Int. J. Engng Ed. Vol. 26, No. 5, pp. 1285–1304, 2010                                                                     ...
1286                                           H. Al-Rizzo et al.student teams working on industry-inspired/spon-         ...
Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems                       1287what it is like to be responsible f...
1288                                          H. Al-Rizzo et al.                                          Fig. 1. The SIMI...
Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems                                    1289                      ...
1290                                              H. Al-Rizzo et al.                                              Table 1 ...
Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems                         1291interactions that take place when...
1292                                           H. Al-Rizzo et al.  2.1 The system shall be able to deliver detailed       ...
Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems                                         1293oped to estimate ...
1294                                                  H. Al-Rizzo et al.Table 2 Simulation parameters used to generate the...
Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems                                    1295                      ...
1296                                         H. Al-Rizzo et al.                                          Fig. 7. Pre-plann...
Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems                        1297partnerships such as the one descr...
1298                                         H. Al-Rizzo et al.student’s experience and overall engineering abil-      pro...
Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems                      1299will take this into full account in ...
1300                                                H. Al-Rizzo et al.capstone. There were debates among the faculty      ...
Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems                                    1301            18. M. Kri...
Directional-based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems Engineering Capstone Design Project
Directional-based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems Engineering Capstone Design Project
Directional-based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems Engineering Capstone Design Project
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Directional-based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems Engineering Capstone Design Project


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A paper to which I contributed about a senior design project I mentored as an industry colleague for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

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Directional-based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems Engineering Capstone Design Project

  1. 1. Int. J. Engng Ed. Vol. 26, No. 5, pp. 1285–1304, 2010 0949-149X/91 $3.00+0.00Printed in Great Britain. # 2010 TEMPUS Publications.Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce:Undergraduate Systems EngineeringCapstone Design Project*HUSSAIN AL-RIZZO,1 SESHADRI MOHAN,1 MELISSA REED,1 DWAYNE KINLEY,1ZAK HEMPHILL,1 CHRIS FINLEY,1 AMANDA POPE,1 DOUG OSBORN,1 WAYNE CROLLEY21 Systems Engineering Department, George W. Donaghey College of Engineering and InformationTechnology, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2801 South University Avenue, Little Rock,AR 72204-1099, USA. E-mail:, sxmohan@ualr.edu2 AT&T AES Engineering, Little Rock, AR 72201-1618, USA. E-mail: This paper describes the framework of an innovative style of mentoring for a capstone design course offered in the Systems Engineering Department of the George W. Donaghey College of Engin- eering and Information Technology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR). The course is focused on a pedagogical approach to teach systems engineering design by establishing a client-based, industrially inspired, experiential teamwork learning environment, which allows students to think divergently to create a convergent solution using creative approaches. A team from the Computer and Telecommunications Systems Engineering Options addressed aspects of the design and development cycle of a directional-based cellular e-commerce project including system mission, architecture, operational scenarios, design, prototyping, and validation. The team considered relevant stakeholder needs and constraints, contrasted viable design alternatives against project requirements, followed a sub-system breakdown to fulfill the requirements identified in the Request for Proposal (RFP) to which system functions and properties can be mapped, and examined potential implementations within a constrained budget while ensuring system level compliance. A classroom environment, which is conducive to creative engineering design, is initiated by nurturing novel thoughts, encouraging autonomy, individual learning styles, self-reflection, assessment, and expanding students’ ability to reason on original thought processes. Overall, the students felt they were provided with a unique and valuable experience that would be beneficial to them in their careers. Nearly all students were enthusiastic about the hands-on use of CAD for modeling and simulations and other professional systems engineering tools to solve real-world problems.. Although some students were frustrated at times, in the end, the experience gained was considered valuable. Assessments based on interviews conducted by the industry sponsor with individual students, results from quantifiable metrics and rubrics, comments from alumni, and the industrial advisory board on the course instruction have been overwhelmingly positive, supporting our conclusion that the course structure provided an effective learning experience. Keywords: capstone design course; systems engineering education; industry sponsorship project; project-based learning; creative engineering design 1. INTRODUCTION during the senior year: SYEN 4385: Systems En- gineering Capstone Design I, and SYEN 4386:INFORMATION DELIVERY to customers, Systems Engineering Capstone Design II. Duringbased on their location, offers the potential for a a two-semester period, a directional-based cellularbroad range of service offerings and consequently e-commerce project, termed eViator, was offeredincreased revenue for telecommunications opera- to a team consisting of six undergraduate studentstors and other service providers [1–4]. A service from the Computer and Telecommunicationsthat has an even better potential for revenue Systems Engineering Options. The team investi-generation, which is the subject of the capstone gated the design and implementation of eViatordesign project under consideration in this paper, is with special emphasis on speed estimation, pre-one that could determine the location and direc- planned versus on-demand services, and infra-tion of motion of customers, anticipates arrival at structure integration. Students examined availablea certain location, and delivers a list of Points-of- supporting technologies, determined the most suit-Interests (POIs) based on customer profiles. able method of implementation, designed a system The Systems Engineering Department at UALR that can be easily integrated with an existingoffers a two-semester capstone design course cellular infrastructure, and developed a suite of platform-independent, software algorithms to deli- ver the vital elements of eViator. * Accepted 4 April 2010 Providing an engineering design experience to 1285
  2. 2. 1286 H. Al-Rizzo et al.student teams working on industry-inspired/spon- interpersonal, teamwork, economics, conflictsored capstone design projects is not novel [5–10]. management, decision making, ethics, socialThe literature is replete with numerous journal issues, and entrepreneurship [29].articles and conference proceedings addressing The instructional team consisted of two facultythe role of a capstone course for traditional elec- members, the industrial sponsor, guest lecturers,trical, computer, mechanical, civil, and industrial and four graduate teaching assistants. The instruc-engineering programs [11–20] with excellent tional team provided the resources for knowledgediscussion of the methods and techniques as well acquisition, established a close relationship withas challenges associated with objective evaluations and within the students’ team, proactively advisedto gauge student attainment of outcomes [9]; [16– and counseled the students in technical, time, and17]; [21–23]. However, considerably less literature team management, assessed ties among thehas tackled issues related to a capstone design students without imposing methods, views, orcourse in the realm of systems-centered disciplin- solutions. The industrial sponsor from AT&Tary programs [24–26]. It is this latter area that this provided the students with a RFP, which buildspaper is focused on. More specifically, our objec- the objectives and specific aims that the finaltive is to enhance the creativity of undergraduate deliverable must be complied with. He also assistedsystems engineering students by bringing a concept in the design of laboratory experiments and parti-into reality through evolutionary design and novel cipated in informal learning experiences such asthoughts to develop organization skills, taping seminars and conference calls. Moreover, heboth needed domain knowledge and systems en- contributed to determining a framework of skillsgineering tools and processes to rapidly and effec- needed, and evaluation by assessing the appropri-tively architect, design, integrate, and validate ateness of the content of the laboratory experi-complex systems that involve humans, organ- ments in producing learning, which are functionalizations, and technologies. We have tested two in an industrial environment, and evaluated thehypotheses in this regard. The first is how to outcomes of the project and the processes by whichbreak away from the traditional role of industry the course contents were developed and delivered.involvement that is centered on ‘‘taking industry This active involvement resulted in an increasedinto the classroom’’ and focus instead on ‘‘injecting awareness of employer expectations, constraintsthe student into the industry environment.’’ The involved in the design, and how students will beconcept of placing students into real-world scenar- expected to perform in their future careers. Itios facing contemporary business challenges was should be noted that the involvement of thereversed and, instead, students were treated as industrial sponsor in the evaluation process (grad-strategic business partners in a mock business ing and assessment) enhances competition amongscenario to transfer research in emerging technol- the students and motivated them to seek excellenceogies into potential marketplace success. The [30].second hypothesis employs a system engineering The instructors assisted students during brain-paradigm as an intricate cognitive process that storming, mind mapping, and recombination ofuses creativity to bring new thoughts into the ideas sessions. The instructional team delivereddesign and implementation of a feasible product. two groups of lectures. The first group coveredCreativity, in our context, is the process of devel- topics pertaining to project planning such aoping and expressing novel ideas that are likely to feasibility study, conceptualization, reduction ofbe useful whereas innovation refers to synthesizing concepts, formulating open-ended designor bridging ideas from different domains [27–28]. problems, discovering system requirements, Laboratory-intensive suites of system-level system evaluation, project management, replyingsimulations have been offered early in SYEN to RFPs, team performance, and protection of4385 to familiarize students with technical topics intellectual property. The second group of lecturesrequired to support the project. Students were covered technical topics of specific interest to thegiven the opportunity to use professional CAD project such as WLAN and cellular systems, wire-tools, experience day-to-day social, ethical, and less geo-location algorithms based on linear pathpolitical real-world challenges, and become more estimation, database programming and manage-proficient at writing technical reports for managers ment, VXML, and OPNET [31]. Building experi-in response to realistic situations, rather than ence in these multidisciplinary domains makes itwriting for professors in contrived situations. possible to approach a solution for each subsystemThese activities assisted students to synthesize of eViator with a flexible mind set, willingness tonovel ideas into implementation that is realistic try new perspectives, and search for new combina-and functional in the context of standard systems tions. Students submitted individual status reportsengineering development processes: problem defi- and conducted project meetings on a weekly basisnition, concept design, system-level design, to evaluate their progress, describe actions thatdetailed design, test, and verification. Participating have taken place, schedule issues, debate newin activities such as project planning, performance ideas, and play the roles of project managers andanalysis, reliability, human interfaces, cost, execu- direct liaisons to the industry sponsor and facultytion, validation, and tradeoff studies provided on a two-week rotational basis to ensure that eachstudents the opportunity to acquire proficiency in student had an opportunity to practice firsthand
  3. 3. Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems 1287what it is like to be responsible for a complex along a linear path passing through a series ofproject. hotspots, associating the location of the device The rest of the paper is organized as follows. as it relates to the fixed location of the hotspotThe problem statement submitted to the students tower. A database should be included in thein the form of a formal proposal is described in design which would collect this information forSection 2. In Section 3, we introduce the systems the additional purposes of:engineering approach followed by the students for – Determining the direction of the device’sthe eViator concept development, which culmi- travel as it relates to the linear series of hot-nates in defining the systems architecture. A brief spots.stakeholder analysis and the requirement hierarchy – Estimating the approximate speed of travel ofdeveloped using the Vitech systems engineering the device based on information collectedand architecting software CORE [32] is presented from a series of wireless hotspots.through an in-depth analysis from requirements – Estimation of the arrival of the device at thedefinition through architecture to systems verifica- next subsequent wireless hotspot based on thetion. Section 4 summarizes the two phases information collected regarding the device’sfollowed for system-level design: research, and time and duration in previous hotspots.implementation. In Section 5 we briefly describe – By monitoring the device’s travel throughthe three algorithms developed to estimate the hotspots and approximating the estimatedtime-of-arrival at the POI. In Section 6, the time of arrival in the next cell, determine ifconceptual and system-level design are integrated the device has stopped moving in a lineartogether to generate a novel functional system with manner, and provide alerts of this situation.particular emphasis on the engine and database. . Device Identification—monitor a series of wire-The role of the industrial advisor and outcome less hotspots, aligned in a linear manner, toassessment strategies are introduced in Sections 7 identify when new wireless devices enter theand 8, respectively. Finally, Section 9 concludes hotspot and associate with the access point bythe paper. tracking the unique ID of the device. Monitor a particular device as it enters the first hotspot and then progresses along a linear path, through a 2. PROBLEM STATEMENT: REQUEST series of hotspots: FOR PROPOSAL (RFP) – Actively monitor all devices associated with a particular wireless access point. eViator delivers services notification and content – Determine when a device enters or exits theto wireless devices carried by travelers of an coverage pattern of the antenna of a particu-interstate highway that may be interactive, real- lar access point.time, on-demand, planned, or spontaneous. A key – Develop a method by which alerts would bebenefit of eViator is its use of existing cellular generated once a wireless device enters orinfrastructure to deliver services information, exists a particular wireless hotspot.traveler location, and directional information, toa wide array of wireless devices. eViator’s featuresinclude: 3. CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT. Services information in various media formats from textual messaging to streaming audio and 3.1 Systems engineering approach video. Development of the eViator project is aligned. Versatility in methods of purchase: with the following objectives: adequately define the – Pre-Planned—user visits a website prior to an system over its life cycle; define clear-cut inter- automobile trip and requests to be notified of mediate development stages to ensure successful specific services of interest. system acquisition. Students followed two comple- – On-Demand—user initiates search from a mentary systems engineering perspectives for the wireless device for a specific service while in integration of subsystems to meet design require- route to a destination. ments defined in the RFP. The first is through a. Infrastructure and target device independent. series of discrete steps occurring sequentially over. Billing methods tiered to allow businesses to time; the second is that of a set of technical maximize their advertising budgets. activities that occur throughout the life cycle.. On-demand searches that can be initiated in a Project tailoring is achieved by controlling the number of ways. number of iterations of the discrete steps and the. Targeting information to proven markets. technical activities to distinguish phases and estab-Another goal of the RFP is to enlist the research of lish control gates between groups of activities. Thea firm to complete two projects associated with this students relied on an iterative process thatservice: comprises the following seven tasks: state the problem, investigate alternatives, model the. Location Estimation—develop a method (soft- system, integrate, launch the system, assess perfor- ware), which will track a device as it travels mance, and re-evaluate. These functions can be
