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

    • Problem and Solution Overview:

      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). Justify the novelty of your solution or explain the expected improvements of your solution over previous results.

    • Visual Aid

      A pictorial representation of your project that puts your solution in context. Not necessarily restricted to your design. Include other external systems relevant to your project (e.g. if your solution connects to a phone via Bluetooth, draw a dotted line between your device and the phone). Note that this is not a block diagram and should explain how the solution is used, not a breakdown of inner components.

    • High-level requirements list:

      A list of three to four objective characteristics that this project must exhibit in order to solve the problem. These should be selected such that if any of these requirements were not met, the project would fail to solve the problem. Avoid vague requirements that can be interpreted a number of ways (e.g. "The radio subsystem should work reliably."). 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 and represent a subsystem of your design. 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.


      For each subsystem in your block diagram, you should include 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.

      Include any relevant 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, mechanical diagrams (e.g. CAD drawings, only necessary for mechanical components).

      You must include a Requirements and Verifications table. Please see the R&V page for guidance on writing requirements and verification procedures.

    • Tolerance Analysis: Through discussions with your TA, identify the block or interface critical to the success of your project that poses the most challenging requirement. Analyze it mathematically and show that it can be feasibly implemented and meet its requirements. 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.
      • Sum of costs into a grand total
    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 for this project must be appropriately attributed with properly cited sources. This means that even work the project team has done previously, as long as it was not done for this project, must be cited. Use IEEE format citations.


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. If you have uploaded a DDC document to PACE, please make sure that it has been removed before uploading your Design Document.

VoxBox Robo-Drummer

Featured Project

Our group proposes to create robot drummer which would respond to human voice "beatboxing" input, via conventional dynamic microphone, and translate the input into the corresponding drum hit performance. For example, if the human user issues a bass-kick voice sound, the robot will recognize it and strike the bass drum; and likewise for the hi-hat/snare and clap. Our design will minimally cover 3 different drum hit types (bass hit, snare hit, clap hit), and respond with minimal latency.

This would involve amplifying the analog signal (as dynamic mics drive fairly low gain signals), which would be sampled by a dsPIC33F DSP/MCU (or comparable chipset), and processed for trigger event recognition. This entails applying Short-Time Fourier Transform analysis to provide spectral content data to our event detection algorithm (i.e. recognizing the "control" signal from the human user). The MCU functionality of the dsPIC33F would be used for relaying the trigger commands to the actuator circuits controlling the robot.

The robot in question would be small; about the size of ventriloquist dummy. The "drum set" would be scaled accordingly (think pots and pans, like a child would play with). Actuators would likely be based on solenoids, as opposed to motors.

Beyond these minimal capabilities, we would add analog prefiltering of the input audio signal, and amplification of the drum hits, as bonus features if the development and implementation process goes better than expected.