S1-DISC2-1 - Exposing Students to a State-of-the-art Research Problem Through a Capstone Project

1. Innovative Practice Full Paper
Rajesh C Panicker1 , Sangit Sasidhar1, Yuen Jien Soo2, Colin Keng-Yan Tan2
1 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, National University of Singapore
2 School of Computing, National University of Singapore

This full paper presents the use of a state-of-the-art research problem as a capstone project for third-year computer engineering students. In our university, we experimented with letting students work on a cutting edge problem - indoor navigation systems for the blind. Indoor navigation is challenging as GPS signals cannot be received indoors. It is a topic where a large amount of research is ongoing, and hundreds of scientific papers are published every year. For a successful implementation of the system, students had to bring together their knowledge of all the computer engineering concepts, ranging from digital electronic circuits, microprocessors, real-time systems, data structures and algorithms, software engineering, computer networking etc. In addition, students had to survey and adopt techniques from existing literature, and adapt them to meet the problem requirements. Thus, the project reinforced their knowledge of fundamentals, while exposing them to a problem with no obvious solution. The main evaluation was done as a competition, where students were blindfolded and were required to navigate between two indoor locations. Their system had to download the maps from a server, compute the optimal route to the destination, and students had to navigate there purely based on voice and/or haptic commands given by the system. Some constraints were imposed to ensure that the problem does not get trivialized and is indicative of a real-world scenario. Quantitative and qualitative results from the module feedback surveys improved significantly over the previous capstone project. The surveys indicate that the nature of the project and the evaluation process provided adequate challenge and excitement to students. Students were able to exercise their creativity, and come up with a number of interesting positioning techniques. Such a project ensured that the learning process cemented their subject fundamentals while addressing a novel research problem that is current, and has a potentially huge societal and commercial impact.