  4. 4. 1288 H. Al-Rizzo et al. Fig. 1. The SIMILAR process.summarized with the acronym SIMILAR [33] in which controls the whole eViator service. TheFig. 1. engine performs the following tasks: . locate users;3.2 Systems architecture . direction determination; The approach followed to translate the RFP . initiate service;into a system encompasses: developing functional . initiate users’ travel database;and physical interfaces, verifying that the design . authenticate and authorize customers;meets the users’ perceived needs, and conducting . verify and update customers’ preferences;tradeoff and risk analysis. The following statement . update customers’ travel log.inspired this approach, ‘‘The problem statementshould be in terms of what must be done, not how An attribute essential to the system’s success is thatto do it.’’ [34]. Several brainstorming sessions were the engine must interface well with the database.conducted involving interaction and exchange of Moreover, the engine has to run independentlyideas to refine the final design of the eViator from other components, but at the same timesystem by invoking individual inputs and feed- collaborate and interwork with them.backs to influence the students’ creative minds. The database provides storage for user accounts,At this stage, the industry sponsor played a signif- tracks progress during a trip, and stores usericant role in constraining the generation of ideas preferences to ensure the services are applicableon the intended scope of the project and to initiate to their individual trips. There will be multifunc-a mapped solution to the problem. tion reading and writing to the database. The Dynamic marketplace, globalization, and fast eViator project is supported by an educationalchanging technologies require the eViator to be budget; therefore the cost of developing anddeveloped quickly to stay ahead of competition. running the database needs to be minimal.Fast system evolution driven by a half life of Taking all these factors into consideration,technologies significantly shorter than system life MySQL is the best option for the project. Thecycles or even system development cycle times, design needs to be tailored to the Databaseleading to further problems for system architec- Management System (DBMS) needs, requiringtures. Therefore, steady insertion of new technol- more control and flexibility in the infrastructure.ogies is necessary to keep the system competitive. This is not available in ‘‘closed system’’ architec-The eViator must accommodate integration at ture [35]. The open source nature of MySQLall levels since it is incorporated into external allows modification of equipment and services,networks that experience different levels of tech- and development of applications and services per-nological evolutions at different times. The overall sonalized to each user. Tracking the user’s progressdesign needs to account for these aspects to requires that the database be updated in real time.produce a long life cycle for the developed plat- One type of interface for the eViator is voice toform. These major drivers require that the system ensure user safety while on a trip. VXML wasarchitecture be: Flexible—ability to be changed chosen as the functioning language due to its easeeasily and rapidly, and Transparent – ability to of portability and to leverage industry consortiaadapt to changing environments. trends, such as the World Wide Web Consortium The eViator model depicted in Fig. 2 was devel- (W3C). Another interface is that between the useroped to provide guidelines for research and design, and the database. This interface must effectivelyand to prevent type three errors: working on the work with the MySQL database and HTML. Thewrong problem. Confirmed by the client through a user registration component is HTML because it isresponse to the RFP, this model was the basis for the most widely used Internet language. Thegenerating requirements, acted as a baseline for SNMP and WML are the interfaces chosen forabstract modeling, and drove the development communications with the user’s wireless device.stages for the project to progressively reduce thelevel of abstraction. Research conducted by the 3.3 Requirements analysisstudents revealed that the three major drivers that Requirements analysis allows for a generalizeddemand immediate systems development are: problem to become more focused. The first step isdynamic marketplace, technological evolution, to identify the various stakeholder groups fromand variety of environments. which feedback is sought for the validation process A key component of the eViator is the engine, to meet expectations. A stakeholder analysis
  5. 5. Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems 1289 Fig. 2. Overall eVaitor system.allows proper shaping of the design space for ization, or their position in relation to otherproject expectations. To meet these expectations, stakeholders.requirements are listed for each of the groups Consideration was given to the secondary stake-involved. holders, but by definition, these were sorted into direct contributing groups. The assignment of relative priority was also ranked to reflect the3.3.1 Stakeholder analysis Figure 3 depicts the primary stakeholders: custo-mers and clients (organizations that use eViator todeliver content to the customers). The secondarystakeholders are AT&T and the capstone team.The external stakeholders consist of UALR andsupport staff. Table 1 shows the rankings (scale of 1: lowest to5: highest) which indicate relative priority that theproject should give to each stakeholder in meetingtheir interests. Each stakeholder bears an influenceto each aspect of the project: to control whichdecisions are made, facilitate its implementation,or exert positive or negative influences. Influence isperhaps best understood as the extent to whichpeople, groups or organizations (i.e. stakeholders)are able to persuade or coerce others into makingdecisions, and following certain courses of action.Furthermore, this influence is an extension of thepower of that stakeholder group. Power mayderive from the nature of a stakeholders’ organ- Fig. 3. Primary, secondary, and external stakeholders.
  6. 6. 1290 H. Al-Rizzo et al. Table 1 Stakeholder analysis Interests Potential Project Impact Relative Priority of InterestPrimary StakeholdersClients * Reliability (+) 5Customers * Ease-of-use (+) 5 * Safety (+) 5Secondary StakeholdersAT&T * Portability (+) 5 * Modularity (+) 4Student Team * Timeliness (–) 4 * Skill sets (+) 5 * Achievement of targets (+) 4External StakeholdersUALR Staff * Achievement of targets (+) 4 * Control over activities (+/–) 5 * Public image (–) 4UALR Support Staff * Availability (+) 3importance of these areas for fulfillment. External 3.3 The product should self-monitor forstakeholders are listed to the extent of their prio- system redundancy.rities and to demonstrate their interests. These 4.0 The product should account and bill custo-interests can be catalogued in areas such as advi- mers accordingly.sors, assessment, sponsorship, and availability. 4.1 The system shall distinguish between on-demand versus pre-planned custo- mers.3.3.2 CORE 4.2 The system should be flexible to the The CORE environment [32] synchronizes extent to distinguish between text andsystem requirements, behavioral models, architec- other forms of content delivery.tures, and design solutions with system specifica- . Functional requirementstions and test procedures. In order to train 1.0 The location estimation component of eVia-students in how to represent the problem definition tor must estimate customer position.through various contexts of creative thoughts, they System components shall determine theare required to document their experience, organ- direction of travel.ize thoughts, and express ideas using professional 1.1 System components shall estimate thesystems engineering tools during the incubation of approximate speed of travel based onthe project. CORE was used in requirements data gathered from wireless carrieranalysis and organization portions of the design systems.phase, in particular to implement hierarchical 1.2 The system shall determine if the devicedesign requirements. To allow the creative process has stopped moving in a linear have direction and purpose, the general and 1.3 The system should provide an estimatefunctional requirements developed for the CORE for the time of arrival at the next sub-implementation in response to the RFP are listed sequent wireless access point.below. 1.4 The system must determine the delivery time of content prior to site arrival.. General requirements 1.5 The system shall be able to provide 1.0 The product must adhere to federal, state, geographic placement of ‘on-demand’ and local government regulations. users. 2.0 The customer (user) shall be given the 2.0 Device identification component of eViator option to choose the type of service. must identify active service customers. 2.1 The customer shall be able to acquire 2.1 System components shall actively moni- service access at any given time (on- tor wireless access points. demand). 2.2 A method should be developed by 2.2 The interface to the service shall be which alerts will be generated once a simple and interactive. member device becomes active in any 2.3 Content delivery shall be timely and wireless access area. accurate. 3.0 The customer interface must be simple to 2.4 Content delivery shall be indiscriminate use no matter the type of customer. of the type of device. 3.1 The system should provide an option 3.0 The product must make provisions for for virtual hands-free access. different user devices and be platform inde- pendent. In order to create the CORE requirement hierar- 3.1 The product shall be portable. chy of how the eViator should function, the team 3.2 The service shall be applicable to a developed ‘‘use cases’’ that describe possible uses variety of wireless devices. of the system. A use case depicts the set of
