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Electrical and Computer Engineering  - FEA
 
Final Year Projects


EECE 501/502 - Final Year Project Guidelines
 

Objectives of the Final Year Project

As part of the final year, and in partial fulfillment of graduation requirements, undergraduate students in the ECE Department need to carry out a final-year project (FYP). The FYP is a substantial piece of work that will require creative activity and original thinking. A good FYP starts with the formulation of a problem, suggests alternative solutions, and then implements one of them. A project should be scheduled over a period of 8 months (normally 6 hours per week including vacations) to potentially reach a working solution. In general, the objectives of a final year project are to:

    • Allow students to demonstrate a wide range of the skills learned at the FEA during their course of study by asking them to deliver a product that has passed through the design, analysis, testing, and evaluation stages.
    • Encourage multidisciplinary research through the integration of material learned in a number of courses.
    • Allow students to develop problem solving, analysis, synthesis and evaluation skills.
    • Encourage teamwork.
    • Improve students’ communication skills through the production of two professional reports (one at the end of the Fall and another at the end of the Spring Term) and a professional poster (only at the end of the Spring Term) and to give two presentations on their work, one at the end of the Fall and another at the end of the Spring Term.

Importance of the FYP

The FYP is important for a number of reasons:

    • It is the major engineering design experience that the students do during their degree program.
    • It allows students to specialize in a topic that they enjoy.
    • It is the work that prospective employers will most likely ask about during a job interview.
    • It allows students to show a wide range of the skills learned since the first year.

Quality Assurance of the FYP

In order to maintain excellent quality and high standards, the FYP must:

    • Be a practical problem-solving project that involves an engineering design approach.
    • Involve at least 190 hours of individual student effort.
    • Put the problem in context and survey the relevant literature.
    • Involve the production of professional reports on the process and the product, including problem definition and formulation, literature review, design specifications and alternatives, justification of the chosen design, relationship to previous research on the project, analysis, and critical evaluation.

FYP Reports

The FYP reports should demonstrate an appropriate level of professional competence in the practical development of a suitable application, tool, or product. Two reports are to be submitted by each group of students: the first at the end of the Fall Term and the second at the end of the Spring Term.

The first report should include:

    • Definition of the problem and the objectives of the project.
    • A survey of the related literature.
    • Suggestions of various design alternatives and justification of the selection of the design methodology that the group is going to apply for the problem solution along with design specifications.
    • Indication of the required budget for the project execution (including list of components and their prices) and the manner by which the required hardware, software, and/or services are going to be made available.
    • Modeling and analysis of the proposed solution.
    • Submission of a clear timeline that will be followed during the Spring Term for the execution of the project.
    • References.
    • Appendices.

The second report should include:

    • Implementation and testing to prove that the design specifications have been satisfied.
    • Verification and validation applied at all stages.
    • Critical appraisal of the project, indicating the rationale for the design/implementation decisions, lessons learned during the course of the project, and evaluation of the product and process.
    • References.
    • Appendices.

The first report material needs to be a part of the second report unless some modifications have been introduced to this material in the Spring Term due to reviews. These updates may relate to the recommendations of the committee attending and assessing the Fall Term work or to some conflicts that may arise in the stage of building, testing and evaluating the project. In such a case, the points noted in the first report, although modified, still need to be included in the second report.

FYP Selection

The selection of an FYP is a very important decision and should be made carefully. The sections that follow provide guidelines to help students in this choice.

Where to Get Ideas for a Project

FYPs fall into one or more of the following categories

    • Suggested by a professor.
    • Something based on students’ interests.
    • A University-based problem (e.g. related to the department's teaching or research.)
    • Suggested by a prospective industrial employer.
    • Something that responds to the needs of the society.
    • An extension of a previous project.

How to Find a Supervisor and Select a Project

In the first two weeks of the Fall Term, students need to divide themselves, through a partner selection process, into groups with each group consisting of three (3) students. During the following two weeks, students in every group may visit as many faculty members as they feel necessary to discuss their ideas and faculty members’ proposals and suggestions. Based on these discussions, students may need to revise their ideas. In the case where the students have an idea for a project themselves, they should look at the research interests of each faculty member. Every group must have a Supervisor. Once a faculty member has agreed to supervise a project for a group, the students in that group need to fill out the FYP selection form. This form requires the following information:  Students’ Names; Professor’s Name; Project Title; Date; Signatures of Students; Signature of Professor.

