Team Case Study
Team Case Study #1
Bill didn’t sleep very well that night. He kept waking up with the same thoughts running through his head. It was the
third morning in a row he was groggy from sleeping poorly. Most of the other team members were already sitting
around the table in the lab when he arrived. Sue was diligently studying for a test later that afternoon, and Tyler was
talking to his fiancée on the cell phone. Both of them nodded to Bill as he came in. Fifteen minutes later, and ten
minutes after the meeting was supposed to start, Tyler called Rachel, waking her from a sound sleep.
“Man, I always have to call her and wake her up. This is really unfair. She has no regard for any of the other people on
her team” said Tyler after hanging up the phone. “I don’t even know why we put up with her not showing up.”
Another half hour went by before Rachel, dressed in sweatpants, arrived in the lab. “Sorry I’m late guys. My alarm clock
didn’t go off again this morning. I need to replace that stupid thing, but my mom hasn’t sent me a check for this month.”
“That’s O.k., Rachel” said Tyler. “I have trouble with my alarm clock too. I think the stuff they sell at Wal-Mart breaks
really easily. I stopped by Daylight Doughnuts and picked up a dozen. Go ahead and have one. It will help wake you up.”
“Thanks, Tyler. You are a great guy to have on a team.”
“Let’s get this meeting started. We are already more than half an hour late, and I have another class to get to. Each of us
had an assignment that we were supposed to do for this circuit design project. Let’s pull out the preliminary designs and
do a side-by-side comparison to see if these circuits we designed will work together.”
The sound of papers rustling filled the room as each of the team members pulled their circuit designs from their
backpacks. Bill started the discussion since his part of the design was the microprocessor unit; the heart of their project.
Each of the other team members had designed peripheral or input/output devices. It was fairly clear that Bill had put a
lot of effort into researching various microprocessors, bringing out reams of data sheets for all the devices he
investigated. Over the next 30 minutes, Bill explained the details of why he had chosen the particular model of his design
and what some of the tradeoffs were. He gave a summary sheet to each of the other team members with specifications
of what input and output signals needed to be from their sections.
“Wow, Bill, that’s a pretty impressive piece of work,” said Tyler. “My design is pretty simple compared to yours. You guys
remember that I was supposed to develop the audio input stage and associated electronics to allow the analog signal to
be put into the analog to digital converter pin…” Tyler continued to explain his design and mentioned that it would be
easy to scale the voltages to whatever level Bill needed on the input A/D pin just by changing resistor values.
“This design will probably work Tyler,” said Bill, “but I really disagree with the devices you chose as well as the way that
you designed the gain stage. I went ahead and looked up a couple possible other designs, and then I did a simulation to
get a slightly better response. You can see that you can get less clipping if you use these new operational amplifiers I
found on the web…”
Next, Sue presented her design, which took a serial bit-stream out of the microprocessor and ran through a series of
demultiplexers and latches to drive a variety of input and output devices. Bill, as the team leader, made several changes
to her design and asked Sue to incorporate the changes by the next team meeting, on Monday.
“OK, Rachel, let’s see your schematic for the power supply,” asked Bill.
“Well, I had a test this week and didn’t get around to doing a lot of simulation, but my friend who took the class before
had to do a really similar project. He gave me this design which he used when he took this class. He got an “A” in the
class, and he’s really smart. It’s so complicated that I didn’t have a chance to do any simulations or anything, but he
swore that it would work well for what we’re trying to do.”
“Well, how do you know it’s going to work if you didn’t do a simulation?” asked Bill.
“I know it’s going to work because it did work. Things don’t just stop working if you don’t do a simulation. Besides, this
will save us a whole lot of work.”
“Look Rachel, besides this being cheating, every time that you have a design due you turn in something that’s not your
own work. I don’t think you’ve done a single simulation, and the reason you got assigned the power supply circuit in the
first place was because nobody trusted you to do anything more complicated. You’ve got to start pulling your weight on
this team or we’re all going to give you a bad review to lower your grade.”
“No, the reason I got assigned the power supply circuit is because you assigned it. Look, just because you’re only taking
nine hours a semester and want to get an “A” in this course to preserve your 4.0 doesn’t mean that we all have to work
as hard as you do. You’ve got no idea what’s going on in my life, and if you did, you wouldn’t criticize me like that. I don’t
even know why I bothered to come to this meeting. Every time I do everybody just busts on me. I’m out of here.”
