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The Capstone Senior Design Course: An Initiative in Partnering with Industry Dewey Rundus Kenneth J. Christensen Department of Computer Science and Engineering University of South Florida Tampa, Florida 33620 { rundus, christen } 1 (fie03.ppt – 11/06/03) Topics

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The Capstone Senior Design Course: An Initiative in

Partnering with Industry

Dewey Rundus

Kenneth J. Christensen

Department of Computer Science and Engineering

University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida 33620


1 (fie03.ppt – 11/06/03)


  • Introduction and background

  • Role in ABET EC 2000

  • Course design and implementation

  • Examples of projects

  • Evaluation of the course

  • Summary and future work

This material was partially presented at the ASEE Southeast

Section Meeting in Macon, Georgia in April 2003.


Introduction and background

  • Our department – Computer Science and Engineering

    • BS in Computer Engineering (ABET accredited)

    • BS in Computer Science (ABET accredited)

    • BS in Information Systems

    • MS and PhD programs

  • 18 faculty members

    • Research funding from NSF, Navy, other federal agencies

    • Well rated PhD program

  • Department enrollment is about…

    • 400 (!) undergraduate students

    • 200 graduate students (50 are PhD)


Introduction and background continued

  • Senior capstone design course (CIS 4910)

    • Part of most engineering and computer science curriculums

  • Purpose is to…

    • Integrate knowledge

    • Produce a useful artifact (design and build)

  • Many models for a capstone course…

    • Internal - individual or team-based

      • Students select project

      • Faculty members select project

    • Industry - individual or team-based

      • Providing projects and/or support


Introduction and background continued

  • Growing trend towards industry-based project courses

    • One motivation is to prepare students for industry careers

Small sample


Introduction and background continued

  • Example #1 – UF IPPD program (college-wide)

    • Selective program (top 25%), interdisciplinary, team-based

  • Example #2 – NCSU Senior Design center (CS dept)

    • Design center, catalog of projects, emphasis on “soft” topics

  • Example #3 – UIUC “Corporate Connective” initiative (ECE dept)


Role in ABET EC 2000

  • Design is a major concern of ABET accreditation visits

    • Integrated throughout program

    • Capstone course can be be a major focus of a visit

  • EC 2000 criterion 3 (a thru k) outcomes involve design

  • EC 2000 criterion 4 directly addresses design

Our view… a capstone course is the cornerstone of the

professional requirements of a quality undergraduate

engineering curriculum.


Role in ABET EC 2000 continued

  • EC 2000 criterion 3 (subparts that apply to a capstone course)…

  • (a) apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering;

  • (c) design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs;

  • (d) function on multi-disciplinary teams;

  • (e) identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems;

  • (g) communicate effectively; and

  • (k) use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools

  • necessary for engineering practice.


Role in ABET EC 2000 continued

  • EC 2000 criterion 4…

  • “…engineering standards and realistic constraints that include most

  • of the following considerations: economic; environmental;

  • sustainability; manufacturability; ethical; health and safety;

  • social; and political.”


Course Design and Implementation

  • History of capstone course in our department

    • Individually selected projects – 1987 to 2000

    • Industry-based team projects – 2001 to present

  • Individual projects are good…

    • Students with a strong idea are driven to do well

    • Only modest overhead for department

  • Individual projects are bad…

    • Little topic constraint

    • Students without ideas would search aimlessly

    • No team-work experience

    • Sometimes very little supervision

      • No recognition of faculty effort

    • High variability in project quality


Course Design and Implementation continued

  • Our course objectives…

  • 1) Students will select an industry-contributed hardware or

  • software project and form teams of size four to six based.

  • 2) Student teams will follow a formal development process.

  • 3) Students will complete requirements, spec, and test plan.

  • 4) Students will implement their design.

  • 5) Students will test the resulting system.

  • 6) Students will produce a written final report, poster, press

  • Release, final oral presentation, and project demonstration.

  • 7) Students will experience all phases of project development and

  • thereby will gain an appreciation.