  7. 7. Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems 1291interactions that take place when an external party 1.3 The system shall determine the user’s(e.g. a user, an operational system such as authen- approximate speed of travel.tication center) uses the system. The following is an 1.4 The system shall be able to detect when aexample of one of the use cases developed in an user has deviated from his/her predictedattempt to define the missions of the system: travel pattern and adjust its estimated time of arrival accordingly. I sit at my computer planning a cross-country road trip. As I log onto my cellular carrier’s web site, I 2. The system shall provide accurate, mean- enter my starting point and destination along with my ingful, desirable information to the user. favorite restaurants, gas stations, and approximate 2.1 The system shall be able to deliver alerts gas mileage of my car. In addition, the website early enough for the user to make a deci- generates a checklist of POIs that I might visit sion, but not so early that the user forgets during my trip. Viola, my trip is planned, but instead what was available. of printing out directions, I just set my phone into a 2.2 The system shall be able to not only convey hands-free device and begin to drive my route. As I simple messages such as store names, but begin, the local cell tower picks up my signal and should also be able to convey more detailed begins to estimate my distance traveled. As I travel information about the services based on through different cells, I begin to get notifications that I am approaching POIs that I might want to stop at, what the business clients wish to broadcast. such as nearby gas stations when needed, or restau- 3. The system shall provide a user-friendly rants at times when we might want to eat. Also, our interface for the customer to interact with. progress is tracked and reported back to a website 3.1 The system shall consist of a computer- that my family can securely log onto see if we are based interface that provides the customer traveling safe and well. a method to plan his route and choose what types of services he is interested in gettingUsing this scenario and others that describe differ- alerts about.ent parts or different functions of the eViator 3.2 The system shall consist of an interface on asystem, a list of requirements that the system mobile device that is easy to use whilemust meet in order to be considered successful driving a car in order for users to dynami-has been developed. The preliminary list was very cally request services from the system.broad and attempted to encompass all functions of 4. The system shall maintain an accurate data-the system. This was based on the description base containing services that are availableprovided by the industry sponsor, and the discus- for alerts and information regarding usersions between the instructional team and students. trip data.The first thoughts on the system included precise 5. The system shall have a profitable philo-location identification, indoor versus outdoor sophy consisting of either charging the indi-implementation, network security, and marketing vidual users, the businesses who advertise,strategies. All of these requirements were gathered or both.and organized into a source document to use for 6. The system shall be secure.the CORE requirements hierarchy. Here is an 6.1 The system shall be able to secure the dataexample of one CORE source document. from a user’s computer at the time of trip planning so that no outside party can access3.3.2.1 Scope that information without the user’s consent. There are two related designs available using the 6.2 The system shall be able to secure the dataidea of directional-based services. System 1 (High- relating the user’s location at all times unlessway billboard system) shall act as a mobile bill- otherwise allowed by the user.board for customers traveling down a highway and 6.3 The system shall be able to secure all trans-will alert users only when they enter the vicinity of missions from the system to the user’sa desired service. System 2 (Theme park direction mobile device at all times.system) shall be capable of operating on a smaller 7. The system shall provide a method toscale inside a building or small perimeter with expand or retract the services provided bymore specific location estimations in order to the system in order to ensure future growthprovide detailed directions to the user. Both and/or optimization of the could be tailored to either users’ or busi- 2.2 System 2 (Theme park direction system)ness’ requests. 1. The system shall be able to determine a user’s specific location (i.e. within a five3.3.3.2 Requirements foot radius). 2.1 System 1 (Highway billboard system) 1.1 The system shall have a method of deter- 1. The system shall be able to determine a mining a user’s location in three-dimen- user’s estimated time of arrival to POI. sional space. 1.1 The system shall have a method of deter- 1.2 The system shall determine the user’s move- mining a user’s general location (i.e. within ments in real time. a radius of two miles). 2. The system shall provide accurate, mean- 1.2 The system shall determine the user’s direc- ingful, and desirable information to the tion of travel. user.
  8. 8. 1292 H. Al-Rizzo et al. 2.1 The system shall be able to deliver detailed . Effects of shadowing, multipath, and antenna directions as a user moves toward the POI. radiation pattern on cellular coverage; 2.2 The system shall be able to not only convey . Interface design for seamless operation; simple messages, such as names of places, . Database architecture and design techniques; but should also be able to convey more . Software applications and implementation tech- detailed information about the location niques; based on what the business clients wish to . Modeling and simulation techniques for geolo- broadcast. cation; 3. The system shall provide an interface on a . Hand-off mechanisms for location determina- mobile device that is easy to use in order for tion; users to dynamically request services from . Capabilities and utility of GMLC; the system and receive information based on . VXML as a viable interface solution. their location. 4. The system shall maintain an accurate data- base containing all information about a site 4.2 Phase II—implementation the business client deems necessary. This phase marks the transition from conceptual 5. The system shall have a profitable philo- level design to prototyping. After a critical design sophy consisting of either charging the indi- review, the start of SYEN 4386 brought the final vidual users, the businesses who advertise, design and detailed testing plans to verify the or both. system performance. Every major component is 6. The system shall be secure. described in terms of input, output, and function. 