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Students Learning Experience on the Final Year Project for Electrical

and Electronics Engineering of Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS


A. Shafie*, J. B. Janier*, R. Herdiana *
* Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS/ Electrical and Electronics Department, Bandar Sri Iskandar, Malaysia

Index Terms: Final year project, Basic research, Engineering.

Abstract

One of the courses that the Electrical engineering students in Universiti Technologi Petronas need to
undertake is a research project called the Final Year Project (FYP). This project is being taken and finished
within two semesters. The students need to choose an engineering problem related to their own field of
specialization and be supervised by an instructor. Besides exposing students to basic research, doing the FYP
will also reflect the ability of the students to assimilate and apply the knowledge that they have learned to
solve a multidisciplinary projects.. The students will submit a comprehensive engineering report of the same
format of a thesis and do a presentation regarding results of the project work. This report consists of
literature review, a suitable methodology and the discussion of the results and findings. The report and the
presentation will be assessed by the supervisor, an internal examiner from the faculty and an external
examiner.
A study to obtain the feedback on the FYP students learning experiences in carrying out the project was
carried out. Twenty six students were involved in the study. A questionnaire consisting of two sections; A
and B were given to the students. This paper describes the results of the survey. The results showed that the
students had gained positive learning experience from doing the FYP.

INTRODUCTION

Higher education means studying at university and preparing for a life-changing experience [1]. Its goal is
to encourage intellectual inquiry and critical thinking among students [2]. University provides a stimulating
and challenging learning environment where the students could gain knowledge and pursue a professional
course. Students study for a degree to develop a range of skills that will be useful throughout their life, skills
which make them employable.
The objective of this paper is to get feedback from the students on their experience gained at each stage in
completing the final year project. In addition, also to get responses concerning achieving the FYP objective
and the benefits that they have gained while doing the project. These results form the initial study to
determine the success of the FYP as a basic research.

BACKGROUND

Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) is one of the private institutions of higher education in Malaysia
that offers five engineering course and two technology courses. It was established on January 10, 1997 and is
wholly-owned subsidiary of PETRONAS and located in Bandar Seri Iskandar, Perak Darul Ridzuan,
Malaysia [3]. The five engineering courses are electrical and electronics, mechanical, civil, chemical,
petroleum while the technology courses are the information technology and business information system.
In Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EE) Department, the objective is To produce technically
qualified well-rounded electrical and electronic engineers with the potential to become leaders of industry
and the nation[3]. Guided by this programme objective, one of the outcomes of the programme is that the
graduates from the department should be: Able to apply mathematics, physical sciences, and engineering
principles in problem identification, formulation and solution in relation to practical situation; utilize systems
approach to design and evaluate operational performance and sustainable development; function and
communicate effectively in a variety of professional context as an individual and in a group ; and undertake

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independent study and engage in life-long learning[3]. Through the courses that the students follow in their
4-year undergraduate studies, these skills are expected to be developed.
One of the courses they needed to enroll is the Final Year Project (FYP). FYP serves many different
purposes. One of the purposes of the FYP is to look at the ability of the students to assimilate knowledge
gained from their undergraduate years into the successful completion of a single multidisciplinary project.
From the final report on the project, it is possible to see what they have learned during their years at
university. In addition, the FYP also serves as a gauge to determine whether students have the potential for
graduate studies. At the same time, FYP also provides students with an insight of research methodology that
should be useful for those who continue with their post graduate studies. FYP should also prepare students
for working life, by practicing their skills on real-life problems [4].
The FYP course described in this paper is taken by all EE students enrolled in their final year of studies
after they return from their 8 months practical internship. In each semester, approximately 70 students take
this course. It is taken by the students for two semesters, thus known as FYP1 for the first semester and
FYP2 for the second semester. 2 and 4 credits are given to FYP1 and FYP2 respectively. The focus of the
projects is on the area of specialization of the EE students, either in communications, power, control system,
computer systems and electronics. A budget of RM500 is given for each project. Students are given the
option to propose their own project of interest or to choose from a list of projects that were proposed by the
faculty members. Each of these students will then be assigned to a faculty member that will supervise and
help the student to conduct the project.
The supervisor could also be from the Physics, Mathematics or the Electrical components of the
department. The role of the supervisor is to provide feedback and advice regarding the project. The
supervisor is encouraged to have regular meetings with the students.
In the first semester (FYP1), the students are required to submit a preliminary report. This report is similar
to a research proposal. The students are then required to hand in a progress report before the mid semester
break. Finally, they also need to submit the draft and the interim report by the end of the semester. Two
seminars are conducted, once before the mid break and the other before the submission of the final report.
The reports and seminars are graded and marks (in terms of grade) are given to the student. In addition, some
components of the marks are from the end of semester oral presentation which is assessed by an internal
examiner, usually a member of the faculty. Students are also required to keep a logbook of their meetings
with the supervisor. The purpose of the logbook is to monitor the activities and progress of the students.
In FYP2, the students need to submit 2 progress reports along with the final report and a technical report
before the oral presentation is carried out. The oral presentation is also assessed by an internal examiner (a
faculty member) and an external examiner, usually from the industry. All these reports are of about the same
format as a thesis, and the students need to defend their individual report during the oral presentation. The
students are given about a week to submit the final report after the oral presentation. This report is expected
to incorporate the corrections and suggestions made by the internal and external examiner.
One of the important aspects of this course is the fixed deadlines for different stages of the project. All the
students start their projects at the same time and must deliver the reports for each stage of the project. These
bits of reports will later form the final report of the project. The stages of the reports and their deliverables
examined at each stage are shown in Table 1. Each report is read by the supervisor and feedback is given to
the student.

