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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