6.1 The system shall be able to secure the data The most critical components, the engine and relating the user’s location at all times unless database, were given the utmost importance. otherwise allowed by the user. Once completed and analyzed, the task of design- 6.2 The system shall be able to secure all trans- ing other subcomponents becomes evident. The missions from the system to the user’s deliverable of this phase is a detailed design of mobile device at all times. the eViator including: engine and its functions, 7. The system shall provide a method to database and queries associated with engine, expand or retract the services provided in website, PHP, and VXML. order to ensure future growth and/or opti- Each student was given the responsibility of the mization. components and subsystems that she/he wanted to specialize in and implement. For every component there were at least two students working on it to ensure its completion. This phase is not only the most difficult, but also the most important since 4. SYSTEM-LEVEL DESIGN the deliverable is a working prototype. The imple- mentation phase encompasses: writing and debug-4.1 Phase I—research ging engine function codes, integrating functions Fundamentally, the design process did not into the main program, writing and debuggingevolve in a linear manner. Rather, it has been database code, writing queries for the engineconducted in phases of reflective thinking. functions to call information from the database,During SYEN 4385, the team identified alternative integrating the engine and database, writingdesigns that meet user needs in whole or in part, HTML for the user registration website, writingand conducted tradeoff studies among these the PHP code to support the website and inputdesigns such as wireless geo-location technologies data into the database, integrating HTML, PHPand supporting interfaces/software tools in terms with the database, writing VXML for the on-of performance, reliability, availability, conveni- demand scenario, integrating VXML with theence, and cost. Investigation in the initial stage of engine, installing access points for demonstrationthe design involved defining the problem, familiar- by parsing a user’s unique ID, running tests onization with the project objectives, and scope of APs set-up, integration with the engine, setting thework. The deliverable of this phase is an in-depth wireless device to receive messages from theunderstanding of eViator’s functions, approach to engine, and testing the eViator system with scenar-create a working eViator system, alternatives avail- for the subsystems, and the reasons forselecting the baseline design. During theseactivities, communication played a vital role indeploying the necessary courses of action. The 5. ESTIMATING THE TIME-OF-ARRIVALfollowing research topics were conducted during (TOA)Phase I: Three algorithms were proposed to estimate the. Protocols and standards for WLAN and cellular TOA at the POI in scenarios involving a linear- systems; path, one-way trip with potential delays and. Integration, portability, and device identifica- variations in radiation pattern coverage of the tion in cellular networks; base station antennas. The three algorithms devel-
  9. 9. Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems 1293oped to estimate the average speed per trip Strip avg Size fluctuations (e.g. terrain environment) areare: accounted for by assuming that the pattern cover- 8 age is uniformly distributed between two and four > ½Strip avg Áðcell countފþScurrent cell avg ; cell count < 1 < miles. A total of 115 cells were used to define the ðcell countÞStrip avg ¼ trip length. This number results in an average of > ½Strip avg Áðcell countފþScurrent cell avg : 345 miles for each one-way trip as reported by the ðcell countÞþ1 ; cell count > 1 Bureau of Transportation Statistics in 1995 [37]. ð1Þ Driving patterns are difficult to quantify due to the unavailability of a reliable source that could S1 þ S2 þ S3 þ ::: þ Scell count provide reliable statistical data with any amountStrip avg ¼ ð2Þ cell count of certainty. Based upon claims in [38], which reported 74 mph as the average speed on the Dtotal D1 þ D2 þ D3 þ ::: þ Dcell count highway and that 68% and 20% of the driversStrip avg ¼ ¼ exceed 70 mph and 80 mph, respectively, we Ttotal T1 þ T2 þ T3 þ ::: þ Tcell count assume that the speed is uniformly distributed ð3Þ between 60 mph and 90 mph. Random stops were introduced during the tripwhere D is distance, and T is time. Algorithm (1) to account for tank refills, fast/long-term dining,computes a cumulative weighted average of the and possible rests during the trip. ‘‘Dwelling’’ timespeed per trip. Algorithm (2) computes the average is assumed within cells by distributing a number ofspeed by performing a summation as the user stops from 0 to 4 per user trip. Each stop consistspasses through each cell. Algorithm (3) utilizes of dwell times uniformly distributed between fivetime stamps to compute the average speed through minutes and 30 minutes.each cell. The simulations were executed over 50 times The algorithms are applied to the scenario assuming 1000 users for consistency. In keepingshown in Fig. 4 where it is assumed that the with the functional flow of the proposed design,coverage patterns of adjacent base stations do the customer’s trip begins at the exiting of cell #1not overlap. This allows for the entire distance in order for eViator to capture the entering andtraversed during the trip to be accounted for by exiting times to compute the speed of the customer.predefined coverage patterns. The average cover- The simulation is terminated upon delivery of alertage area of a macro cell is 10 square miles [36]. at the edge of the cell containing the POI. Success Fig. 4. Simulation scenario.Fig. 5. Results from Algorithm1: y-axis is the number of users; x-axis is the difference between the actual and estimated arrival times in minutes.
  10. 10. 1294 H. Al-Rizzo et al.Table 2 Simulation parameters used to generate the results in To optimize a product, we might need only to Fig. 5 modify one facet instead of redesigning the entireParameter Value product. Furthermore, an open system could lead to easier insertion of technology and better inter-Speed 60–90 mph operability of mixed technologies. eViator is aCell diameter 2–4 miles specialized product and no one commercialUsers 1000Number of cells 115 product could solve the different and difficultDwell quantity 0–4 challenges; however, as an example, we couldDwell time 5–30 minutes substitute well-developed mapping software toRandom cells selected for Dwell 16 41 62 97 provide route selection in the trip-planning aspectRandom length of dwell time 20 14 14 23 as long as the system interfaces are properly defined. This openness allows for changeability while maintaining high reliability once the serviceis measured by comparing the time of alert versus market starts to respond.the actual trip time. Application along these guidelines dictates that For the three algorithms, the alert time was the functional blocks should be extracted intofound to range from –0.3 to 0.4 minutes compared separate file spaces. This will maintain the flex-to the time when the alert should have been ibility of an open system model so that thesedelivered. A positive value indicates an early separate files can be modified on an as-neededdelivery of an alert, whereas a negative value basis to allow program optimization withoutreflects a late delivery of an alert. An extended total overhaul of the eViator. The overall programstop time was applied to assess the performance of is simplified into separate function calls to handlethe three algorithms. It has been found that algo- the challenges of eViator. To meet other require-rithm (3) has a much slower reaction time during ments, the system runs several of the functionsan extended dwelling time. Other constraints were simultaneously. A benefit of this structure is scal-next applied to algorithms (1) and (2) to gauge the ability. By allowing these functions to run inbetter of the two. It is concluded that algorithm (1) parallel on a multi-server platform, eViator willshould be used in eViator due to the higher system be able to meet higher demands without sufferingoverhead for algorithm (2). Furthermore, it should computational noted that more computations would be needed Decomposition of the model into a high-levelfor Algorithm (3) to update the average trip speed architecture requires several iterations of thefor each customer. system’s engineering process to assign high-level Figure 5 displays results from simulations functionality properties. These functions consoli-conducted using Algorithm (1) and the parameters date the results out of the evaluation of the designdisplayed in Table 2. alternatives. At higher levels, architecting methods, experience-based heuristics, abstraction, and inte- grated modeling must be used [33]. This evolution is 6. DESIGN OF ENGINE AND described by the ‘rule of ten’ stating that with each DATABASE subsequent program phase the implementation of change becomes ten times more costly (e.g. time, To increase productivity and reassurance for manpower, money) [34]. Figure 6 depicts the high-reliable results, students applied contradiction to level architecture, which guided the development inutilize and combine existing technologies in ways the implementation phase.that spark a novel overall design. eViator needs to For the software to know what each user needs,be flexible enough to handle changes in user needs it must have a bank of information to poll andand financial models. Moreover, eViator must be update user information. As the user travels, thedesigned for system evolution by adopting a flex- service learns more about where the user is going,ible architecture. There are four aspects of change- speed, and services requested. A MySQL databaseability: flexibility, agility, robustness, and holds this information and manages the dataadaptability. The system should be flexible so manipulation using SQL queries. The real worldthat changes can be made easily; and be agile so entities are mapped within the database includingthose changes can be made rapidly. The concern is user, trip, POIs, cells, billing, provider, devices,the trade-off between the robustness and adapt- and trip history as shown in Table 3. Each entity isability aspects. Can a system deliver its intended described by its attributes, where only one value isfunctionality under varying operating conditions given for each instance of an attribute. To poll forwithout being changed, or does it need to adapt information, constraints are placed upon the data-itself towards changing environments to deliver its base to distinguish instances of attributes. Forintended functionality? To resolve this dilemma, example, a user ID distinguishes multiple usersthe team provided an adequate design margin to stored within the database.account for uncertainties over the life cycle. Each query utilized frequently by multiple func- The Open Systems Joint Task Force in 1998 tions will be called as a separate function from andefined an open systems approach to allow this include file. All of the specialized queries that askflexibility while keeping overhead costs down [35]. for certain information from the database with
