Master Course Description for EE-438 (ABET sheet)

Title:  Instrumentation Project Design Capstone

Credits:  5 (4 lecture; 1 lab)

UW Course Catalog Description: 

Capstone design experience.  Focuses on team-based design for developing an electronic instrumentation system and constructing and validating a prototype using modern printed circuit board technology.  Teams will develop design requirements; investigate tradeoffs for miniaturization, integration, performance, and cost; and consider use cases, failure modes, manufacturability, and testability.  Extensive laboratory. 

Coordinator:  R. Bruce Darling, Professor, Electrical Engineering

Goals:  To teach electronic circuit board level design techniques using contemporary surface mount technology and eCAD tools.  Students will gain first-hand experience through the completion of a capstone design project involving an instrumentation system of their own choosing. 

Learning Objectives:  At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand and apply the specifications and limitations of commercially available printed circuit board manufacturing processes and commercially available integrated circuits for analog, digital, and mixed-signal circuits. 
  2. Understand and apply the principles of modern component management systems, parts libraries, component selection, failure mode analysis, and requirements validation. 
  3. Design integrated board-level systems for sensing and control applications. 
  4. Design printed circuit board physical layouts for performance, manufacturability, and testability. 
  5. Create industry standard documentation for board level electronic system designs. 

Textbook:  S. Franco, Design with Operational Amplifiers and Analog Integrated Circuits, 4th Ed., McGraw-Hill, 2015.  ISBN # 978-0-07-802816-8.  

Reference Texts: 

  1. C. F. Coombs, Jr., Printed Circuits Handbook, 3rd Ed., McGraw-Hill, 1988.  ISBN # 0-07-012609. 
  2. J. S. Hwang, Modern Solder Technology for Competitive Electronics Manufacturing, McGraw-Hill, 1996.  ISBN # 0-07-031749-6.  

Prerequisites by Topic:

  1. Analog circuit design (EE 433) or Medical Instrumentation (EE-436)
  2. Analog simulator proficiency (SPICE; covered in EE-331 and EE-332)
  3. Schematic capture proficiency (Capture, Multisim, Altium, or equivalent; covered in EE-331, EE-332, EE-433)
  4. Electronic device modeling (MOSFET and Bipolar; covered in EE-331 and EE-332)


  1. Design requirements, design research, and design documentation [2 sessions]
  2. Failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) [2 sessions]
  3. Circuit miniaturization, integration, and surface mount technology [2 sessions]
  4. The PCB design flow and eCAD tool options [2 sessions]
  5. Industry standards for schematic capture and design documentation [2 sessions]
  6. Power supplies, grounding, shielding, and interference rejection [2 sessions]
  7. Controlled impedance lines and signal integrity [2 sessions]
  8. Design for manufacturability (DfM) [2 sessions]
  9. Practical PCB layout [2 sessions]
  10. Design for testability (DfT) [2 sessions]

Course Structure:  The class meets for four 50-minute contact sessions each week.  Each week, two of the contact sessions will involve lecture-style presentation and discussion of the selected topics.  The other two weekly contact sessions will take the form of student design review project presentations.  Homework is assigned on alternate weeks for a total of 5 assignments over the quarter.   The laboratory supports the completion of a quarter-long capstone design project.  Laboratory time is open for the student groups to use as needed.  The capstone design projects will involve groups of 3-4 students.  Some of the design projects may originate from prior work carried out by the same student groups in previous courses. 

Computer Resources:  HSPICE or PSPICE or Multisim may be used for circuit simulation; Mathcad or MATLAB or Mathematica may be used for general purpose mathematical analysis; National Instruments Multisim and Ultiboard will be used for schematic capture and PCB layout; and National Instruments LabVIEW may be used for computer controlled data acquisition and instrument control.  HSPICE, PSPICE, MATLAB, Multisim, and Ultiboard are available in all of the general purpose computing laboratories in the EE Department.  LabVIEW is available in the room 137 EE1 laboratory, integrated with hardware for data acquisition and instrument control. 

Laboratory Resources:  The main electronics laboratory in room 137 supports this class with benches equipped with oscilloscopes, power supplies, function generators, digital multimeters, test leads, and computers equipped with data acquisition pods.  Laboratory parts kits are available from the EE Stores, with sales of individual components as needed for the design projects.   Students often order components of their own choosing from mail-order/web-based vendors. 

Grading:  Capstone Design Project Documentation (75%), Design Reviews (15%), Homework (10%). 

Outcome Coverage:  This course provides the ABET major design experience and addresses the following outcomes: 


(a) An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering.  The vast majority of the lectures, homework and projects deal with the application of circuit theory to electronic system analysis and design. Mathematical formulations are commonplace throughout the course.  (High relevance to course) 

(b) An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data.  The capstone design project will require students to devise and execute any experiments necessary for the development of their specific design.  (Medium relevance to course)

(c) An ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability.  The entirety of the course and the capstone design project in particular deals directly with realistic constraints such as cost, size, weight, power consumption, alignment ease, component variation, manufacturability, and product safety.  (High relevance to course) 

(e) An ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems.  Both the homework and capstone design project involve a large component of solving engineering problems.  Both of these are open-ended and additionally require the students to identify and formulate the principle issues associated with the engineering problems.  (High relevance to course) 

(g) An ability to communicate effectively.  The capstone design project requires a formal set of design documents in which the student groups are instructed in how to prepare industry standard design requirements, schematics, bill of materials, part selection and sourcing charts, and testing and validation methods, as well as other types of professional communications and documentation for this specific field.  Students will also gain practice in oral presentation through the weekly project design reviews.  (Medium relevance to course) 

(i) A recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning.  This is a course on modern electronic circuit design. The systems the students design are made up of integrated circuit components, resistors, capacitors, etc. These building blocks change rapidly with time as new faster, better, cheaper components replace older ones. The students recognize in a direct way the rapid changes and the need to stay current in the field.  (Medium relevance to course) 

(k) An ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.  Students use many computer design aids in this course. Industry-standard circuit simulators, PSPICE or HSPICE, are used routinely throughout the course for homework and the design project.  Mathematical programs, such as Matlab or MATHCAD are used for higher level calculations and simulation.  Industry-standard LabVIEW is also used for laboratory data acquisition and instrument control.  Most pertinent to the course are the use of schematic capture and PCB layout tools, which are Multisim and Ultiboard.  These are typical mid-range tools which are exemplary to industrial standards.  (High relevance to course) 

ABET Criterion 4 Considerations

Engineering standards - Students must develop their capstone design project to meet specific performance specifications, some of which include benchmark testing or compliance testing against accepted standards for performance and safety. 

Realistic constraints – The capstone design project, in addition to having explicit electrical performance specifications, is fundamentally phrased and graded in terms of the final solution's size, weight, cost, power consumption, alignment ease, component variability, and manufacturability criteria. 

Prepared By:  R. Bruce Darling

Last Revised:  10/22/2015