Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

The capstone course for electrical and computer engineering majors has not only tested the knowledge that seniors have acquired throughout the past four years at Lafayette, it has given them experience on the level of what they’ll do as professional engineers.

Led by Jeff Gum, visiting instructor of electrical and computer engineering, the class is aimed at equipping graduating seniors with skills they will need to succeed in the real world.

It’s an evolution that has taken place over the course of a semester as the 18 students have designed and deployed a wireless sensor network for the Lafayette campus. They presented it Friday afternoon in Acopian Engineering Center room 429.

“What happens after a while — and the students will see more of this in the field — is a peer relationship begins to develop with me, someone that’s older than them, and I actually become less of an instructor and more of a colleague. And this gets them to start thinking about dealing with colleagues and gets them comfortable with being an engineer,” Gum says.

Tom Emanski (Mountain Top, Pa.) says every aspect of the project, from management to resources to deadlines, relates to what professional engineers encounter every day in their professions.

“This course really gets us as close to the real world as you can get without actually working there,” Emanski says. “Everything about it illustrates how close we are to it and really get us ready for the next 40 years.”

The design project consists of linking mobile and stationary sensor nodes to a central network to monitor environmental conditions and campus buildings and track vehicles. The student team had $3,000 to complete the project, which began at the end of January and should be up and running this month.

To date, it’s the most complex design project undertaken by seniors, Gum says.

The class began in January with an architectural document outlining the project specifications. Students organized their efforts in eight different teams covering areas such as power, radio frequency, systems integration, and error control. They joined teams according to where they thought they could best utilize their knowledge, Emanski says.

Nicholas Cali (Dunmore, Pa.), who is minoring in mathematics, says separating into subgroups gave him the chance to use specific skills he has learned in his classes.

“One of the groups I’m involved in is the radio frequency group. Right now I am involved in a wireless course, but with my involvement in this program I get to actually build antennas and tune them to the frequency we’re operating on,” he says. “Also, our circuit boards have a very special design and that’s something we learned about in the course I’m taking, but we wouldn’t have gotten to actually produce this board in the course.”

The project presented some challenges, notes Greg DeVito (Mountain Top, Pa.). As part of the systems integrity group, he encountered problems with interfacing the operating system and the central processor. Specifically, it was a challenge to make the processor accept the real-time information sent by the operating system. There were other software and hardware issues as well, Cali adds.

There have been a lot of late nights and the learning curve has been much steeper than traditional classes, students say.

“One of the biggest things is just learning to work in the group environment,” Cali says. “You have a team of 18 students and to come up with and settle on a system of this magnitude, especially in the preliminary meetings, there’s lot of arguing back and forth. There are so many angles and approaches to go forward from and there’s really not a wrong way, but it caused arguing and we had to come up with a lot of compromises.”

Working in a group equipped the students with a sense of cooperation and problem-solving skills essential to working in a professional environment, Gum says.

“Gaining interpersonal and organizational skills has been a key thing for everyone,” he adds.

More importantly, the project has given the students a sense of pride about their work at Lafayette.

“To get a project of this magnitude done with the time, space, and financial constraints we had, it makes you feel ready to go into the real world; it makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something,” Emanski says.

In addition to Cali, DeVito and Emanski, class members include Keith Barry, Fayola Bostic (also majoring in international studies), Jonathan Dufresne, Melissa Farrand, Bradford Fritz, Peter Gray, Ekaterina Jager(also majoring in mathematics-economics),Usman Khan(also majoring in mathematics-economics), Kristian Kleinbach, Jason Mansilla, Colin McDonough, Merhawi Redda, Richard Roscioli, Mark Wells, and Kevin Young.

Categorized in: Academic News