Course Design and Implementation continued

  • We approach central-Florida companies that hire our graduates

    • “Sell” the course based on two benefits to company

      1) A first look at graduating class (recruiting)

      2) An opportunity to have a back-burner problem solved

A presentation is made to industry…


Course Design and Implementation continued

Industry participation in senior project continued

  • We need project ideas and champions for Fall 2002

  • A good project is…

    • Technical

    • Slightly open-ended

    • Project scope: 4-student team prototypes within 3 months

    • Not on the “critical path” for industry

    • Not proprietary

Presentation to industry…

Need 8 such projects by mid-December 2002

Our fourth semester



Course Design and Implementation continued

Industry participation in senior project continued

  • What is needed from you

  • 1) A project and a kick-off meeting with a student team

  • 2) Mentoring (amount is up to you)

  • 3) One guest lecture

  • 4) Final student presentation at your corporate site

Presentation to industry…



Course Design and Implementation continued

  • Development process used…










  • Teach standard development process

    • Emphasis on prototype demo

      • 20% of final grade

  • Textbook is Fred Brooks Mythical

  • Man Month

    • Brooks was manager for OS/360

    • Founded CS department at UNC



Course Design and Implementation continued

  • Course outline…

    Weeks 1 thru 4: Lecture on development process

    Week 5: Project work day

    Weeks 6 thru 12: Guest lectures from industry

    - Prototype demo on week 9

    Week 13: Mini-exam

    Week 14: Practice presentations

    Week 15: Final presentations and deliverables due


Course Design and Implementation continued

  • Course deliverables…

    1) Requirements document – week #3

    2) Specification – week #6

    3) Prototype demonstration – week #9

    4) Test plan – week #10

    5) Final demonstration and presentation – week #15

    - Project demo

    - Formal presentation

    - Poster

    - Press release


Course Design and Implementation continued

  • Course deliverables – sample poster


Examples of projects

  • Breed Technologies - Spring 2002

    Situation: Breed Technologies develops auto safety products and

    has many ongoing projects and employees. Time cards and project

    tracking is paper-and-pencil based.

    Requirements: Develop a web-based labor and project tracking


    Project results: Web-based system developed and deployed.


Examples of projects continued

  • Raytheon - Fall 2002

    Situation: Raytheon develops secure telephone systems. There is

    a need to be able to validate the user of a telephone.

    Requirements: Prototype the use of finger-print biometric devices

    for authorizing the user of an IP telephone.

    Project results: Developed software to use off-the-shelf biometric

    fingerprint device to enable a PC-based IP telephone.


Examples of projects continued

  • Sonny’s BBQ – Spring 2002 and Fall 2002

    Situation: Sonny’s is the largest USA BBQ chain. Order taking is

    paper-and-pencil based and is labor intensive and error prone.

    Requirements: Prototype the use of wireless hand-held computers

    for order taking and transmission to the kitchen.

    Project results: First semester developed user interface for

    hand-held Palm computers. Second semester developed wireless

    interface and order delivery to the kitchen.


Examples of projects continued

  • Sypris Electronics – Fall 2002 and Spring 2003

    Situation: Sypris develops cryptographic “boxes” for the DoD.

    There is a need for cryptographic security on COTS hand-held


    Requirements: Develop a cryptographic service provider software

    package for a Microsoft WinCE handheld.

    Project results: First semester developed most of software to

    run on a PC. Second semester group ported to hand-held and

    productized the software.


Evaluation of the course

  • Component #1 – Modified course structure is an improvement

    • Structured environment, no “back ending” of project work

  • Component #2 – Student self-surveys

    • Almost all the students state that soft topics covered

    • are critical to career success

    • Almost all students state that they believe this course is

    • better preparing them for industry that any other course

  • Component #3 – Long term evaluation

    • Yet to be done, we need to survey graduates 2 to 5 years

    • past graduation


Summary and future work

  • Described design of an industry-based capstone design course

  • We believe very beneficial to students entering workforce

  • Future work is long-term evaluation of graduates

  • We hope that our experience can be of value to others

Course outline and syllabus are included in the paper


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