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ECE 477 Project Specs

Design Project Specifications Work on the design project is to be completed in teams of four students. The design project topic is flexible, and each group is encouraged to pick a product that uses the strengths and interest areas of their group members. The design must have the following components:

  • Microcontroller: To help make the project tractable, recommended microcontroller choices include Freescale, PIC, and Atmel variants. Development tools are readily available in lab to support these devices. Further, the devices themselves are relatively low cost and readily available. Optionally, auxiliary processing can be accomplished using a “motherboard”. Examples of these directly supported are Intel Atom and ARM-based platforms.
  • Interface to Something: Your embedded system must interface to some other device or devices. It could be a computer, or it could be some embedded device such as a Palm Pilot, telephone line, TV, etc. Some interface standards that could be used are: serial to a computer, parallel to a computer, Universal Serial Bus (USB), Firewire, Ethernet, Infrared(IR), Radio Frequency (RF), etc. This requirement has a large amount of freedom. To help with some of the more complex interfaces such as Ethernet, USB, or Firewire there are dedicated chips which encapsulate the lowest layers of the interface. This makes using these interfaces easier to handle but not necessarily trivial. Be sure to investigate the interface(s) you wish to utilize and make a reasonable choice. (NOTE: Interfaces involving A.C. line current require special permission – see the instructor for details.)
  • Custom printed circuit board: Through the process of the design, each group will be required to draw a detailed schematic. From the schematic, a two-layer printed circuit board will be created. Board etching will be processed by the ECE Department (the first one is “free”, but any subsequent iterations are the team’s responsibility). The team is then responsible for populating the board (solder the parts on the board), and for completing the final stages of debugging and testing on their custom board.
  • Be of personal interest to at least two team members: It is very difficult to devote the time and energy required to successfully complete a major design project in which you and/or your team members have no personal interest. There are lots of possibilities, ranging from toys and games to “useful and socially redeeming” household items, like audio signal processors and security systems.
  • Be tractable: You should have a “basic idea” of how to implement your project, and the relative hardware/software complexity involved. For example, you should not design an “internet appliance” if you have no idea how TCP/IP works. Also, plan to use parts that are reasonably priced, have reasonable footprints, and are readily available. Be cognizant of the prototyping limitations associated with surface mount components.
  • Be neatly packaged: The finished project should be packaged in a reasonably neat, physical sound, environmentally safe fashion. Complete specification and CAD layout of the packaging represents one of the project design components.
  • Not involve a significant amount of “physical” construction: The primary objective of the project is to learn more about digital system design, not mechanical engineering! Therefore, most of the design work for this project should involve digital hardware and software.

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