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Assignment Description

EE/CPE 3280 Design Project

You may work in groups of two on this assignment.


In today's society we are surrounded with small electronic devices. Cell phones help us keep in touch, calculators graph out solutions to equations, programmable timers keep our lawns watered, and exercise equipment tells us how healthy we are. At the heart of many (if not most) of these systems is the microcontroller. Almost any small digital system you encounter contains a microcontroller. For this project, you will propose a microcontroller-based design for a product of your choosing.

The Project

Choose a product that you think can be implemented using a microcontroller-based system. Use your imagination; don't limit yourself to handheld devices. Examples include bread-making machines, home audio equipment, anti-lock brakes, security systems, and, of course, almost any handheld electronic device. Form a high-level design for your product (using a microcontroller, of course). Describe what your design is, why you chose the design you did, and any design choices that still remain.

Details to think about

No Development boards Or Shields

·         Development boards (such as the Pioneer board) and shields (such as the LCD and motor shields) are great for getting started. However, real products, such as you are proposing, do not use them. Your design should incorporate a “bare” MCU and specific chips/parts if needed. For example, if you need to do motor control, do not use a motor control shield; just include the H-Bridge chips (TI L293D).

Target Retail Price

·         How much do you expect to sell this for at retail? Relate this to expectations of consumers in the area you’re working in. Note that retail prices are typically twice the manufacturing cost.

User Interface

·         How does a person interface with your device?

·         Do you have a display? What types of data will you display? What does a typical screen look like?

·         Do you have buttons or a keypad? What are they used for? What will the "control panel" of your device look like?

·         Are there any moving parts? How do they fit in?


·         Memory - How much do you need? Will the onboard memory do?

·         User input - What kinds of inputs are needed? Will you need pushbuttons? How many? Are you using a keypad? How will you interface with your buttons/keypad? Will you use interrupts? If so, which ones? Do you need to debounce in hardware?

·         Output - Do you need a LCD display? How big? ASCII or graphic? How will you interface with it? What about LEDs? How many? What colors? How will you drive them?

·         Motors – Will you have motors, servos or actuators? How will you drive them?

·         Serial communications - Will you be communicating with a PC or a network? How will you hook it up?

·         Analog inputs - Will you be measuring any analog signals? How much accuracy/precision do you need? How fast? Internal or external? How will you hook it up?

·         Analog outputs - Do you need a D/A? How big? How do you hook it up?

·         Digital inputs/outputs - Do you need to hook to digital devices? How? What ports? What is the communication protocol?

·         Real-time clock - Will you need dates/times? How will you accomplish this? What happens when the power is turned off?

·         Power supply - What voltages will you need? What is your power source? How long of a battery life do you need? Roughly estimate the power needed for your device.

·         Other devices - Sound chips? Speakers? Photosensors? Etc.


·         What are the major portions of code you'll need?

·         What devices need device drivers?

·         How much room will the software take up? Think about how much program space the programs you wrote for class used. Remember what happens when floating-point libraries are used. 

Cost Estimate

·         Compute a rough estimate of the cost of the project and relate it to your target retail price.

Your Report

Report on your design in a five- to seven-page (2000-3000 words + appropriate illustrations) document. Your report should include the following sections:

·         Introduction - Describe the device you’re designing. Why do you think a microcontroller-based implementation is a good idea? Give a target retail price for the product.

·         Design overview - Introduce the specific design you’ve come up with. Why is it great? What are its features?

·         User interface/external interfaces - How does a person interact with your device? What other interfaces are there (i.e. serial interface)?

·         Hardware - What hardware is needed? Why? How much? How is it connected?

·         Software - What code is needed? Why? How much?

·         Cost estimate - Give a rough estimate of the cost of the product with respect to the target retail price. Base this on a quick pricing of the key components of the project with an additional 50% for miscellaneous parts.


I expect a good quality high-level design. You should describe all characteristics of your system with enough detail that an experienced engineer could produce a prototype based on your design document without having to ask you questions every day. I don’t expect you to have part numbers, schematics, or professionally-drawn figures (hand-drawn sketches are OK). I do expect a well thought-out explanation of your design. Don’t hesitate to approach me if you are stuck at any point. Good luck!

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