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Instructor:  Prof. Robert C. Maher


529 Cobleigh Hall (southwest corner of 5th floor)


Office:  994-7759
Home:  587-5925 (but please do not call me at home)


[email protected]

Class Page:


Office hours:

Monday and Wednesday: 9-10AM,
Thursday: 10-11AM,
or by appointment.
Drop-in questions at other times are always OK if my office door is open.

Class Objective

To complete successfully a capstone design experience involving teamwork, application of engineering principles, understanding and working within a clear set of design constraints, and realistic project verification and documentation.

Class Outline (subject to change)

EACH WEEK:  Project weekly reports (email) are due each Monday by 5:00PM, starting January 23, 2006.

Week Date Topics

January 12, 2006

Lecture:  Project Management


January 19, 2006

Lecture:  Engineering Design Considerations

□ Get project lab (521 Cobleigh) door lock code and locker assignment (if necessary) from Sharon in ECE office.

Project Tracking Milestones dates to be submitted as a memo report.


January 26, 2006

Lecture:  Journals, Written Documentation and Paper Writing



February 2, 2006

Lecture: Prototyping Methods

□EE492 Design Journal submitted (1)

Engineering standards and constraints paper due.


February 9, 2006

Lecture:  Printed Circuit Boards



February 16, 2006

No class this day.

□Draft Project Web Pages due


February 23, 2006

Lecture:  Packaging

Field trip to see electronics manufacturing facility at Wavelength Electronics, Bozeman.


March 2, 2006

Lecture:  Intellectual Property
Guest Lecture by Antoinette M. Tease, Attorney at Law


March 9, 2006

No class this day

□EE492 Design Journal submitted (2)

□Midterm Self/Peer reviews due


March 16, 2006

No class this day (spring break)


March 23, 2006

Lecture:  Professional Poster Presentations

Guest Lecture by Alyce Maas, MSU Career Services

□Updated Project Web Pages due


March 30, 2006

Lecture:  Professional Oral Presentations


April 6, 2006

Lecture:  Starting a Business

□EE492 Design Journal submitted (3)


April 13, 2006

No class this day

15 April 20, 2006 Lecture:  Course Wrap Up

April 27, 2006

No Class this day.


Note:  keep in mind that one copy of the poster display materials is to be delivered to the ECE Office as part of the final project documentation package.


MONDAY, May 1, 2006

Finals Week

□Final Self/Peer Review due by 5:00PM.

Technical Documentation Package due to faculty advisor by 5:00PM.

  WEDNESDAY, May 3, 2006 □Complete project documentation package delivered to the ECE office by 3:00PM for inclusion in the EE492 file. The projects faculty advisor and/or project sponsor may require additional copies.

Materials to submit include:

  1. Engineering Standards and Constraints Review Paper
  2. EE492 Design Journal
  3. Design Fair Poster
  4. Technical Documentation Package:  Report, Design Description, and User's Manual (if applicable)
  5. Senior Design Checklist fully completed

Course Grading

Faculty Advisor: 50%

The faculty advisor for each team will determine a grade individually for each student based on an assessment of the work throughout the semester:  weekly progress reports, performance in design reviews, attendance at project coordination meetings, discussion participation, contribution toward project accomplishments, teamwork, and professionalism. Additional components that the faculty advisor will evaluate include the project's Technical Documentation Package and User's Manual, self-evaluation scores, and peer evaluation scores.

Design Fair: 15%

A public presentation describing the project and each students contribution is scheduled for the afternoon of Thursday, April 27, 2006 (the last week of the classes). People attending the Design Fair (faculty, public, etc.) will be asked to turn in an evaluation form which will be used to generate your groups grade. I will give you more information when we get to the end of the semester.

Project Demonstration and Review: 20%

All projects must be demonstrated to a team of ECE faculty members during the morning of the Design Fair (Thursday, April 27).  The ECE department will establish a team of faculty members for this purpose.  If the project is off-site or involves equipment that cannot be demonstrated at the Design Fair, the students must arrange an alternative demonstration PRIOR to the Design Fair.

Class Participation: 15%

The class participation consists of several components:


The final grade for EE492 will be assigned by the Head of Department based on all the components listed above.

