COVID-19 Instructions for ECE 445 Senior Design in Fall 2020
Hello everyone! As you probably know, in this course you will form teams and propose projects that solve an engineering problem in a unique way. The projects generally involve a device that you will design, build, and demonstrate. We are excited to see what projects you come up with this semester! In the midst of an ever changing learning environment we want to encourage you to think, create, design, and build exemplary projects. We want to ensure that your experience in 445 demonstrates your potential as an engineer graduating from the University of Illinois.
This semester we face the challenge of conducting the course during the COVID-19 pandemic. The safety of students and staff is the paramount concern and while steps have been taken to ensure the lab environment is safe, we recognize that some students will be taking the course online only. In addition, we have to be prepared for the possibility that the university could transition to remote learning only before the Thanksgiving break. This has led us to make some changes in the course format and means we all need to do some contingency planning.
The course this semester consists of two sections: Students who will have access to the Senior Design Laboratory are in Section H. Students who will be online-only are in Section ONL. We expect that project teams will be a mix of in-person and online-only students and that work on each project will be distributed fairly among the team members. With this in mind, here are a few items that you will need to consider as we enter into this semester.
- Forming teams: ECE 445 students must form three person teams. On each team there must be at least 1 online student and 1 in-person student. Each team will need to be approved by the course staff. We will reserve the right to rearrange teams if necessary. Students will use the course web board to propose projects and form teams. All projects and teams must be approved by the first three weeks of class.
- As part of this course, your team will come up with a project idea which will include a hardware deliverable. However, you will also be required to have contingency plans which include alternative deliverables in case the University pivots to online instruction only before Thanksgiving break.
- Introductory lectures: We will have four all-class meetings which will be held on the first Tuesdays of the semester (8/25, 9/1, 9/8, and 9/15). The main lecture will be in ECEB 1002. Only 40 students will be allowed into this lecture. Overflow seating will be available in ECEB 3002. Everyone else will need to tune in via Zoom to view the lectures. It is important to be present or tuned into these lectures in order to meet teammates and come up with ideas.
- COVID-19 Lab policies:
- Only one member per team will be permitted to enter the lab at a time.
- Anyone who wishes to use the lab must sign up online for a time slot beforehand.
- Every other lab bench will be closed off.
- If every bench is full, no one else will be permitted to enter the lab.
- If you break any of these policies, your lab access may be revoked for the remainder of the semester.
- "You don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note" (attributed to Doug Floyd). You might be tempted to form a team exclusively of your friends you have worked with in previous courses. While it is important to make sure you can have a good working relationship with your teammates, it is equally important to make sure that your team consists of engineers with a wide range of skill sets. If you are only working with people who have taken courses with in the past, you likely will have overlapping skill sets and the same technical blindspots. Consider talking with other students who have taken courses in areas you have not. You might find that the combination of these disparate skill sets lend themselves to creating a more exciting project!
- "With great freedom comes great responsibility" (attributed to many, including Benjamin Franklin). In this course, you are ultimately responsible for the success of your project. To a very large extent, you define your own requirements and metrics for success. Although the course staff is there to support and encourage you, you and your teammates must put in the time and effort that will lead to a successful demonstration of your project at the end of the semester. However, seek out and carefully consider the advice provided to you by the course staff. We tend to have a good sense of what is and is not possible within the constraints of the course.
- "Slow and steady wins the race" (from an Aesop's fable). You will actually be constructing and physically demonstrating the project you design in this course. Creating a schedule that distributes work amongst your team throughout the semester, and sticking to it, is paramount! Please do not leave things until the end of the semester and expect a positive outcome. Procrastination is not your friend, for no other reasons than parts take time to order and arrive, the electronics and machine shops get inundated with requests from this and other courses and so may not be able to immediately address your needs, and the lab can get very crowded and you may not be able to access a lab bench whenever you want.
- "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar" or "Treat others the way you expect to be treated" (attributed to many). Conducting yourself professionally will take you far in this course. Be considerate to your teammates, TA, and anyone else you interact with in this course (and in life, for that matter!). Your TA will be working with many groups in addition to yours. Be respectful of their time. If you are going to be late or miss a meeting with them, contact them as soon as you know this so they can repurpose their time. Get in touch with the electronics and machine shop as early as possible if you are going to need their services and seek their advice. Be considerate of your teammates and others in the course - clean up lab benches, log off of computers when not in use, don't hog test equipment, help others if they ask. You will find that this department is filled with people who will bend over backwards to help you succeed, and this help will be given happily if they are treated respectfully.
Welcome to ECE 445! If you've looked at the course Calendar, you've probably already noticed that this class is quite different from most other classes in the department. The class only meets as a whole for the first few weeks of the semester. During these lectures you will meet the Course Staff, learn about specific assignments, requirements, and resources for the course, and have a chance to meet other students to share ideas and form teams. These are some of the most important weeks for the class since the decisions you make during this time will determine what you'll get out of this class and, in many ways, how much you'll enjoy it.
Outside of lecture, you are expected to be working on your own to develop ideas and form teams. You are also expected to actively participate on the Piazza discussion board to exchange ideas, receive feedback from course staff, and eventually get your project idea approved. Once your team has a project approved, you will be assigned a TA, with whom you will have weekly meetings. Think of your TA as a project manager. Keep in mind that they are not there to do the work for you. Rather, they are there to keep you on track, point you towards resources (both within and outside of the department), and evaluate the result of your efforts.
Expectations and Requirements
We have high expectations for students participating in ECE 445. You are soon to be alumni of one of the top ECE departments of the world. Our alumni hold themselves to high technical and professional standards of conduct. In general, projects are expected to be safe, ethical, and have a level of design complexity commensurate with the rigor of the ECE Illinois curriculum. Requirements for specific assignments due throughout the semester can be found by looking through the Grading Scheme for the course. Please read through this documentation well before each assignment is due. Specific due dates can be found on the course Calendar.
Below are a few words of wisdom to keep in mind throughout the semester to increase your enjoyment and success in the course: