considered in the judging. Try to find donations, loans, or other solutions for high-cost items. Contact faculty for help in this. However, do not bother vendors for small-cost items. Save your "points" for those things that really matter.

How do we buy things? New this year: We will explain this later. Do not pay sales tax!!! Get the NU Tax exempt number (E-041679980A1), and use it. If you need to present the forms to a vendor, check this site: http://www.northeastern.edu/ap/taxexemptforms/index.html

How big is a group? The smallest groups should be four people, and the largest six.

How are groups formed and projects chosen? We will give you some ideas for projects the first day. You may also have your own. Sometimes a group is formed before the beginning of the course, with a definite idea of a project. or at least a general area of interest. Other times one or two students will have an idea, but no group. During the first day or two, we will give you an opportunity to get organized. If you have an idea, bring something to show the class to solicit team members. In picking a group, make sure you have a diversity of technical skills.

We think we have a really good idea. Can we patent it? If you are interested in this, contact me, and I'll put you in touch with the Center for Research Innovation. They will explain the options to you, and students have found them very helpful in the past.

One of the team members isn't performing. What can we do? The Capstone program is very much like life in industry. There are non-performers there too. Don't let one person sink the ship. A team of five can do a 6-person project. There will be an opportunity each term to rate your team members, and these ratings will be considered in the final grade. If there are serious problems discuss them with me before they escalate.

What do we do at the summer presentations? In the summer, you present your proposal orally to the rest of the class (Prof. Shafai's students, Prof. Kimani's and mine). We'll give you some guidance on this during the term, but basically you discuss the problem you are trying to solve, your planned approach, budget and schedule.

Do we have to dress up for the proposal presentations? No. This meeting is for you and your fellow students. Dress as you would for any class.

What do we do at the Capstone Competition? There are details in the Milestones section below, but here's a quick summary. You will set up your project on the side of the room early in the morning, and plan to attend the whole day. When your turn comes, you will give a 10-12-minute presentation, answer some questions for the judges, and then take them to your table to demonstrate the project. There will be lunch, pictures, awards, and more pictures.

Do we have to dress up for the Competition? Yes. The dress code is business formal. Dress as you would for an interview. See the pictures above for examples.

Can my mommy come to the Competition? Of course your mommy can come! Friends and family are welcome. Unfortunately, because of the dynamic situation, we can not ensure that we will hold to the schedule. Some changes may be made even as late as the day of the presentations.

How do we get a locker? I will assign lockers and combinations.

What's the combination to the Capstone door? Check with Eddie Tyrance or with one of the professors. Don't give out the combination to people not in the Capstone course.

How do we build things? You may use power tools after completing appropriate safety training. If you need more, contact me and we'll work on getting help from the machine shop and/or 3-D printing.

And what about grading? You will be graded on the milestones and deliverables listed below. Here is the gradesheet I will use for the reports and presentations. Check the syllabus to see how these figure into the total grade. About 80% of the grade will be based on team performance and 20% on individual performance.

Milestones and Deliverables

For your convenience, I am compiling a list of important milestones. Those that contribute to the team grade are in yellow, and those that contribute to the individual grade are in cyan.

Summer Milestones and Deliverables

Weekly Reports: By 8PM the night before your weekly meeting.

These can be short (one or two paragraph) emails describing your progress during the past week, and your plans for the future. Attach schedule charts and technical diagrams as appropriate. Touch on the following topics
  1. Work completed in the psat week
  2. Work to be done next week
  3. Overall project status
  4. Status of next milestone
  5. Issues of concern and Proposed solutions
These are to help me prepare for the meeting, and I'm not grading them for style, so do not put a lot of effort into making them attractive. Also, I'll cut and paste them into a text file, so just write text inline in an email rather than using word processing. If you spend more than 15 minutes writing this, you are doing too much. Failure to submit a report will affect your team grade.

Weekly meetings

Everyone is expected to attend most of the meetings. there is some flexibility, but if you are absent too often, it will affect your grade. Quite likely there will be other meetings during the week. Only the people who are involved in the meeting topic are expected to attend these. However, if you are spending less time on this than you would spend on a 4SH course, you are probably falling behind. In the summer, keep in mind that your courseload is halved and your workload per course is doubled.

Technical Drawings: Early Summer II.

Put together whatever technical drawings are required to describe your project. It is useful to keep these up to date. n

Schedule: Mid Summer II.

Put together a schedule for completion of your project. Include considerable detail on the rest of the summer, and less detail about the actual implementation next spring.

Peer Evaluation 1: Mid Summer II

Each student must submit an individual participation report, using this form . I will use these in conjunction with my own observations concerning individual participation. Failure to submit an evaluation will lower your grade.

Proposal Oral Presentations: Last Week of Summer II.

You will present your work orally to the entire Capstone class during the scheduled course hour. This presentation is graded for both the team and the individual. You are not expected to dress up for this.