The meeting broke up soon after Rachel left, with Bill stating that he would take over design of the power supply from
The next day when Sue and Bill got off the elevator on the way to a test, they heard a familiar voice. “I don’t know why
he has to be a dick all the time. It’s not like I’m not working as hard as I can in this class. Besides, the deadlines he sets
are really unreasonable; if I had a little bit more time, I would be able to get these circuits done.“
“Yeah, he is kind of a dick. I was pretty pissed off when he told me my circuit design wasn’t good. I went back and
simulated his design and it wasn’t really all that much better than the one I turned in. Now I’ve gotta go and ask for
samples at all these web site just to get some of the special chips he wants, rather than just buying them here.”
1. List three issues that this team is having problems with.
2. Who is responsible for the team not functioning well? How are they creating problems?
3. What are roles played by each of the team members?
Team Case Study #2
“So are we all clear on the things we have to do for this project?” asked Caitlin.
“Yeah, we’ve gotta find some circuits that do what we want, simulate them, put them together, simulate that, then build
a bunch of prototypes. Then finally we can build a PC board and go from there,” stated Joshua. “It’s gonna be a lot of
work, but I think it’s really doable. If we all chip in together and bounce ideas off of each other on these projects, then
we should be able to get a good grade.”
“So when do you guys want to meet?” asked Smith. “We all need to promise that this is going to be our first priority this
semester and try to leave lots of time free during the week and also on the weekends.” The team members spent the
next twenty minutes comparing their schedules, finding three afternoons and one morning which they could all devote
to the project full time. They decided that Sunday would always be a day off and Saturday would be overflow time. They
would only meet on Saturday if they didn’t finish the tasks during the weekday meetings. Since Don had to work
Saturday mornings, he promised he would help write the reports and stay late on some afternoons to make up the time.
Three weeks later, the team members were sitting around a computer in the lab, simulating the individual circuit
schematics that each of the team members had developed. “Okay everybody, are we finally agreed that Caitlin’s design
for the input stage is the best, but we all like Joshua’s design for the power monitoring circuit?” There was general
agreement. “Smith’s design is the most elegant and uses the fewest components, but all of the crow bars and protection
diodes that I put on will make the design a lot more robust” said Don.
“Yeah, that pretty much summarizes it,” said Caitlin. “I mean we each developed the circuit independently which let us
adopt the best features of each other’s designs, as well as getting rid of the worst features. I guess we need to redesign
the circuit incorporating all of these new features, huh?”
“What about tomorrow?” asked Smith. “Would it be possible to have an off-schedule meeting to complete this design? I
know you are all busy, but in order to stay on our timeline, we need to get this done and there won’t be enough time if
we wait to meet until next week. I can blow off my signals class tomorrow morning.” There was general agreement that
in order to meet the deadline it would be necessary to meet outside of the times the group had set of start of the
project. The team met the next day and managed to enter the schematic into PSpice and simulate it. They also agreed
that they would meet next week to breadboard the test circuit.
By the end of the next week, a large breadboard was populated with many components and exponentially more wires. “I
can’t believe this thing actually works. It sure it took us long enough,” said Don.
“Yeah, I’m glad we all worked on it. I mean we never would’ve fixed those switching glitches if we hadn’t sprinkled
capacitors between ground and power like you suggested, Don” said Josh. “And Smith’s idea about using a pre-made
USB package rather than trying to build it out of individual components saved the team all whole lot of time. Hey Caitlin,
how did you do on that signals test, anyway?”
“Not so good, I didn’t have as much time to study as I needed. But, you know, I’m so sick of classes anyway. This team
project is a lot more important and interesting. Hey, now that this works, we all need to sit down and start to mill some
boards. That means we need to meet as a team to get trained on the PC board mill. Do you think we should have this all
on one board or should we put it on a couple of separate boards?”
“Before milling we probably need to run through the routing program one more time and make sure that it is optimized.
I heard sometimes the router makes mistakes, and then you need to check your circuit manually to make sure
everything was done correctly. We should probably do this in our next meeting since eight eyes are better than two. And
then at the next meeting, we can check the circuit manually before we start milling.”
“Yeah, Smith, that sounds like a good idea. Tomorrow then, same Bat time, same Bat channel.”