The form needs then to be submitted to the departmental office. The office and the FYP Coordinator will maintain a master list of projects, their availability, and also the number of projects assigned per faculty member.

Students need to be aware that there is a limit to how many projects a faculty member can supervise. If a faculty member has a full quota, students may consult with the FYP Coordinator who will point them to another professor who may be willing to supervise their project. Students who are unable to find a Supervisor will have to check with the department to see those professors whose quota has not been filled yet and agree on a topic with one of them. If at the end of the two weeks period, the students are not successful in selecting an FYP and a Supervisor, the FYP Coordinator will distribute the remaining groups among the available professors.

The FYP Coordinator should meet with all final year students in the first month of the Fall Term to explain the FYP rules and regulations. Do not hesitate to contact the FYP Coordinator if you have any questions or problems!

The list below summarizes of the steps in choosing a project. This process takes place at the beginning of the Fall Term of the fourth year.

Weeks 1 and 2
    Select partners to form a group of 3 students

Weeks 3 and 4
    Initial thinking about what you want to do
    Meet with potential supervisors to discuss ideas
    Refine ideas
    Select a project
    Submit the FYP form to the ECE Department

After Selecting the FYP

Once the students in a group have decided on a topic, found a Supervisor and submitted the FYP form, they can start working on the project. It is their responsibility to ensure that all resources required for the project are identified and made available as early as possible in the Fall Term. At the end of the Fall and Spring Terms every group will submit reports whose contents are emphasized above, and also give presentations based on these contents.

Planning the Work

Very early on in the project students should discuss with their Supervisor the project and its objectives, the previous work references that can be used, the main aspects of the approach that could be considered, the main tasks to be carried out, and estimates of the time each will take. The project plan should be kept under constant review in conjunction with the Supervisor, and taking into account what is required to be accomplished by the end of the Fall and Spring Terms. Often the original goals are over-ambitious and have to be scaled back; almost as often parts of the project prove easier than anticipated and additional tasks or goals can be inserted. Be prepared to be flexible but keep moving forward.

Meeting with the Supervisor

The Supervisor of a group project is there to provide guidance and advice throughout the execution of the project. He will not do the project for the students. The FYP is their project. They make the ultimate decisions, and bear the ultimate responsibility for its success (or otherwise). Students need to meet with their supervisor at least once a week. A typical agenda for a project supervision meeting may include: report on the work that have been done since the last meeting, review progress against plans/timetable, objectives to be met by the next meeting, and discussion of ways to meet those objectives. One of the most frequent causes of project failure is a refusal to be supervised. Consequently, all group members are expected to attend scheduled meetings with their Supervisor.

Timetabling the Work

The exact timetable should be agreed between the students in a group and their supervisor, but probably won't be too different from the following table:

 When What
Fall Term

 October

- Grouping
- Project selection
- Background reading

 

November to mid-January

- Planning and time table
- Design alternatives
- Analysis
- Components
- Initial testing
- Required budget
- Report
- Presentation
Spring Term  

 

 

February to April

- Implementation and testing to prove that the specifications have been satisfied
- Verification and validation applied at all stages
- Critical appraisal of the project indicating the rationale for the design / implementation decisions
- Lessons learned during the course of the project
- Evaluation of the product and the process
- Report (start writing report around the first half of April)

May

- Demonstrate results to your supervisor
- Conclude report writing
- Submit report
- Prepare final presentation

Note that although the FYP is performed by a group of students, the assessment will identify individual contributions. The assessment pays attention to the quality, reliability, timeliness, and professionalism of the individual student involvement.

An Engineering Approach

In the execution of a project, an engineering approach must be adopted. Students need to demonstrate explicitly that they have made sound judgments based on the knowledge they have gained about the problem from readings and experience (what you have found out for yourself, e.g. by experiment). One of the most common ways of finding further sources of information is to look at the list of papers/books/articles cited in a document already read. Often one can start with a recent paper on a topic and, by following its references (transitively), reach the most important papers ever written on that topic.