Proposal Presentation Material: Last Week of Summer II.

Submit an electronic copy of the material you used in your oral presentation, along with your written proposal. I do not need a paper copy of this.

Proposal: Last Week of Summer II

Your final proposal should describe the project in detail. Only an electronic copy is required. I do not need a paper copy. Here is a sample proposal .

Peer Evaluation 2: End of Summer II

Each student must submit an individual participation report, using this form . I will use these in conjunction with my own observations concerning individual participation. Failure to submit an evaluation will lower your grade.

Fall Milestones

Continue Weekly Reports: By 8PM the night before your weekly meeting.

These can be short (one or two paragraph) emails describing your progress during the past week, and your plans for the future. Include schedule charts and technical diagrams as appropriate. These are to help me prepare for the meeting, and I'm not grading them for style, so do not put a lot of effort into making them attractive. Also, I'll cut and paste them into a text file, so just write text inline in an email rather than using word processing. If you spend more than 15 minutes writing this, you are doing too much. Failure to submit a report will affect your team grade.

Continue Weekly meetings

Everyone is expected to attend most of the meetings. there is some flexibility, but if you are absent too often, it will affect your grade. Quite likely there will be other meetings during the week. Only the people who are involved in the meeting topic are expected to attend these.

Solution Report: Second week of the term

This should include an update on your technical plans, a list of tasks with team members' names assigned to each, and a detailed schedule to complete the project. A good cost estimate is also required. Depending on what has happened, this may be a revision of your proposal.

Team--Specific Milestones: At your discretion.

I encourage you to set up your own milestones, appropriate to your project, and integrate them into your plan. For example, you might have a demonstration of software with synthetic data, or a demonstration of an electronic subsystem with inputs from a signal generator. These can be very helpful reality checks.

Mid--Semester Reality Check: Early November (Spring break for other division).

At this point you should have a working prototype. There may be some missing functionality, but enough should be there so that we can see that you are on track.

Peer Evaluation 3: Early Nobember (Spring break for other division)

Each student must submit an individual participation report, using this form . I will use these in conjunction with my own observations concerning individual participation. Failure to submit an evaluation will lower your grade.

Decision on Participation in Competition: First week of December (April)

Let me know if your group plans to participate in the competition. At this point a working demonstration must be ready. If your project is not ready, you may wish to present a week later. Presenting later will not hurt your grade. In fact, it may improve it if your project is "almost ready." However, you will not have a chance to compete for the prize money. Do not embarrass yourself or me. If you are not ready, then you are not ready.

Project Summary or Abstract.

Each group leader should submit a summary of the group's project (One Page) in a .docx file. Please only use this format, for compatibility. This is the only time I'll ask for a .doc file. Every other document you send should be in .pdf. The top of the page page should be the title of the project and the names of the group members. The rest should introduce the project (problem formulation, analysis and the design).

Presentation Dry Run: Last weekly meeting before competition.

This is the last chance to go through your presentation with me, and make sure that everything is in order for the judges.

Capstone Competition: Early to mid December (April).

You should be there at 7:45 AM to set-up your equipment. The program will start at 8:30 and the first group will present at 9:00. Each group has about 15 minutes time for the presentation. You should spend 10-12 minutes for your powerpoint presentation and the rest should be used for your demo. All members of each group should participate in the oral presentation. Cash prizes are awarded to the top three teams. All capstone students must attend the capstone design competition and they are invited for lunch. We don't know the amount of the prizes until shortly before the competition, as it is based on funds collected. Here is a sample Presentation . Dress code is business formal. Dress as you would for an interview. See the pictures above for examples. The presentation will affect both team and individual grades.

Alternative Presentation: Finals Week.

If your project is not sufficiently complete to be judged at the competition, we will arrange an opportunity for you to present your work to some of the capstone advisors in the following week. This opportunity is offered in case your project is not quite ready on the day of the competition. You will still have an opportunity to earn a good grade, and the same standards of quality are expected on this date as at the competition.

Final Report: Thursday of Finals Week.

Only an electronic copy is required, and it must be a single .pdf file. Here is a sample final report .

Honors Supplement: Due with the final report.

This is required for all students completing the Honors Capstone course. Only an electronic copy is required. Here is a sample honors supplement . If several team members are in honors, then one supplement for all honors students be included in the report.

Presentation Material: Same time as final report.

Submit an electronic copy of your presentation material, as used in your oral presentation, along with your final report. Powerpoint or .pdf is acceptable.

Peer Evaluation 4: Same time as final report

Each student must submit an individual participation report, using this form . I will use these in conjunction with my own observations concerning individual participation. Failure to submit an evaluation will lower your grade.


ABOUT THE BACKGROUND: My favorite winter passtime is skiing. I put this background together from a detail of a photograph taken at Park City, in 2003. There are four copies in different orientations so that the tracks (and more importantly, the brightness levels) line up as the pattern repeats.