Weekly Progress Reports (faculty advisor grade)

Each student must submit a weekly progress report in the form of a brief email memo to the faculty advisor with a copy to the EE492 course instructor ([email protected]). The email message must include

[EE492 2006-mm-dd] in the subject line (where mm-dd is the month and day of the weekly memo). The report is to cover at a minimum (a) what was planned for the past week, (b) what was done the past week, including any problems that have come up, and (c) what is planned for next week. The project advisor may request other information. The report is due each Monday at 5 PM (The project advisor does not need to assign a grade for your report but may take the opportunity to counsel you on how you are doing).

Suggested weekly report format

Project Web Page (instructor grade)

Each project must have a descriptive web page.  The page (or pages) must list the project name, student names, sponsor, faculty advisor, and the semester (Spring 2006).  The page must also have a one paragraph description of the project design goals, a summary of the engineering constraints, and any other relevant information.  Students are encouraged to include photographs, diagrams, and other information that would help other students and members of the public to understand the nature of the design process.

Here are some instructions on where to store the web page files . These will be updated during the semester as necessary.

ECE Design Journal or Lab Notebook (instructor grade)

A design journal is the "diary" of intellectual contributions to your project.  The purpose of the Journal is to follow the required practices of industrial or academic research and development laboratories, where complete and accurate records of laboratory work are vital. The lab journal is a legally recognized paper that is essential in documenting project progress, discoveries, billable work time, and patent disclosures. Some companies require lab notebooks to be officially notarized and filed so that any legal questions later on can refer directly to the original, unaltered notebook entries.  Even if you end up working for a company that does not require a notebook or journal, it is worth getting in the habit as a way to document your own work and to organize your development activities.

The pages of the Journal must be bound (not loose leaf or spiral) and should be numbered consecutively. The notebook entries must be in ink, and no pages should be left blank between entries. Begin the entries for each work day on a new page, giving the date and time, your name, the topic, and in the case of a meeting, the names of all of the people present.  The entries themselves can be full of written comments, calculations, sketches, data tables, speculative ideas, brainstorms, design alternatives, contact information (email, phone, URLs, etc.), references to electronic files, schematic diagrams, and so forth.

In case some of the data or calculations written in the Journal turn out to be in error, do not tear out the page or completely obliterate the entries: a single line through the error is preferred. This way there is no question regarding the legitimacy and completeness of the notebook material. Furthermore, you will not be penalized in this course for having lined-out errors and corrections in your notebook.

Each student's Journal will be collected three times during the semester.  The Journals will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Overall Form:  Entries in ink; writing legible; dates, times, and topics indicated clearly.
  • Thoroughness:  Cogent sequence of activities and meetings; presence of design ideas, data collection, data analysis, and schedule planning; examples of design results and conclusions.
  • Creativity and Insight:  Journal entries show a connection between initial ideas, preliminary activities and the resulting design and implementation decisions.

Milestone Tracking (instructor grade)

Each student is expected to be able to demonstrate some working hardware or software at two key project milestones during the semester.  The milestones and dates are intended to allow the student, the student's teammates, and the advisor to assess the rate of progress, make mid-course corrections, and avoid surprises during the design project.

At the end of the second class meeting (January 19, 2006), each student will submit a memo report detailing the two milestones to be demonstrated and the dates by which the milestones will be achieved.

  It is up to the student to arrange the manner in which the advisor and the instructor can verify milestones.

Self/Peer Reviews (instructor grade)

Personnel reviews are a part of project management responsibilities. You will be having regular reviews with your boss and will need to provide reviews of those you supervise. This is often a difficult--but necessary--thing to do. To give you some practice we are asking you to complete an evaluation form for yourself and your project partners. The letter grades you give to yourself and your project partners will be confidential and used solely by the course instructor.  There will be two evaluations performed: one at midterm and one at the end of the semester.

Self/peer review directions and evaluation sheet

EE492 Engineering Standards and Constraints Review Paper (instructor grade)

The purpose of this assignment is to encourage thinking about these important design topics that we might otherwise overlook while concentrating on the "technical" details.  The Review Paper should include all of the project objectives and expectations that were presented in the project proposal from EE391.

In the 4th week of the semester each project group will submit a formal report that describes the realistic engineering standards and constraints that have been considered in the design as it has progressed to that point. These considerations include the following impacts: economic; environmental; sustainability; manufacturability; ethical; health and safety; social, and political.