It is important that students recognize the quality of what they read. Particularly on the Internet, all published material is not necessarily authoritative. Students need to be critical of what they read, and don't simply accept something as true just because it is there.

 

Indications of high quality Indications of low quality

Published in a refereed journal (i.e. it has been reviewed by experts)

Self-published or unpublished work

Published in a widely-read source

Published in an obscure publication
Author is well known and respected Author does not have other publications in the field
Referred to by other sources Does not refer to other published work in the topic area
Manuals, data sheets, or user guides from company or organization web sites Information from personal or obscure web sites

Writing the FYP Reports

General Guidelines

Around the middle of the Fall Term students should start planning and writing their first report. The second report should be planned around the middle of the Spring Term. Here is a list of things to be kept as the work progresses:

    • Things that have been read.
    • Advice from the Supervisor.
    • Decisions made along the way.
    • Encountered problems and how they were solved.
    • Configured solutions and the basis for these solutions as they relate to existing literature.
    • Testing and evaluation results.
    • Ideas for developing the work (either in your project or in a future project).

When writing a project report it is important to adopt a style that conveys the message in a clear and concise manner. It goes without saying that it must be ensured that the report is free from spelling and grammatical errors. If a complicated point is to be made, it needs to be broken down into its constituent parts. They also need to ensure that the use of technical terms is accurate and appropriate. Chapter and section headings need to describe what the chapter or section contains. Bold type for keywords and headings should be used.

Students need to think about whether what they write follows on from what went before it. Hence, it is not desirable that a section or chapter in a report stand completely on its own. Where appropriate, a section should start with its own mini-introduction that says what the section is going to be about (particularly in relationship to the previous section). Similarly, a section can end with a mini-conclusion that sums up the section and sets the scene for the next. Reports need to be clear, accurate, concise, interesting, and relevant. In a report, the students need to tell the reader what they did, how they did it, and why they did it that way.

Report Outline

A report outline consists of chapters and section headings. These should be detailed enough to give a fair indication of what each chapter or section is actually about. A report outline can be constructed to any level of detail but for this sort of document a division of the report into chapters, then each chapter into sections and each section into sub-sections, should be sufficient.

Benefits of a Project Report Plan

There are two main benefits of having a project report plan:

  • It allows writing the report one section at a time, with (if the outline is done properly) the reasonable certainty that any material will not be duplicated or anything important left out.
  • It allows judging what work still needs to be done.

Basic Structure of a Typical Project Report

Most reports describing a problem-solving exercise have the same basic structure and consist of about six chapters. The titles given here for the chapters are meant to be indicative rather than prescriptive. Common sense should be used to structure the report differently whenever necessary.

 Introduction

This chapter is essential. It should start off by setting the context for the work. For example:
Definition of the project problem.
Where did the project suggestion come from?
Why is it an interesting problem?
Why hasn't it already been solved or what has already been done?
The introduction should then describe the objectives, aims, or goals of the particular piece of work. The introduction should end with a section that leads the reader in to the rest of the report.
 

 Review

All reports include a review element. This should describe what was learned from books, papers, reports and other sources about the problem that is addressed in the project and resolved. In tackling their project, students should decide on a particular approach(es) and they need to give their readers sufficient background knowledge to appreciate why the adopted approach has been chosen. Since readers may not be familiar with either the problem or the possible solutions or both, they need to be provided with a basic grounding in the important and relevant material.

Second, students need to demonstrate that they have considered all the possible solutions to the problem and that all available material was taken into account. This part of the review usually summarizes the approaches that have been taken by other people in similar situations.

The most important attribute that the review should possess is relevance. Material that contributed nothing to the project need not be included.


Design and Analysis


To solve a problem, students will probably build hardware and/or develop software. But in doing so, some design decisions need to be made along the way. So, students need to explain clearly why they chose to do something one-way rather than another? Why did they choose to include one thing but leave out something else? Which design characteristics did they think were most important and which did they choose to ignore?

Decisions should not be just listed. They must be placed in context. It is also important that students show and justify the method by which they accomplished their design - "process" is as important as "product" to an engineer.