Table 1. Deliverables examined at each stage of the project.

Stage Deliverables
FYP 1
Preliminary Report Background of study
Problem Statement
Objectives and Scope of work
Gantt Chart
Progress Report Literature Review
Review of Methodology
Interim Report Details of method application
Compilation of ( Preliminary and Progress Report)
Oral presentation Review of work
Current progress
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FYP2
Progress Report 1 Experiments / Simulations
Progress Report 2 Presentation of Results
Analysis of Results
Discussion
Final Report Compilation of work in FYP1
Conclusions
Recommendations and future work
Oral presentation Project Presentation
Defending the work ( questions and answer session)
Demonstration of prototype
Technical Paper Conference format paper

Some of the technical papers have been successfully presented in conferences locally and abroad. In
addition, the final year projects are also being considered for the engineering design exhibition (EDX) that is
organized every semester by the university. Besides the EDX, some of these projects are also selected to
represent the university in some technology and innovation exhibitions locally and internationally. Along
with the FYP, the final year of electrical and electronics engineering students are also required to enroll in 5
other courses.
Whether an individual pursue a research related career or not, research skills are valuable life skills [4].
According to Raines, the reality of doing research leads to new discoveries and new knowledge and enriches
us all when shared to others. Conducting research requires the ability to define problems clearly, propose
solutions, implements solutions in time, demonstrates attention to details, logical thought and the ability to
write clearly [5].
In doing any research project, a student needs to go through several stages and these are planning stage,
information retrieval, information processing stage, information sharing stage and evaluation stage. Going
thru all these stages, the student is guided by a teacher [6]. According to Clugston, a wide range of valuable
skills are develop in doing a research project including oral and written communication, problem solving,
strategic and analytical thinking, project management, time management and teamwork [7].

SCOPE AND LIMITATION

This study focused only to EE final year students who started their FYP1 in July 2007 semester and
currently in their FYP2 in Jan 2008 semester. Other engineering programmes have different objectives and
ways of assessing their final year projects.

METHODOLOGY

Data for the study was gathered through a questionnaire that was given to twenty-six students who are
currently doing their FYP2. Their projects are currently under the supervision of five faculty members of the
EE department. The questionnaire consists of two parts, A and B. The items in the questionnaire were
categorized using the Likert scale and following scales of agreement used were: 4 - Strongly agree,
3 - Agree, 2 - Disagree, 1 - Strongly disagree.
There are seven items in Part A. These items concern the various stages on doing the project. The items
were about the proposal, literature review, methodology, results and discussion, report writing for the final
manuscript of the students thesis, oral presentation and the involvement of the faculty as a supervisor to the
student. A few short questions were asked under each item. Part B had three open ended questions
requiring students to give feedback on their experience and benefits gained by the student in taking the
course. The students were guided by the following questions:

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In your own opinion is the objective of the FYP achieved? Give reasons for your answer.
Based on your experience in doing your FYP, does the course provide you the skills needed to carry
out future research?

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The data in Part A were on feedback on the students experience in coming up with the deliverables at each
stage of the project development given in Table 1. Four general themes emerged from the data analysis.
They are time management; learning ability; problem solving skills and personal growth. Each of these
themes is discussed below.

1) Time management

All the respondents had highlighted that they need to constantly find the time and energy to come up with
the reports and meet the expected deadlines, as writing most of the reports were time consuming. This was
due to their difficulties in writing and expressing their thoughts in English since it is their second language.
At the same time, there are also other commitments (in the form of assignment, lab reports, etc) that they
have to meet from the other five courses that the student enrolled besides the FYP.
Furthermore, they also have the responsibility to ensure regular meetings with the supervisor. This may be
quite troublesome for the students especially those whose supervisor has a busy schedule. This meeting is
important since it enables them to update the supervisor on the current progress of the project. They are also
expected to revise the reports based on the feedback from the supervisor before the submission at each stage.
In addition, the students also indicated that they spent a lot of time doing the literature search. Even though
it was time consuming, this search has helped them to; identify a topic that is relevant and related to the area
of specialization, determine a suitable method to be implemented in the project.
Despite these challenges, ninety percent of the students agreed that the FYP has made them learned to
manage their time and organized the project flow in order to complete the project in two semesters. They
also highlighted that this skill would benefit them once they go out to work.

