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Example Master Course Description (Capstone)

Master Course Syllabus for EE 456 (ABET sheet)


Credits: 4

UW Course Catalog Description

Coordinator: Richard D. Christie, Associate Professor, Electrical Engineering

Goals: This course provides seniors majoring in the power and energy specialty and practicing engineers with skills in handling open-ended design problems in large scale power systems.

Objectives: At the end of this course, students will be able to

  1. Propose, formulate and solve open-ended design problems in the power systems area.
  2. Write formal project reports.
  3. Make formal project presentations.
  4. Work in teams with heterogeneous knowledge and skills.
  5. Apply engineering economics, power flow, stability analysis and fault analysis computer tools to support analysis of design solutions.
  6. Demonstrate an awareness of current issues in power system design.

Textbook: Class notes, technical papers and reports.


  1. Writing in the Technical Fields, by Mike Markel, IEEE Publication
  2. Writing Reports to Get Results, by Ron S. Blicq and Lisa A. Moretto, IEEE Publication

Prerequisites by Topic:

  1. Elementary power and energy concepts
  2. Steady-state and/or dynamic analysis of power systems
  3. Computer literacy with word processing, presentation and spreadsheet software, and running applications.


  1. Design in Power Systems - 2 weeks
  2. Generation Planning - 3.5 weeks
  3. Transmission System Planning - 3.5 weeks
  4. Project Reports - Written and Oral - 1 week

Course Structure: The class meets for two lectures a week, each consisting of two 50-minute sessions. Initially weekly homework is assigned, culminating in a 50 minute examination. After project work starts, students work in teams. There are weekly project review meetings with each team, and seminars on relevant topics during scheduled class meeting times. A written and oral project report from each tem is due at the end of the course. There is no final.

Computer Resources: Homework and software projects can be done on a PC. Analytical tools (programs) are provided to the students. Only minimal programming is required. For example, students may have to set up present worth calculations in a spreadsheet. Individual project presentations may be made using on-line computer projection systems.

Grading: Homework and short projects accounts for about a third of the course grade. The final project report accounts for about half. The remainder is from the scheduled examination.

Laboratory Resources: None.

Outcome Coverage: This course provides the ABET major design experience and addresses all of the basic ABET outcomes.


(a) an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering. The design of electric power systems by its very nature demands constant use of knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering. The various components of the design interact in ways based on science, and described mathematically. The design of a system to a given set of objectives is a fundamental application of engineering knowledge. This, a successful design shows the student's achievement of this outcome.

(b) an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data. The design process has an analysis step in which the students must design and conduct experiments, and interpret the results to determine whether their design meets specifications. This process occurs many times in the course of the design process, and is documented in the project report.

(c) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability. The students are given a set of specifications for an example power system and asked to develop a generation expansion plan and a transmission reinforcement plan that modifies an existing power system to meet these specifications. Students must choose among design alternatives on the basis of economic costs versus environmental, social and political considerations. The choice has ethical implications. A discussion of pollution effects - a mini-environmental impact statement - is required in one project report. Students are asked to consider renewable resources as one alternative in the generation planning portion of the design project. An actual power system cannot be built, and time prohibits the level of detailed physical design (e.g. geographical tower placement, span calculations, substation layout) necessary to ensure that the designed system can be built. Manufacturability is thus intentionally not well met by this course. A one hour seminar is conducted on electromagnetic field health effects. During project presentations the instructor plays the role of the skeptical general public, to reinforce the political considerations involved in the power system planning process.

(d) an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams. Students will operate in teams of 3 to solve the design problem and prepare a final report. Students will take different roles in the design team, such as leader, explorer, reflector, or recorder. Rotating leadership is recorded on assignments and progress reports. Team members naturally tend to specialize in one aspect of the design problem, such as security analysis versus economics, creating a multi-disciplinary environment within the team.

(e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems. The design problem presents itself as a series of interconnected engineering problems. In the open-ended design environment, the engineering problems are not explicitly stated, but must be identified by the design team before they can be solved. Evidence of this should appear in the project report and progress reports.

(f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility. After project work starts, a one hour seminar on professional ethics will be run that covers the IEEE ethics guidelines, some case studies, and some ethics role playing. Student teams will provide a written analysis of a case study.

(g) an ability to communicate effectively. Teams must prepare an extensive written project report, and make an oral presentation at the end of the class. Each team member must write a section of the report, and each team member must make part of the presentation. Grades are given for writing quality and presentation quality, as well as technical content of the reports.

(h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context. In seminars, various social impacts of power systems are discussed and described, ranging from market fairness to electromagnetic field concerns. Constraints on the projects include environmental and social concerns. During presentations, the course instructor takes the role of different social groups in asking questions.

(i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning. The course material distributed does not contain all of the information necessary to solve the design problem. Students must consult reference sources and inform themselves concerning certain aspects of the design problem. This will help students realize that they need to be able to learn material on their own, and given them some of the necessary skills. One assignment on finding information from the Web and the Library is made early in the course.

(j) a knowledge of contemporary issues. The design problem is constructed to focus attention on current power system issues such as deregulation, load growth, and transient stability problems. These will appear in the project report. In addition, seminars later in the class address current issues in power engineering.

(k) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice. Students are expected to use spreadsheets to perform economic analysis, and are provided with power flow, stability and fault current analysis tools with basic capabilities similar to those of equivalent commercial programs. Evidence of the use of these tools, and associated techniques, appears in the project report.

(a2) knowledge of mathematics through differential and integral calculus, basic sciences, computer science, and engineering sciences necessary to analyze and design complex electrical and electronic devices, software, and systems containing hardware and software components, as appropriate to program objectives. This course centers on the design of large scale electric power systems, which have been described as the largest man-made system on earth. Successful completion of the design project demonstrates achievement of this outcome.

ABET Criterion 4 Considerations

Engineering standards - Students are provided with realistic specifications which must be satisfied by their generation and transmission designs. Note that at this level of power system design, standards are set by individual companies, and there is a range of variation, so there is no one universal standard to be applied.

Realistic constraints - The design problem has been carefully formulated to provide realistic constraints on the power system, including both technical constraints and costs. While a physical realization of the design cannot be achieved, a design exercise is run early in the course to emphasize the need to apply realistic constraints even in a paper design exercise.

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Preparer: R. D. Christie

Last revised: 4/27/05

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