  11. 11. Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems 1295 Fig. 6. High-level architecture.distinct conditions are embedded into the software the process of locating the user according to theas a function or part of a function. This creates a trip information. Once the user is found, thedirect connection from the engine to the database. eViator begins the process of estimating the timeNext, the students analyzed how the engine before the user approaches the first POI. As themanages the eViator using three scenarios, which user travesl along, eViator provides more accurateare briefly described below. The first scenario is a estimations. When the user approaches the POIs,pre-planned user traveling through POIs without eViator delivers the appropriate message to thestopping. Secondly, an on-demand user scenario user’s device. These actions continue until thethat ends successfully at first attempt. Finally, we user reaches a final destination, as determined byconsider an on-demand user scenario that did not the trip information.have a successful first attempt and becomes a pre- Figure 7 identifies the function arrangement forplanned user. the pre-planned user. In start_ trip, the user’s trip begins when the requested time to start trip6.1 Pre-planned scenario matches with the current time. Then update_arrival In the pre-planned scenario, the user schedules a locates the user, determines average speed, andtrip via the web interface. The eViator system is in updates alerts for the chosen POIs. Next, when the user comes in range of POI, an alert, i.e. text Table 3. Entities and their attributes message, is sent to the user by sched_alert. Once all POI alerts are sent and the user has arrived at theUser Trip destination delete_trip will end the service.Userid (Primary Key) Trip_id (Primary Key) Password Name First name Description 6.2 On-demand Last name Start_location In the on-demand scenario, the user has not Address End_location scheduled a trip, but wants to request information Phone number Duration during the current trip. The user calls the eViator Email Active(Boolean) User_device_id service from the cell phone, through which the user Alert_type is identified. The user is guided through a series of Average Speed voice prompts to extract the information being Points of Interest requested. Once the eViator service determinesPoints of Interest Cell the POIs that the user is requesting, it responds POI_id (Primary Key) Cell_id (Primary Key) by giving all of their locations within the serving Altert_time Cell_distance cell. The reason for providing all locations is Arrival_time Description because the user’s direction of travel is unknown Category (food) at the time of the request. The eViator service then Cell_id Exit_Number checks to see if any of the given POIs are relevant to the user. If any are relevant, the initiated call is
  12. 12. 1296 H. Al-Rizzo et al. Fig. 7. Pre-planned scenario. Fig. 8 On-demand scenario.then terminated. If none of the given POI is instructors pressed students for assignmentconvenient for the user (i.e. the user has already completion, provided guidance for design efforts,passed them on), the third scenario begins. constrained the students in some areas while Figure 8 shows the functional flow of the on- empowering them in others, and previeweddemand scenario. Notice how it shares the same students’ status reports before they were presentedfunctions as the pre-planned scenario, except for to the industry sponsor. It was made clear that thethe immediate POI function. The scenarios are instructors provide technical information wheninitiated differently and therefore need different needed, but otherwise play the role of an observer,triggers. The user calls the eViator service for a noting progress and individual performance. Theparticular POI. The user is located and receives an lecture time was used for round-table group meet-alert with the information. The customer is satis- ings that were run by the students. The instructorsfied with the result, and then the scenario ends. participated in these meetings primarily by raising questions, when considered necessary, pertaining6.3 On-demand to pre-planned to technical issues, team logistics, or planning—all In the on-demand to pre-planned scenario, the of which were addressed and answered by theon-demand scenario has already taken place. students. Each student submitted a brief weeklyUnfortunately, the desired POIs were not progress report summarizing achievements andprovided. In order to properly service the user, presenting challenges to be resolved during thethe eViator system places that user into a pre- next round-table discussions.planned trip. During this process, speed and To make the academic experience as close to antravel information are acquired to determine industry experience as possible, the industry spon-when the user might arrive at a POI. Once the sor was portrayed as a customer who hired theuser arrives at the, the trip is considered over. student team as contractors to perform research and development. By integrating components of the project such as RFP documents, which were 7. ROLE OF THE INDUSTRY PARTNER vague about some requirements, but specific about others; mandatory conference calls; status reports; By design, the roles of the instructors and the and demanding timelines for completion, theindustry sponsor were developed to simulate roles students were able to experience factors whichwhich would be encountered should the scenario would be encountered in industry.have been a real-world experience. Specifically, the From an industry perspective, involvement in
  13. 13. Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems 1297partnerships such as the one described in this paper An example of this mentoring was provided whencarries not only a great deal of responsibility, but ‘‘the customer’’ asked if a feature could be addedalso a great deal of value on many levels for all to the system which was not defined in the RFP orinvolved. Aside from the opportunity to observe project requirements and in their effort to win thestudents currently enrolled in a degree program as business, students openly offered to add thepotential hires for a business, the role of an requested feature. A subsequent discussion wasindustry sponsor in this particular partnership conducted with the students about the ‘‘dangersrequired a unique level of commitment and invol- of scope creep’’ and how by agreeing to add thevement quite different than the traditional feature, their costs had increased radically withoutacademic advising role. Before integrating the any consideration for charging these costs back toeViator project into SYEN 4385 and 4386, the the customer (the mock price to complete thisindustry sponsor worked closely with the instruc- project had already been agreed between thetors to delineate responsibilities and roles of both student team and the ‘‘customer’’).parties. Beginning with articulating the intendedoverall goal of the partnership, the industry part-ner then evaluated resources available that mightenhance the academic experience. Each industry 8. ASSESSMENTand indeed each individual business can bring itsown unique value to a partnership, and the indus- The success of the capstone design course shouldtry partner’s assessment of the value it can provide be judged on how well student needs are the crucial starting point for a successful partner- Students were asked to evaluate the benefitsship. derived from their experiences with the course, Based on experience, industry sees first-hand find out whether the level of the material matchedfrom employees any trends in acquisition of skills their abilities, the intellectual challenge, and inter-or commonalities in skills they possess as well as in est of the course, and the suitability of the work-their deficiencies and strengths. The industry spon- load. The instructors evaluated participation ofsor helps to integrate