With four weeks left in the semester, Caitlin, Josh, Don, and Smith had one of the few projects that actually worked.
Finishing ahead of schedule, the team sat down to plan their written and oral presentation. “Okay guys, how do you
want to do this? I think that we should each write one section of the report, and then pass it on to another person to
edit, and then after they’re done editing it, they can pass on to the next person, until each of us has seen each section of
the report. And then we can schedule a team meeting to all sit down and make sure all the sections will merge together.
Does that sound like a plan?” asked Caitlin.
“Yeah, each of us having input has worked really well so far. What about having our sections done in two days and then
on Thursday we can sit down and all meet. Would that work for everyone?” asked Josh.
“Not really. I’ve skipped that physics class too many times. There is a test review on Thursday afternoon that I sort of
want to go since I really need to do well on this test to pass the class. Could you guys do Thursday night?” asked Don.
“I’ve got a basketball game that I’m supposed to be at,” said Smith. “And at 9:00, I really have to be somewhere for
another study group. They hardly will let me work with them anymore since I don’t show up.”
“This is going to take at least a couple of hours,” said Caitlin. “Would you be able to miss the last half of your physics
review session, Don? Smith, if you skip your basketball game, we can be sure to be out of here by nine. Sound good?”
The team of Josh, Caitlin, Smith, and Don got the highest grade in the class on their project.
1. What did this team do right?
2. What mistakes did this team make?
3. How could they have been more efficient?
Team Case Study #3
“Well, this is going to be a lot of fun,” said Michael. “I think this project is going to be pretty easy, and we should be able
to finish well before the deadline. “
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” said Laura. “Have you all thought about what roles you want to play on the team since we
are forced to have them? I think Michael should be the leader, and I would like to be either the Recorder or the Time
“Michael would make a good team leader; I vote for him,” said Robert. “I really don’t wanna be the Recorder, so I’ll
gladly let you have that position, Laura. I would probably do well as a Functional Specialist or as the Devil’s Advocate. So
if nobody wants those positions, I’ll do it.”
“I guess that leaves me as a Contact Person or as a Mediator,” said Katie. “I don’t mind doing those at all. So if Michael
can agree to be the team leader, I think we’re all set.”
“Well, I really don’t know if I want the responsibility, but if all of you want me as the team leader, I guess I should do it.
As team leader, I would say the first thing we need to do is to sit down and make a block diagram of this project. Let’s go
over to the blackboard and have a brainstorming session to see if we can identify all the parts we need to build to get
this thing working… ”
After about 40 minutes of discussion, the team members had a block diagram they thought would work. Ten minutes
later, the team had preliminary assignments for each part of the block diagram. “Okay, each of you has at least two
subsystems you need to design. Any ideas on which one we should get started on first?” asked Michael.
“I think the power system, input amplifiers, and clock are probably the easiest ones to do, so let’s get those completely
done and out of the way before we move on to something else. That will give us some time to read up about the more
complex stuff we don’t really understand,” said Laura.
“Sounds good to me. Any disagreements? Okay then, we’ll meet next week,” said Michael.
The next week each of the team members had their projects working on PSpice. Since each of the circuits seemed fairly
straightforward, it was a short meeting. The team members agreed to prototype their circuits by the next week and
bring working models on a protoboard to demonstrate to the other team members. A week later, the regulated power
supply, that Katie had developed, was working on the protoboard, but the input amplifiers and opto-isolators, designed
by Laura and Robert respectively, were not functioning.
“Katie, can you work with Laura, and I’ll work with Robert so we can see if we can get those circuits working by our
meeting next week?“ said Michael.
“Are you sure it’s necessary to do this pairing stuff?” asked Laura. “I’m really close to getting the amplifiers working, and
Katie probably has other stuff she needs to do.”
“Well Laura, the team contract states pretty specifically that if one team member doesn’t get their job done by the
deadline, another team member comes in to help with that part of the project. That way, we won’t get too far behind
and miss our final deadline. If it had been Katie’s project that wasn’t working, then you would be helping her instead of
the other way around.”
“Yeah, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have a little bit of help on this project. Katie, what times are you free to get together?”
At the next meeting, a week later, the three initial circuits were working on protoboards. Katie and Laura have decided
they would order some specialized operational amplifiers from the manufacturer in order to get slightly better
performance. Michael and Robert had gotten the opto-isolators functioning, and had done some simple input-output
tests. “Okay people, what’s next?” asked Michael.
