CS/EE/ME 75, 2015-16
Introduction to Multidisciplinary Systems Engineering
CS/EE/ME 75 presents the fundamentals of modern multi-disciplinary systems engineering in the context of a substantial design project. Students from a variety of disciplines will conceive, design, implement, and operate a system involving electrical, information, and mechanical engineering components. Specific tools will be provided for setting project goals and objectives, managing interfaces between component subsystems, working in design teams, and tracking progress against tasks. Students will be expected to apply knowledge from other courses at Caltech in designing and implementing specific subsystems. During the first two terms of the course, students will attend project meetings and learn about methods and tools for project design, while taking courses in CS, EE, and ME that are related to the course project. During the third term, the entire team will build, document, and demonstrate the course design project, which will differ from year to year.
CS/EE/ME 75 can be used to satisfy specific graduation requirements in the CS, EE, and ME options and may be taken for up to 36 units of total credit, with permission of the instructors. Freshman must receive permission from the instructor to enroll.
CS/EE/ME 75 is designed to be integrated with the curriculum in the individual engineering disciplines. This is accomplished by linking the activities in the first two terms with regular classes in CS, EE and ME. These courses are used to design subsystems for the overall project, with the system integration occuring in the third term and the final implementation and operation occuring over the summer.
- Pre-requisites: there are no pre-requisites for CS/EE/ME 75 and it can be taken in any year of study (including freshman year). The course is structured so that students of different experience levels can all participate in the design project and accomplish the learning objectives of the course. In the past, some of the students that got the most out of the course were the students who were early in their studies, so we encourage freshman and sophomores to participate.
- Units: the course has a variable number of units. In the fall, it can be taken for 3, 6 or 9 units, in the winter for 6, 9 or 12 units and in the spring for 12, 15 or 18 units. This use of units is designed to allow student who want to participate but can't spend 9-12 units per term still get involved with the project. In particular, for sophomores or juniors with a heavy course load, it is possible to take the course at the level of 3, 6 and then 12 units in each term.
- Graduation requirements: CS/EE/ME 75 satisfies specific graduation requirements in CS, EE and ME (as listed in the individual catalog sections). In most cases, you must take the entire course to satisfy the appropriate requirement (this is often listed in the catalog has having CS/EE/ME 75c satisfy the requirement). For students in other options, you will have to petition if you want this course to offset any of the usual design-oriented requirements.
In the first two terms, the course grade will be weighted as follows:
- Homework (20%): Approximately 4 homework sets will be assigned in each term. Most sets will consist of some work that is done by the student's team, as well as a (short) individual portion
- Team presentations (20%): Each team will be required to make a presentation to the class summarizing their design studies.
- Project documentation (40%): All work performed as part of the class should be documented in an appropriate format (to be decided by the teams). Each individual will turn in the documentation for the items they are responsible for by the end of the term.
- Participation (20%): Students are expected to attend project and team meetings and to participate in a constructive manner toward the overall goals of the team. Team coordinators and instructors will provide assessments for each student based on the level and quality of participation in project activities.
In the third term, the course grade will be equally weighted between team presentations, project documentation and participation.
This year's project will be the Formula SAE Electric competition. Formula SAE® is a student design competition organized by SAE International (formerly Society of Automotive Engineers). The concept behind Formula SAE is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car. The prototype race car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item. The target marketing group for the race car is the non-professional weekend autocross racer. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype based on a series of rules whose purpose is both to ensure onsite event operations and promote clever problem solving. For the Formula SAE Electric competition, students will build an electric vehicle from scratch, including mechanical, electrical and computing subsystems.
The course activities in the first term are designed to get students up to speed on the processes that will be used in the project and complete the design development phase of the Solar Decathlon. Students will generally fall into one of the three following groups, depending on how many units they are receiving for the course:
- 3 units credit: students taking the course for 3 units of credit will be a member of a single design team (crew) and will contribute to the design of a specified subsystem within that crew. Activities will consist of attending the weekly team and division meetings, turning in homework sets for the first portion of the course, and preparing materials for the Formula SAE Electric milestones and internal design reviews.
- 6-9 units credit: students taking the course for 6-9 units will be a member of a single design crew as well as up to one additional (supporting) crew. Students who are members of the integrated product team (IPT) should be taking the course for 9 units of credit to cover the additional time required to serve in this role.