this experience into the group members and evaluated the capstonepartnership and make suitable recommendations design course using rubrics developed by theto students, faculty and staff so that the observed assessment committee of the Systems Engineeringgaps in skills can be filled by students while in Department. Additional data were collected basedschool, skills that will likely make them invaluable on feedback from the industrial advisory board,to the industry upon graduation. A particular skill surveys from alumni and employers, as well asneeded is the understanding and application of senior exit surveys. Moreover, an outcome-basedsystems engineering methodologies, including grading scheme has been followed which emphas-requirements analysis, systems life cycle, integra- izes team performance, product developmenttion, testing, and upgrading. process, project management, communications, Historically in industry, methodological and interpersonal skills [23], [39].approaches to design are defined in technical It should be noted that the students faceddisciplines such as software programming and challenges in fulfilling some of the requirement oftelecommunications engineering, while in some the two-term design sequence. The first challenge isareas, the concept of the importance of how to that they often did not have all the requisitesolve a problem is sometimes lost in the effort to technical skills to solve the problem posed tosolve a problem. In the instance of the eViator them. It is the first course in the curriculumproject, a great deal of time was spent by the where they are introduced to the concept of ‘‘learn-students evaluating the various methodologies ing how to learn.’’ In other words, they soonavailable to them. Students were not only able to discovered that they had to research a technicalarticulate the details of the selected methodology, topic on their own, instead of being presented in abut also the reasons why the selected methodology textbook. The second challenge is the ‘‘soft skills’’would be the most effective for the project that are required of them to perform the project,assigned. Clearly, this systems engineering ranging from teamwork to formulating a businessapproach demonstrated that a focus on the plan. Again, these ideas are not necessarily intro-choice of methodology is as important as the duced in a textbook. The third challenge is thesolution itself. significant responsibility that falls on their In successful engineering projects much of the shoulders—the fact that they are managing theirintended focus revolves around a holistic view of own ‘‘enterprise,’’ the success or failure of which isthe stated problem and the proposed solution. Key determined by the efforts that they exert. Eachdesign considerations, such as cost, are not always member is responsible not only individually, butweighted with the same importance by an engin- for the entire team.eering team as by the customer. Details regardingchallenges in industry with regard to competitive 8.1 Key questionnairesituations, customer relations, and technical guid- As a part of the industry involvement role, theance on the design of the solution were provided to industry sponsor met with each student, and askedstudents allowing them to benefit from experience. a series of questions intended to gauge the
  14. 14. 1298 H. Al-Rizzo et al.student’s experience and overall engineering abil- project? Here are some details. First, the industriality. sponsor was involved in grading the students. In this case, the sponsor evaluation weighed 20% of. Question 1. How would you characterize the the final grade. Also, peer evaluation is emphas- importance of industry involvement in this ized to characterize the distribution of efforts on project? project planning, development, presentation, and Overall, students provided a very positive deliverable. This approach assists in enhancing response to this question. The majority stated teamwork, since those that simply ‘‘ride along’’ that the experience of designing a solution based will be uncovered through such peer evaluation. on a project developed by industry enhances Peer evaluation constitutes another 20% of the their ability to acquire a job upon graduation course grade. Another way to enforce teamwork and subsequently perform successfully in the is the instructors’ requirement that individual marketplace. contributions should be clearly specified in the. Question 2. What challenges were created by final report, so that there is accountability for industry involvement, if any? team effort. Finally, the instructors made it clear Many students interviewed felt the most compel- that to get an ‘‘A’’ or a ‘‘B,’’ students must show ling challenge from industry involvement was exceptional (i.e. outstanding, or above average) in the complexity of the project within the timeline initiative and creativity—completing what is imposed. Students stated they felt the pressure, required is enough to earn only a ‘‘C’’. Second, a albeit self-imposed, to perform well. Clearly, project presentation rubric is developed and these students felt a strong obligation to not employed to evaluate each teamwork presentation. only achieve a good grade, but also represent An example rubric includes the following to meas- his/her team, the systems engineering program, ure soft skills: and UALR to the outside world.. Question 3. How much of the workload would . knowledge of subject; you say you individually performed as com- . body language; pared to your fellow student team members? . eye contact; Interestingly, all of the students responded that . introduction and closure, the workload was evenly distributed among the . delivery of material, poise; student team members. Some pointed out that in . elocution (enunciation, voice). some instances, students who were struggling with assigned tasks received assistance from other team members voluntarily and that any The capstone course plays a key role in achieving assistance given by one student was balanced the ABET-2000’s ‘‘Professional Component’’ out at some later time by that same student criterion [39], which states that ‘‘Students must receiving assistance in areas in which he or she be prepared for engineering practice through the was struggling. curriculum culminating in a major design experi-. Question 4. What did you find the most reward- ence based on the knowledge and skills acquired in ing about this project? earlier course work and incorporating appropriate Most of the students responded to this question engineering standards and multiple realistic by saying this project was rewarding because it constraints.’’ challenged them in skill areas learned in the Aside from the survey instrument, an objective systems engineering program. In some instances, evaluation procedure has been set up to measure skill areas in which they perceived themselves as how well the capstone design achieves ABET’s being strong were challenged. In other cases, the program outcomes. As shown in Tables A.1 and students quickly realized their skills were better A.2 of the Appendix, course objectives are related than they had perceived. Specifically, software to ABET’s outcomes. The capstone project programming was mentioned as an area in provides an excellent assessment measure. which many students felt they did well. Other Indeed, the majority of the ABET’s program comments from students included how their outcomes are assessed in the capstone design. time management skills were applied effectively Most importantly, the appendix prescribes how because of this project, and how the documenta- each outcome-objective incidence pair is being tion skills taught in this course were extremely measured quantitatively. As depicted in Table important in communicating the solution A.3, all the scores satisfy the threshold of 60% or recommendation to the industry partner. three points. However, the instructors notice that. Question 5. What aspect of the industry involve- Program Outcome h can be improved further ment would you recommend be changed? above 3.5. Efforts will be made to ensure that The overwhelming response from students was students become aware of the need to apply their that there were no recommendations on how the broad background to comprehend the need for industry partnership could have better served environmental, economical, and societal impacts the project. of their engineering design earlier on during their design phase and incorporate suitable solutions.What are the additional instruments employed to Apparently, in spite of our diligent efforts, moreimplement the salient features of the eViator can be done to further this cause. The instructors