“I think we should go ahead and mill some boards, “said Katie.
“I would rather start on the other parts of the circuit we think are pretty easy,” said Robert. “The circuits are all pretty
small, and if we go ahead and mill PC boards, we’re gonna be wasting a lot of space. If we wait until we get some other
circuits designed and tested, we can combine all of them on one PC board and save ourselves some time and effort.”
“I vote with Robert,” said Laura. “With the problems we had on some of the simple circuits, I think we should go ahead
and work on the more difficult parts of the project now and get all of the circuits designed.”
The team decided that they would go ahead and try to protoboard the remaining block diagrams to get as much done as
possible before they started working on the really difficult parts of the circuit. They also agreed that making a printed
circuit board should wait until the end, after all the design was done. Over the next few weeks, they learned that PSpice
simulations were not always an accurate indicator of how well a circuit functioned. However, the team continued to
make steady progress simulating and protoboarding a large number of individual circuits represented in the initial block
diagram of the entire system.
“OK, so it looks like we finally have seven of the nine block diagrams of our circuit. And every single one of them has
been protoboarded, and we know they work. We had originally allotted three weeks for this part of the project, but with
arrival delays for the sample components we ordered and other inevitable problems, it has taken five and a half,” said
Michael. “But we’ve learned a whole lot about how to do this stuff, and I think these two last blocks aren’t gonna take
very long. Since these are probably the hardest parts of the circuit, we probably need to pair up and each learn about
the different blocks. Any volunteers?”
“My friend took a class in PIC programming and has a lot of books and stuff that I can borrow,” said Katie. “Maybe
Robert and I can work on the PIC part, while you and Laura work on designing a quadrature detector.”
“Any objections?” asked Michael.
A week later, the team knew they were in trouble. The block diagram had twelve parallel I/O ports reading input from
various parts of the system. However, there were not enough free pins on the PIC to be able to handle that many lines.
While other micro-processes were available that could handle that number of I/O signals, the programming pods were
not available, and the team would have to order the chips that were needed.
“I’m not sure what we should do at this point. We either need some kind of multiplexer circuit, or we need to
completely redesign the input output stage that we’ve already protoboarded,” said Katie.
“Well, there was a team last year that used two PICs that communicated to each other to get around a problem with the
number of pins, so I guess we could try that,” said Michael. “But we’re running out of time to try this solution. How’s the
progress on the quadrature detector?”
“The circuit isn’t too difficult, but the manufacturer won’t give out any samples. So, we had to order one, and they’re
really expensive. But the real problem is that they have a long lead time. It’ll take at least four weeks because it needs to
be shipped from Japan. We’re trying to find another manufacturer, but so far we haven’t had any luck. We’re also
thinking about using four regular photodetectors in a square pattern, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to work either.
I mean, it will work, but the circuit will perform pretty badly and won’t meet specifications” said Laura.
With a week and a half before the project deadline, the team had each of the subsystems working on the protoboards,
and it was time to mill printed circuit boards. Although the schedule was tight, it looked like they might just finish. “Okay
guys, I was up until after 3:00 in the morning yesterday and had to fight off two other teams using my bare hands and a
plastic spoon, but I finally got all the boards milled. I have got to get some sleep. Call me if there any problems. Here is
the board, I’ll leave it up to you guys to get this thing soldered,” said Robert.
After three hours of sleep, Robert’s cell phone rang. It was Katie. “Robert, you need to get back here right now. The
circuit doesn’t work the way you milled it. There were some mistakes that were made somewhere down the line.” Six
hours later, the team had tracked down the cause of the problem. The schematic diagrams that Robert used to mill the
printed circuit board were not correct. The changes that were made to the circuit when it was protoboarded did not get
entered into the final schematic diagram in the team’s log book.
The team demonstrated a final project, but it did not work. Nearly half of the circuits had not been constructed on
printed circuit boards, so they were demonstrated on protoboards. In moving the circuits from the lab to where the
demonstrations were being held, some of the wires worked loose and could not be replaced in time. Although the
requirements for the project specifically included that the circuit be enclosed in a solid case, the team was unable to
even start on the case.
1. What did this team do right?
2. What mistakes did this team make?
3. What should they have done differently to get the project done on time?