The paper must be in a form that would be appropriate for a technical publication such as an IEEE article.  Thus, a Microsoft Word template will be provided:  papers must be prepared using the IEEE stylesheet (.doc).  Latex stylesheets are available from:

Don't bother with fancy binders; just staple in the upper left corner. You do not have to supply a picture with your biography, but there should be a one paragraph bio for each project member.  The length should be no greater than five single-space pages excluding figures and appendices. 

Grades for the paper will be based on the following four main points:

Format: Following the required format.

Content: Effective explanations, complete description of the design considerations.

Organization: Structure is easy to follow; report has headings and transitions.

Design and Illustration: Understandable and legible tables and figures; overall professional appearance.

Grammar, Style and Mechanics: Correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Readable and clear style.  Professional tone, not informal writing. Complete and correct list of references.

NOTE that two copies of the report are required: one for grading on the due date and one for inclusion in the team's EE492 Project File at the end of the semester.

EE492 Design Fair Presentation Guidelines (visitor evaluation grade)

The Design Fair is scheduled for the last week of classes (dead week), on Thursday, April 27, 2006. The format is a public poster presentation and demonstration of your project. Each student will prepare materials describing his or her part of the project and the project team will display a comprehensive combined poster and demonstrate the project (if possible) during the public session held in the SUB. This is a group presentation with each student participating and describing his or her own contribution to the project.

The entire system hardware and software should be included in the display. The poster materials should include an overview of the project, discussion of engineering constraints, information regarding each student's contribution to the final design, project performance, results, conclusions and recommendations for future work. Additional assessment information will be provided a few weeks before the Fair.

NOTE that a presentation package consisting of the posters and other presentation materials is to be delivered to the ECE Office as part of the EE492 documentation.

EE492 Project Demonstration Guidelines (faculty review team grade)

Each project team must arrange to demonstrate their fully functioning project to a faculty review team in the SUB Ballroom during the morning of the Design Fair (April 27, 2006). Each project team member is required to participate, and a schedule will be set up to allow all team members to be there during the demonstration. In addition to the design fair poster displays, you should be prepared with project goals, schematics, flow diagrams, and similar materials to demonstrate that project performance goals have been met. Grades will be assessed primarily on the degree to which the project performance goals have been achieved.  Project teams without demonstrable evidence that the design goals have been met should expect a very low score from the review team.

The review team will also assess the team's preparation (documentation ready, readable and sufficient), the ability of each team member to answer project-related questions, and whether or not the appropriate test equipment is available to verify the project's performance. More detailed information to help you prepare for this presentation will be given to you during the semester.

In the event that a project is not suitable for demonstration at the Design Fair venue (e.g., cumbersome hardware that cannot be brought to the Fair, or an off-site design project of some kind), alternate arrangements must be made PRIOR to the Design Fair date on a case-by-case basis only.

EE492 Technical Documentation Package Guidelines (faculty advisor grade)

Each project team is to produce a Technical Documentation Package for the project. One copy is delivered to the project's faculty advisor and/or sponsor (if required) by 5 PM on Monday of final exam week. The goal of the technical documentation package is to supply sufficient information so that an engineer (or follow-on project students) can completely understand and reconstruct your project hardware and software. The package may include, but is not limited to, the following items:

Project notebook; schematic diagrams; PC board layout; PC board files; mechanical drawings; construction information; circuit descriptions; written test plans; written test results; software design documentation; software listings; software test plans and results; component data sheets; trouble shooting techniques; error messages; copies of progress reports; references

NOTE that a copy of the Technical Documentation Package is to be delivered to the ECE Office as part of the EE492 documentation.

EE492 Project User's Manual Guidelines

If a user's manual is appropriate for the project (not all projects will have a user's manual) the project team is to produce one as part of the final documentation. It is to be delivered to the ECE office with the technical documentation package. The faculty project advisor and/or sponsor may require additional copies. The user's manual normally contains complete information for the user to install, run the system, and troubleshoot problems. Maintenance information, if appropriate, should be included, as well as error messages and what to do about them.

ECE Department EE492 Project Documentation

To assist the Department in meeting its accreditation goals and to provide useful information for future project students, we have established a documentation file for all EE492 projects. The ECE office will maintain the file and students will submit material for it. Each project's file will have the following material:

  1. Engineering Standards and Constraints Review Paper
  2. EE492 Design Journals
  3. The Design Fair Poster
  4. The Technical Documentation Package
  5. The Project's User Manual (if produced)

Project File Checklist (required!)