  15. 15. Directional-Based Cellular e-Commerce: Undergraduate Systems 1299will take this into full account in the next offering shortly after graduation. The eViator project isof the capstone design. the first effort by the Systems Engineering Depart- In all, the involvement in this project was ment of UALR to develop a product from conceptextremely rewarding from an industry perspective to operation with a group of undergraduates whoas well as valuable for the students. The results of focused not only on individual subcomponents,the research performed were exemplary and but also collaborated on integrating the entiredemonstrated a strong understanding of systems system utilizing expertise gained from their parti-engineering skills and discipline. Along with some cular option emphasis area within a formal courseof the core skills taught in our systems engineering framework. The course has produced many differ-program, students were also very competent in the ent impacts of importance to systems engineering‘‘soft skills’’ of presentation and documentation. degree programs. Creating a team from students inFrom the feedback provided by the students the Telecommunications and Computers Systemsduring the end-of-the-course survey, students Engineering Options and using an industry spon-expressed how they developed a great deal of sor who exerted influence on their grades andconfidence in their abilities to communicate, both course assessment helped to engage the students,orally and in writing, as a result of the project, a encouraged competition, maintained their focusskill in combination with an engineer’s technical throughout the two-semester course, and ensuredskills that will prove to be of immense value to the that the students and instructors were aware ofindustry. current issues, practices, and procedures. The early Since the eViator project has reached a design identification of the project provides students withthat is mature enough to be patented by the ample time to understand the problem and developindustrial sponsor, another project has been conceptual solutions. Results show improved post-adopted for the subsequent capstone design. The course knowledge compared to pre-course know-‘‘Dynamic Airport’’ project is about improving the ledge for all learning objectives assessed in theoperations in the airport gates [40]. The RFP course. Significant improvements were observedsubmitted by the Little Rock Airport Authority in student preparation and confidence for theseeks a system that provides dynamic, on-demand development of an integrated entrepreneurship–assignment of ticket counters to airline carriers and engineering capstone. More importantly, thean automated assignment of the incoming aircraft instructional team eventually convinced the(already landed and identified by the air traffic students that there is no single solution to a real-control) to the airport gates. This is subject to world problem. Instead, a reasonably good designpassengers’ traffic, gate availability, timing and that meets customer needs and fits within eco-dimensional constraint, combined with an auto- nomical, financial, marketing, safety, and regula-mated identification of the aircrafts. Moreover, an tory constraints, as well as technical and functionalinformation system is requested that automatically performance criteria stated in the RFP, is anbills the airliners a penalty fee when the time acceptable solution.allocated for docking has passed but the aircraft In all fairness, it should be mentioned that theis still at the gate. above accomplishments have been made with some It is clear that the new project has a very unselfish responsibilities taken up by students anddifferent flavor than the eViator project. Never- instructors. With any new or redesign of courses,theless, the prevailing philosophy remains the there are usually obstacles to overcome and areassame, including industrial sponsorship and the to improve upon. Often, students were not happyemphasis on soft and technical skills not covered with the pressure imposed by instructors duringin the regular courses. In the Airport Project, more the conduct of the capstone design. The idea ofemphasis is placed on imparting entrepreneurial ‘‘learning how to learn’’ takes time to be conveyedexperience to the capstone design team. Finally, it to the students—the fact that for all the coursesshould be noted that since 2005, the systems they have taken, and for all the assignmentsengineering program has added mechanical and provided, there remain technical issues thatelectrical options. The emphasis on interdisciplin- students need to resolve on their own. Manyary design becomes even more pronounced under requirements in the RFP were completely new tothe expanded program where the current course the students. Initial serious debates and confronta-sequence serves as the capstone for undergraduate tion among team members quickly disappeared asdegrees in telecommunications, computer, students organized themselves and convergedmechanical, and electrical systems engineering. towards a unified theme which allowed them to develop a sense of leadership, responsibility, and ownership of the project. 9. CONCLUSIONS For the instructors, there were frustrating moments as well, when the students simply did This paper presents an innovative capstone not accomplish what was expected. The instructorsdesign course aimed at equipping students with conducted their own ‘‘soul searching’’ to discoversystems engineering methodologies and tools where the curriculum could be improved, wherebyessential to solving complex engineering problems; more cogent skills can be instilled in students toexperiences they will be expected to exercise face such open-ended design projects as the
  16. 16. 1300 H. Al-Rizzo et al.capstone. There were debates among the faculty students do not have the advantage of a systemsregarding the tradeoffs between breadth versus engineering core.depth in the curriculum. Accordingly, the Finally, it should be noted that after decades ofsystems-engineering core requirements have been increasingly specialized undergraduate engineering `re-adjusted vis-a-vis that of the specialty options. curricula, there is a recent trend to provide moreThe sequencing of courses has also been tightened breadth in the bachelor degree program. As aup to allow basic technical skills to be covered systems engineering department, we haveprior to the capstone design course. However, conducted a timely study of this philosophy. Formore remains to be done, and there is serious that reason, our experience may very well sheddoubt whether there will ever be any substitute some light for other more traditional engineeringfor ‘‘learning on one’s own’’ when the situation programs regarding their curricula improvementsarises. or reforms. Continuing the industrial flavor of the It is safe to say that at the minimum, the capstone design project, current seniors partneredcapstone should be a course that complements with students from the UALR Business College tothe remainder of the curriculum in terms of student put together a business proposal to the Donald W.exposure. For example, project management, Reynolds Cup, which is a statewide entrepreneur-including the use of tools such as CORE, has not ship competition. The competition, complete withbeen provided to the students in their curriculum. cash award, further supplements the business skillsThe capstone is a natural place to introduce it. required of engineering students in today’s en-Similarly, such entrepreneurial skills as configur- a business plan should be part of the capstone Acknowledgement—The authors gratefully acknowledge theexperience, if it has not been introduced assistance and help provided by Joe Swaty, the former Assistantpreviously. When we observed such phenomena Dean for Corporate Relations, Dr Yupo Chan, the teachingin a systems engineering program, the authors assistants, Diane K. Haynes, Graduate Institute of Technology,would surmise that it is even more relevant in a University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Ansoft Corporation. The authors would also like to thank two anonymous reviewersmore traditional engineering program, when for their constructive remarks. REFERENCES 1. U. Varshney, R. J. Vetter, R. 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Table A.2 lists the systems engineering program outcomes that the capstone design course contributes tovia the established course learning objectives. Table A.3 indicates how the learning objectives for this course lead toward the systems engineering(ABET) program outcomes. The numbers in each cell indicate, on a scale of 1 to 5 with a score of 5representing the highest possible achievement of an outcome, calculated based on students’ work in thecourse and the grades assigned to them, For example, the table below illustrates that course learningobjective (1) contributes to program outcome (c) through students’ response to RFP and assignments andthe average achievement of the outcome is 4.35. (Numbers within each cell gives the objective assessment ofthat outcome on a 5-point scale) The contribution of this course to satisfying the systems engineering program outcomes were measureddirectly by student performance on designated assignments, RFP responses, research, and final presentationas prescribed in the above Course Learning Objectives vs. SYEN Program Outcomes mapping. Minimumacceptable individual performance is an average total score of 60% on the designated assignments andreports for all students who receive a final course grade of ‘C’ or better in SYEN 4385.