Overview of Program Components
The path toward a degree in the ECE Department varies greatly from student to student. To be successful, you must tailor your program to fit your academic needs, working within the boundaries of the major's distribution requirements and WPI's general degree requirements. This section is intended as a guide to clarify the program components you will need to fulfill the distribution requirements for the ECE major. It also contains information about general WPI requirements, and advice on how to integrate these elements into your degree plan.Major Qualifying Project (MQP)
In many cases, the pinnacle of a student's undergraduate work at WPI is the MQP, the senior-level design project. The ECE degree requires all students to complete an MQP worth 1 unit of study in the major area (the equivalent of 3 courses). Note that this 1 unit is part of the 6 total needed to fulfill the "Engineering Science and Design" distribution requirement. Of the remaining 5 units, 4 units (12 courses) are met by courses in the major area. The breakdown of courses needed is discussed further in the section titled "Overview of Other Program Components."
Also note that projects that lack a significant engineering design component are typically not approved. Thus, the 1/3 unit of "Capstone Design Experience" required for the ECE major is almost always a part of the MQP, and need not be fulfilled by a separate course.
The MQP is an extremely important part of your degree program: it is a single project that is equivalent to three ECE-related courses, and provides some of the most directly relevant preparation you will receive for graduate school or a job in industry. Your MQP can be very rewarding, exciting, and even fun. However, it can also be quite frustrating if you are not adequately prepared.
Consequently, when planning your degree program, a good deal of effort should be made to ensure you have developed a solid foundation in all areas of ECE before attempting to begin your project.Off-Campus MQP Opportunities
The ECE Department offers off-campus MQP opportunities at numerous locations and during various terms throughout the academic year. The locations include: Silicon Valley, California; MITRE in Bedford, MA; Wall Street (New York/London); China; and MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, MA. These projects are performed as one-term, fulltime MQP experiences; some require a PQP or specific background preparation. Students can submit applications for these programs during B term of the academic year prior to their MQP (typically their junior year). For more information on these and other WPI off-campus programs, please visit the WPI Global Perspective Program website.ECE Design Course
The most explicit educational background for the MQP is the course ECE2799, Electrical and Computer Engineering Design. In ECE2799, students spend the term working on a specific design project. The students not only gain experience in the design of a particular system, component, or process, but they also learn a great deal about the design process itself. Moreover, the course is a great opportunity to work on an exciting project with a team of students. (For more information please see the course description.)
Since ECE2799 is direct preparation for the MQP, students are strongly encouraged to successfully complete the course before seeking a senior project. Most ECE faculty will not accept MQP students until they have passed ECE 2799.
Before you can pass ECE 2799 though, you need to be adequately prepared. As is true for most ECE applications, the projects in ECE2799 require solid background in a variety of sub-disciplines, and thus it is necessary to learn these fundamentals before taking the course. As background for ECE 2799, we strongly recommend three of the four courses in the "basic core", especially ECE 2019 and ECE 2049. These core courses are explained further in the next section.
Given these recommendations, the best time to take ECE2799 is at the end of your sophomore or beginning of your junior year, once the recommended background has been completed.Core Courses
Although electrical and computer engineering is a vast and rapidly expanding field, there remains at its center a core of basic principles. These fundamental concepts, which have changed remarkably little throughout the rich history of electrical and computer engineering, continue to serve as a basis for even the newest technologies. Accordingly, we consider developing a mastery of these fundamentals to be one of your most important tasks as an undergraduate student.
Core courses in the ECE department represent the bulk of ECE fundamentals, constituting much of what you will need to know as you prepare for ECE2799 and your MQP.
The basic core is composed of four courses taken after ECE 2010:
- ECE 2019 – Sensors, Circuits and Systems
- ECE 2029 – Introduction to Digital Circuits and Computer Engineering
- ECE 2049 – Embedded Computer Systems
- ECE 2311 – Continuous-Time Signal and System Analysis
These courses provide a comprehensive introduction to the fundamentals of ECE. Although you should consult the individual descriptions for each course to obtain detailed information about all the topics covered, the basic core amounts to an overview of central topics in ECE, including basic analog and digital circuits, introductory computer engineering, continuous signals and systems, electric power applications, and basic electromagnetic field theory. Before you attempt ECE2799, we strongly recommend that you take at least three of these four courses, especially ECE 2019 and ECE 2049.
After completing ECE 2010 and the basic core courses, students will begin taking progressively more advanced ECE courses. While many course selection options exist, all students should complete ECE 2112 (Electromagnetic Fields), ECE 2201 (Microelectronic Circuits I) and ECE 2312 (Discrete-Time Signal and System Analysis) prior to graduation. Courses that may be of particular help to your MQP should usually be completed by the end of the Junior year.
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