Goals of the Course
EE 496 is a significant and advanced level design project that integrates the design content of previous courses under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The project must cover at least two of the following four topics:
(i) data collection and analysis
(ii) design methodology
(iii) design tools
It must cover engineering standards and practical constraints that include most of the following considerations: economic; environmental; sustainability; manufacturability; ethical; health and safety; social; and political.
Who is it designed for?
Senior level Electrical Engineering students are required to take it during their senior year.
The design experience is necessary to prepare students to become professional engineers. EE 496 places significant design responsibility on the students as they must plan and execute a major design problem. To prepare for EE 496, students must take at least one credit of EE 296 Sophomore Project and two credits of EE 396 Junior Project. The EE 496 capstone project gives students exposure to what they will see in the engineering industry with opportunities to work in teams, develop leadership skills, and work on more open-ended design projects. A student demonstrates advanced-level design as part of a project. Project activities include most of the following: design, data collection and analysis, and learning design methodologies, design tools, instruments, engineering standards, and practical constraints. Integral to the course are professional-quality oral and written presentations of the project (including publishing YouTube videos).
Maker skills it develops
The level of required Maker skills vary between instructors and projects, but recent additions to the UH FabLab and the VIP Projects Lab allow students to learn 3D printing, laser-cutting, and printed circuit board (PCB) prototyping. Several completed projects have resulted in business-plan entries and winners of the PACE innovation breakthrough challenge. Moreover, through the process of prototyping their projects, students build team-working skills, leadership skills, and some entrepreneurial skills.
EE 396: Junior Project
Skills, Tools and Technologies Used
Students learn 3D printing, laser-cutting, and printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing and surrounding design technologies such as CAD for circuit layout and 3D modeling. They also learn embedded circuits and microcontrollers such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi. The material is introduced formally to teams as needed through training videos, online tools, and hands-on work with graduate students and faculty. Additionally, some teams are introduced to the idea of agile management for carrying out rapid prototypes.
Key Examples and Prior Work
Examples are shown to students from prior-year students including how to make wireless communication modules, wireless-sensor modules, quad-copters, and various types of sensor elements. Videos are shown from Making projects around the country to help students gain perspective on other approaches and best practices.
Prior year graduate students have helped to produce tutorial videos walking students through the process of acquiring Making skills. In addition, students are shown several online and open source resources for gaining additional skills.
A pair of students, Jake Tsuyemura and Kelsey Honda, built a smart power strip (aptly named “SmartStrip”) which became a semifinalist in the UH Business Plan Competition. Their project combined laser-cut parts and their own fabricated board that interacted through an embedded process to cell phone or web-based control. The SmartStrip allows users to turn on and off each outlet of the smartstrip remotely as well as monitor energy usage, etc…
This course is in on-going development, but it has provided useful insight on what enabling technologies should be included in a Making course (3D printing, laser-cutting, PCB fabrication, embedded circuit programming (Arduino), web and YouTube publishing, etc…). The course is also interfacing with the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) program led by Georgia Tech through Dr. Edward Coyle and locally by Dr. Aaron Ohta. This program shows the necessity to create projects that involve Sophomore, Junior, Senior, and graduate students and postdocs in a pipelined research endeavor supported by faculty advisors.