Request for Approval
The request for approval (RFA) is the very first step in successfully completing a senior design project. Before submitting your RFA, you must post your project idea to the Web Board using the "Idea" post type. Once your idea has been fleshed out through the Web Board, you can move on request for approval through PACE under the My Project page. Once submitted, your project will be cloned to the Web Board as "Project Request" post. You can edit the project on the My Project page, add your teammates and see comments from the instructors. The course staff may provide feedback on your idea (which will appear at the bottom of your project's page), or suggest changes in the scope of the project and ask you to re-submit an RFA. Based on your incorporation of feedback your project will be approved or rejected. If it is rejected, the My Project page will revert back to it's original format and your project will disappear.
Once the course staff has approved the project idea, you will receive instructions on how to submit your project through PACE, at which time you will be assigned a project number in the Projects list, a TA, and a locker in the lab. Once your project is approved, please go to the Projects page, log into the PACE system, and make sure all of the information is correct.
Requirements and Grading
The RFA is graded credit/no credit based on whether your project is approved before the deadline. Note that submitting an RFA before the deadline does not guarantee approval before the deadline. The RFA is submitted through PACE under the My Project page, and should include the following information:
- [Student 1], [Student 2], ... and [netid], [netid], ... of all team members (3 team members, maximum)
- A [Title] for your project
- Problem - Describe the problem you want to solve and motivate your design.
- Solution Overview - Describe your design at a high level and how it solves the problem and introduce the subsystems of your project.
- Solution Components
- [Subsystem #1] - Describe what the subsystem accomplishes. Suggest what kinds of sensors/components you will use in this system.
- [Subsystem #2]
- Criterion for Success - Describe high level goals of what your project needs to meet to be effective.
Projects must be legal and ethical. They must have significant scope and complexity commensurate with the size of the team. This is, of course, a subjective assessment of the course staff. To gain some insight into this judgment, please browse projects from previous semesters. The project must involve the design of a significant hardware component at the circuit level. In exceptional cases, projects not meeting this criteria may be acceptable when augmented by a Special Circuit assignment (however this is typically a last resort).
Beyond these basic requirements, you have total discretion in proposing a project. This is a great opportunity for you to pursue your own interests. Since you choose your own projects, we expect a high level of enthusiasm from you and your team.
Submission and Deadlines
The RFA submission deadline may be found on the Course Calendar. Typically, approval of the RFA is due during the afternoon of the third Thursday of the semester.
Quick Tips and Helpful HintsPosting:
- Post early and you will receive more time and attention from the course staff.
- Come up with a descriptive name for your project. The following terms are, essentially, banned from project titles, as they tend to be overused and not convey useful information:
- Internet of Things
- Give as much detail as you can in the post. It will be easier for the course staff to understand what you are going for and it will be easier for you to develop an acceptable project.
- Be ready to work with the course staff to refine your idea. The feedback you receive is not necessarily meant to discourage you from pursuing a specific idea (sometimes it is, and we will be clear about this). Rather, it is meant to help you refine and improve that idea, as well as ensure that you have considered potential pitfalls that might arise over the course of the semester.
- Choose something that you are interested in. It’s easier to work on a project when you care about it.
- If your idea doesn’t get approved, either try again by revising your idea or find a group who has an opening to do something you’re interested in, for example, build the power backbone for an automated irrigation system. Note, if you revise your idea and are still met with resistance from the course staff, move on to a new idea rather than try a third time.
- Make sure to choose team members that have skills needed to successfully complete the project. Of course, you are welcomed and encouraged to use this course to learn new skills, but - for example - if nobody on your team has taken a course in power systems, it is unlikely that you would be successful in completing a project centered around a novel highly-efficient battery system. Some areas that tend to require prior coursework include:
- Control Systems
- Machine Learning
- RF ( > 10 MHz )
- Consider both technical skills and "soft" skills in choosing your teammates.
- Choose people you can envision spending a lot of time with in the lab.
- Working with friends can have pitfalls:
- Friends (especially those you have taken a lot of courses with) tend to have similar skill sets, meaning your team might have glaring gaps in knowledge.
- Working with friends can strain the friend dynamic.
- Energy harvesting projects typically don't work out:
- If you are considering an energy harvesting project, make sure you aren’t stealing. Even if the energy is apparently free, someone may be paying for it.
- Do not propose to put turbines on water faucets or induction loops near power lines.
- Creating your own turbine blades or winding your own generators is usually a recipe for disaster.
- Sound/room light/vibrations are all forms of energy, but there is little of it and it is difficult to extract.
- If you choose to use a dynamo, make sure you have a strong understanding of dynamos, there design, use, and limitations.
- Do not attempt an energy harvesting project if you are a group lacking somebody who is experienced in power and energy.
- Charging batteries is somewhat terrifying: make sure you are familiar with the risks, dangers, and ECE 445 Course Procedures related to batteries. Any team undertaking a project with significant battery usage will be required to complete additional safety training and follow specific procedures and guidelines for safe battery usage.
- Image, sound, and voice recognition are more difficult than they seem:
- Image processing and sound/voice recognition are not easy problems and actually forms the subject of many current Ph.D. dissertations. This is especially the case if real-time processing is required. That said, existing software packages do exist (e.g., OpenCV) which may make some common image/video/sound processing tasks "simple". However, realize that using these packages does not satisfy the design requirement of the course.
- Image processing can be extremely difficult for computers, which is why the captcha/recaptcha system exists. It can also be extremely processor intensive.
- Do not assume your project will be able to recognize text or patterns in front of arbitrary backgrounds.
- If you really want an image processing component to your project, consider the following tips:
- Simplify the problem by making sure the camera view is controlled so the background is quasi-static.
- Make the objects or sounds you will try to recognize distinctive. For example, rather than attempting to locate fingertips, make a glove with green LEDs on the fingertips and locate those. For audio project, think about recognizing distinctive sounds, such as whistles or clapping, rather than arbitrary sounds in a noisy environment.
- Consider the optical system you will use. Understand the magnification and depth of focus of your system.