Design Document

Video Lecture

Video, Slides


The design document communicates the complete and detailed design of your project. It is substantially more detailed than the proposal and prepares you for the assembly phase of the semester. A quality design document is the key to a successful project. Use the following format.

  1. Introduction

    • Objective: One to two paragraphs detailing the problem statement and proposed solution.
    • Background: One to two paragraphs explaining the context of the problem to be solved by your project, including any relevant references to justify the existence and/or importance of the problem (i.e., the need or want for a solution).
    • High-level requirements list: A list of at most three quantitative characteristics that this project must exhibit in order to solve the problem. Each high-level requirement must be stated in complete sentences and displayed as a bulleted list.
  2. Design
    • Block Diagram: A general block diagram of the design of your solution. Each block should be as modular as possible. In other words, they can be implemented independently and re-assembled later. The block diagram should be accompanied by a brief (1 paragraph) description of the high level design justifying that the design will satisfy the high-level requirements.
    • Physical Design (if applicable): A physical diagram of the project indicating things such as mechanical dimensions or placement of sensors and actuators. The physical diagram should also be accompanied by a brief one paragraph description.
    • Block Design: A detailed design for every block in the block diagram, including software and mechanical design. Each block design should include the following.
      1. Functional Overview: A highly detailed and quantitative block description. Each description must include a statement indicating how the block contributes to the overall design dictated by the high-level requirements. Any and all design decisions must be clearly justified. Any interfaces with other blocks must be defined clearly and quantitatively.
      2. Requirements and Verifications: Requirements and verifications for each block must be included. Please see the R&V page for guidance on writing requirements and verification procedures.
      3. Supporting Material: Include any relevent supporting figures and data in order to clearly illustrate and justify the design. Typically a well justified block design will include some or all of the following items:
        • Circuit Schematics
        • Simulations
        • Calculations
        • Measurements
        • Flow charts (often for software)
        • Mechanical diagrams (e.g. CAD drawings, only necessary for mechanical components)
    • Tolerance Analysis: Through discussions with your TA, identify a critical requirement to explore in great detail. Your analysis of that component will prove that your implementation will meet that requirement. See the Tolerance Analysis guide for further guidance.
  3. Cost and Schedule
    1. Cost Analysis: Include a cost analysis of the project by following the outline below. Include a list of any non-standard parts, lab equipment, shop services, etc., which will be needed with an estimated cost for each.
      • LABOR: (For each partner in the project)
        Assume a reasonable salary ($/hour) x 2.5 x hours to complete = TOTAL. Then total labor for all partners. It's a good idea to do some research into what a graduate from ECE at Illinois might typically make.
      • PARTS:
        Include a table listing all parts (description, manufacturer, part #, quantity and cost) and quoted machine shop labor hours that will be needed to complete the project.
    2. Schedule: Include a time-table showing when each step in the expected sequence of design and construction work will be completed (general, by week), and how the tasks will be shared between the team members. (i.e. Select architecture, Design this, Design that, Buy parts, Assemble this, Assemble that, Prepare mock-up, Integrate prototype, Refine prototype, Test integrated system).
  4. Discussion of Ethics and Safety:
    1. Expand upon the ethical and safety issues raised in your proposal to ensure they are comprehensive. Add any ethical and safety concerns that arose since your proposal.
    2. Document procedures to mitigate the safety concerns of your project. For example, include a lab safety document for batteries, human/animal interfaces, aerial devices, high-power, chemicals, etc. Justify that your design decisions sufficiently protect both users and developers from unsafe conditions caused by your project.
      Projects dealing with flying vehicles, high voltage, or other high risk factors, will be required to produce a Safety Manual and demonstrate compliance with the safety manual at the time of demo.
  5. Citations: Any material obtained from websites, books, journal articles, or other sources not originally generated by the project team must be appropriately attributed with properly cited sources in a standardized style such as IEEE, ACM, APA, or MLA.


The DD Grading Rubric is available for your viewing pleasure. An example is available available to illustrate the expectations for a high quality Design Document: Sample DD.

Submission and Deadlines

Your design review document should be uploaded to PACE in PDF format by the deadline shown on the course calendar (typically midnight the Friday before Design Review). If you have uploaded a mock DR document to PACE, please make sure that it has been removed before DR.

Amphibious Spherical Explorer

Kaiwen Chen, Junhao Su, Zhong Tan

Amphibious Spherical Explorer

Featured Project

The amphibious spherical explorer (ASE) is a spherical robot for home monitoring, outdoor adventure or hazardous environment surveillance. Due to the unique shape of the robot, ASE can travel across land, dessert, swamp or even water by itself, or be casted by other devices (e.g. slingshot) to the mission area. ASE has a motion-sensing system based on Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and rotary magnetic encoder, which allows the internal controller to adjust its speed and attitude properly. The well-designed control system makes the robot free of visible wobbliness when it is taking actions like acceleration, deceleration, turning and rest. ASE is also a platform for research on control system design. The parameters of the internal controller can be assigned by an external control panel in computer based on MATLAB Graphic User Interface (GUI) which communicates with the robot via a WiFi network generated by the robot. The response of the robot can be recorded and sent back to the control panel for further analysis. This project is completely open-sourced. People who are interested in the robot can continue this project for more interesting features, such as adding camera for real-time surveillance, or controller design based on machine learning.

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