December 14, 2011

Electrical and Computer Engineering Senior Design Project Delivers Interactive Marquee, Online Advising System 

Going into their senior year as electrical and computer engineering students at LSU, Anthony Brown, Jared Ervin and Brett Lemoine didn’t realize the impact their senior design project would have on their career goals.

The project began with the task of building a marquee for the ECE office – an idea that late Dr. Jorge Aravena, former electrical and computer engineering department chair, proposed. The goal of the marquee was to display information relevant to students, visitors, etc. and was interactive. To do so, the group had to design a CMS program responsible for the back end management of content. But there was one more component the group would be tasked with. 

As part of a class exercise in “ideation,” or concept creation, in EE 4810, students were challenged to think of a new way to conduct advising. After working together in groups, every group pitched online advising as the ideal solution to maximizing efficiency.

“Students are always telling me how they wish the advising process was better.  I decided to let them create the advising process through a team ideation exercise. I gave them a set of mandatory expectations that the college has for advising,” said John Scalzo, instructor and undergraduate advisor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Seven teams created individual advising procedures. The class then used techniques in concept evaluation to determine which ideas were the best. When we were finished, the class was very excited about their new advising procedure.”

It wasn’t until EE 4820, however, that Brown, Ervin and Lemoine translated the ideal solution into a tangible product.

“We realized that we could make online advising part of the marquee,” Lemoine explained. “Instead of using a printed flowchart, the idea was to have all of the advising available online.”

The group looked at the current advising process and developed a way to integrate an online version into their current project. The result: using the existing program flowchart, students select which classes they’ve already taken. The program then displays what classes the students can take the next semester and gives students the option to print out the flowchart or email it directly to their adviser.

With a suggestion from Dr. Ajmera, electrical and computer engineering interim chair, the students also built a tuition forecaster into the advising system. For example, if a student were to delay taking a course on a critical path, the online advising system will alert the student with a description of how much delaying graduation would cost. The group determined that delaying graduation even by one semester could cost students $36,988 – half a year’s starting salary plus the cost of tuition.

Although the group experienced typical obstacles, Brown, Ervin and Lemoine have high hopes for their project’s legacy.

“We have successfully implemented the marquee and CMS effectively,” Ervin said. “While there are still some kinks with the advising system, we hope to have it implemented in the near future.” 

But the group’s hopes do not stop there.

“We would like to see the advising program expanded across the University,” Lemoine added.

Whether or not their advising process will be implemented University-wide, the group hopes that their idea of streamlining the process will be considered. The group also acknowledges the impact this project has had on their academic and professional careers.

“I thoroughly enjoyed this project. It was the greatest experience of my undergrad career,” Lemoine said. “While I already had experience building a website, this project made me learn more about different codes. It was also an amazing experience to work as a team.” 

Brown echoed Lemoine stating, “I really enjoyed the experience. It definitely laid a path for where I want to take my career and how to effectively work in groups.”

“The biggest takeaway for me was that, in this group, roles were self assigned rather than delegated,” Ervin said. “I learned how to meet customers and learn what they want and expect, and I was able to help keep us on track to get things done on time. I also learned how to determine what goals were achievable and make the best of it.”

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For more information, contact Cassie Arceneaux, College of Engineering, carcen6@lsu.edu or (225) 578-0092.



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