- No credit: students who do not wish to take CS/EE/ME 75 for credit can continue to participate in the Formula SAE Electric projects. All students should attend the weekly team meeting and be a member of either a design crew, supporting crew or both.
The output of the first term will be TBD (SAE due date: TBD)
The second term of the course will focus on TBD (SAE due date: TBD). By the end of this phase, proof-of-concept implementations of all major subsystems should be complete, with initial integration and testing. In addition, options for improving on the baseline system will be evaluated and decisions made on which technologies will be included in the final design.
Students will generally fall into one of the three following groups, depending on how many units they are receiving for the course:
- 6 units credit: students taking the course for 6 units of credit will be a member of a single design team (crew) and will contribute to the prototyping of a specified subsystem within that team. Activities will consist of attending the weekly project and team meetings, turning in homework sets for the course, and preparing materials for the Formula SAE Electric milestones and internal design reviews, and preparing final documentation for your subsystem.
- 9-12 units credit: students taking the course for 9-12 units will be a member of a single design crew as well as up to one additional (supporting or secondary) crew. Students who are members of the integrated product team (IPT) should be taking the course for at least 9 units of credit to cover the additional time required to serve in this role.
- No credit: students who do not wish to take CS/EE/ME 75 for credit can continue to participate in the Formula SAE Electric projects. All students should attend the weekly project meeting and be a member of either a design team, supporting team, or both.
The output of the second term will be TBD (SAE due date: TBD)
The third term will be devoted to construction of the course vehicle. By the end of the term, a completed vehicle will be built, including implementation of all subsystems.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I can't make it to the organizational meeting. Can I still participate in the course?
- A: Yes! Materials for the organizational meeting should be posted by the time of the meeting (or shortly after). You can read about the competition and fill out a sign up sheet by the indicated deadline.
Q: Can seniors take the course (since the competition will be after graduation)?
- A: We anticipate that the major design aspects of the project (which is what the class is about) will be done by end of spring term, so definitely it should be a good class to take as a senior if you are interested in design of large scale systems (eg, something that requires 20-50 students instead of 2-5). If it turns out you can find a way to stick around campus for a few weeks after graduation, you can continue to participate in the final competition.
Q: How much instruction does the class provide? While I am a sophomore, I still feel like I have not taken enough practical classes to contribute to a large project such as this
- A: The course is designed so that everyone from freshman to seniors can participate. You'll definitely make use of work from your sophomore classes and well as the classes you might take in your junior year. We'll be updating the list of "linked" classes on the web page and these give some sense of the technical disciplines that are involved. But there are all sorts of things that we don't teach in any specific classes that will be needed and the teams will have to go learn these on their own (with guidance from the course instructors and TAs).
Q: Would you suggest taking [specific course] before taking CS/EE/ME 75?
- A: It's definitely not necessary. In the first few weeks of the course, we'll divide people up into teams based on their background and interests. If there are students who have had [specific course] and there are teams that need that set of skills, we'll try to make sure that enough students are on that team to be able to complete the design and implementation.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone who's choosing between [option design course] and CS/EE/ME 75, or even considering taking them both?
- A: Traditional design courses (ME 72, EE 91, etc) are quite different courses with very different goals and approaches. In most design coursess, groups of 1-3 students do the entire design of the system. In CS/EE/ME 75, we tackle projects that are too big for a single person to understand everything (and definitely too big for a small group to do all of the work). So you learn about some aspect of the project, but also participate in building something that combines a lot of different types of technologies. You might want to discuss this with your advisor, since he or she might have some additional insights based on the other courses you have taken and your specific interests.
Q: I've heard that the team has been working on the project for a while. Does it make sense to join now? Is there any interesting work left to be done?
- A: The goal for the end of the summer was to have a baseline design for all subsystems, which could then be used as a starting point for the final design (where we make choices against the baseline and decide what to put in the final house). For a few subsystems there is a reasonably good baseline in place and so students working on those subsystems will start looking at ways to optimize the designs and put together something that not only works, but has that extra edge that is required to win the competition. Many subsystems aren't even at the point of a good (or sometimes any) baseline design, so for students working on those teams, they'll have to do a baseline design this term and hopefully help us catch up to where we need to be by the end of the year. T