2) Learning ability

About seventy five percent (75%) of the respondents agreed that the FYP is not an easy task and that it can
be frustrating and confusing. This was evident in the comments such as; selected method produce a mediocre
results and their inability to determine the most efficient way in producing correct results. This frustration is
further enhanced if some of the devices or equipment required for the project is not available at the lab, thus
making some of the projects more complicated than they need to . Seventy percent of the respondents also
noted that the project does not necessarily progress in a specific direction, even though the project guidelines
and the Gantt chart were of great help to them. Some of the respondents also mentioned that they had to
consider a number of tasks at the same time such as the integration of several systems and/or hard wares in
one project in order for the prototype to work.
Being able to find solutions to these situations has made them felt more informed about the topic
and better prepared for future works.
They felt that they were able to find alternative solutions to the above situations, thus making
them more informed about the topic and better prepared for In all, the students agreed that the doing the
project has helped them enhance their knowledge on research and technical skills

3) Problem Solving skill

The respondents felt that finding solutions to the problems that was encountered at each stage of the
deliverables has helped them to develop critical and analytical thinking skills. These problems include,
writing the proposal, gathering information, carrying out experiments, analyzing the data, writing the report
for submission and developing the prototype. Despite these challenges and difficulties, the respondents had
managed to complete the project and come up with the prototype. Through the completion of each of the
deliverables, the respondents agreed that they had learned to do planning, proper literature survey and
citation, understanding technical datasheets, trouble shooting and experimental testing and evaluation. Some
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of respondents went on to say that these techniques could be applied in other similar projects. On the whole,
the respondents felt that they had utilized a lot of their engineering knowledge and skills in order to
successfully finish the project. They also agreed that the objective of the FYP was also achieved. In addition,
doing the FYP had also provided a hands on learning experience that would be useful to them as
future engineers since the project involves skills such as designing, carrying out of experiments,
programming, testing and validating the prototype that was built.

4) Personal growth

One of the main benefits mentioned by the respondents is that doing the FYP has taught the students to
work independently and creatively. This was evident in cases where student need to use their own initiative
to find their own solution when the supervisor was not too familiar with the subject matter. Furthermore, the
discussion held during the regular meeting with the supervisor provides the opportunity for the students to
strengthen the student-lecturer relationship.
Besides that, the students also had indicated that the various types of reports that need to be submitted had
enhanced their technical writing skills. In addition, through the oral presentation and the question answer
session, the students also learned effective presentation and communication skills. This is of significant
importance since these students are not native speakers of English. On the whole, the students agree that the
deliverables at the end of project has helped them in their personal growth to be more confident in handling
the challenges of doing other engineering projects.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The objective of this study was to get feedback from the EE students regarding their learning experiences
in doing the FYP. Although the students had highlighted several difficulties and challenges, the results had
shown that the students had learned important skills such as how to detect and solve problems, review
literature, select a suitable methodology, gather and analyze data, cite reference and write and present a
research project. The responses also highlighted the four main skills gained by the students while doing the
project. They are time management, learning ability, problem solving skills and personal growth. In addition,
the students also felt that they were able to integrate knowledge gained from their undergraduate years into
the successful completion of project, thus meeting the objective of the FYP.
Since this is a preliminary study to determine the success of FYP as a basic research, the next step is to get
the response and feedback from the supervisors and the external examiners.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The authors acknowledge Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS for providing financial assistance to present the
paper.

REFERENCE
[1] Why Choose Higher Education? http://www.bolton.ac.uk/ProspecctiveStudents/NewToHigher/WhyChoose.aspx. April
24, 2008.
[2] The 15th Annual Research Forum Multidisciplinary Showcase for Student Research
http://academics.menhis.edu/gradschool/srf/FORUM%2003.pdf . April 23, 2008.
[3] _________Undergraduate Programme- A Guide to University Academic Policies and Procedures.
Academic Central Services, Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, Bandar Seri Iskandar, 31750 Tronoh,
Perak Darul Ridzuan, Malaysia.
[4] B. Olsson, M. Berndtssons, B. Lundell and J. Hansson (2003) Running Research-Oriented Final Year Projects for Cs and IS
students, SIGCE 03 : 79 83.
[5] Mark Mitchell and Janina Jolley. Marketing Your Research Skills in the Real World c1996-2005, 2007
http://www.markwebtest.netfirms.com/Appendix/App_Marketing/App_Marketingyour skills.html
[6] ________ Focus on Research : A guide to Developing Students Research Skills
http://www.library.ualberta.ca/documents/focusonresearch.pdf May 7, 2008
[7] Carol Clugston (2004, April 9) University Challenge: Administering Research
http://sciencecareers.sciencemang.org/career_develop/previous_issues/articles/2940/uni_challenge
May 7, 2008.
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