 
Implementation


After designing the solution to the problem, the solution is implemented. This section normally describes how the implementation was done, the tools that were used, the difficulties that were encountered and the way they were overcome. The structure of this chapter should reflect major stages in the development process or major components of it (or both). If in a project something was designed but not built, there may still be scope for an equivalent to this chapter. Issues that have probably arisen during implementation could be discussed and advice could be provided on how potential problems could best be prevented or resolved.

 
Evaluation

 
Once students have designed and built something, they have probably evaluated it in some way. At the very least, they tested what they built to see whether it did what they wanted it to do. Evaluation usually comes in one of two forms: either by comparison of what was done with the project objectives, or with what someone else did to meet these objectives. Again, like in the design chapter, if students have either followed a standard method for evaluation or made up their own one, they should describe it. Of course, a new method would take more description than a well-known method.

 
Conclusions

 
The conclusions chapter is where all the loose ends in the previous chapters are tied up. In summing up, students need to show how what they did contributed to meeting the objectives set in the introduction. In doing so, it is appropriate to repeat (in summary form) key points from the review, design, implementation, and evaluation chapters as necessary. A convincing case needs to be made. Otherwise, the project stages will look disconnected.

Unlike a legal case, it is all right to have some loose ends left at the end of a project. Sometimes there will be aspects that students simply did not have enough time to address. Other times there will be things that students were unable to do because of force of circumstances. Above all there will have been points raised during the course of the project that the students did not anticipate and were not within their scope to tackle. All these things can be discussed in this chapter and, where further work can be identified, a distinct sub-section, "Suggestions for Further Work", should be included. Students may also want to reflect upon the work that they have done and whether it could have been done better and, if so, how?

 
References

 
All project reports should contain a list of references. The list of references should come at the end, after the conclusions but before any appendices. A list of references is where all the books, papers, computer programs, web pages, etc. that you have referred to in your report are included. The list of references must contain full bibliographic data sufficient to enable a reader to find the work in a library.

To avoid plagiarism, students need to take the following steps:

    • All quotes must be cited. In addition, a quote must be placed between quotation marks. A lengthy quote should be indented using single spacing.
    • Even when the students paraphrase (i.e., translate authors’ words into their own - something that is desirable) authors must still be given credit by including a citation. When a paragraph of material is based on some author's ideas, it is sufficient to have one citation placed at the end of the paragraph. Exceptions to this rule follow in (3) and (4).
    • All published statistics require a citation immediately following the sentence in which they appear.
    • All historical events and dates mentioned require an immediate citation.
       Appendices

      Appendices to a report contain information that, while not important or interesting enough to be included in the body of the report, is nevertheless relevant. Common examples include program source code, program documentation, and intermediate documents (e.g. a design document). The report can stand alone without these, but the reader may occasionally wish to refer to them.


      Important Note


      While the second report that will be submitted at the end of the Spring Term should contain all the above-noted chapters, the first report (submitted at the end of the Fall Term) should only contain the first three chapters with the Conclusions chapter. This chapter, however, needs to leave out the issues of implementation, testing and evaluation. Yet, a clear timeline of the work that will be done in the Spring Term needs to be included.

      Project Deliverables and Assessment

      The 3 main deliverables of a project are:

        • A presentation
        • A report
        • A poster (only in Spring)

      Each of these deliverables forms part of the assessment of the project as well as a landmark. The reports must be submitted at around week 14 of the Fall and Spring Terms respectively. The presentations and the poster will be given in week 15 of the Fall and Spring Terms.

      At the end of the Fall Term, the project deliverables will be assessed as follows:

       

      Project report Week 14 in term 50% Supervisor and another faculty member

      Presentation

      Week 15 in term

      30%

       

      Committee

       
       Presentation (15%)
       Results (15%)

      Supervisor evaluation

      Week 15 in term 20% Supervisor

      The project assessment at the end of the Spring Term will be based again on the report, presentation and supervisor evaluation. But, a poster will, in addition, be considered. The percentages of 45, 30, 15 and 10 will be given to the report, presentation, supervisor evaluation and poster, respectively.

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