CIS 400 Senior Project -- Fall 2017

Course Overview

CIS 400 is the beginning of a two-course "capstone" to your undergraduate Computer Science education in which you will have the opportunity to identify, plan, design, implement, and evaluate a computing-based solution to a real-world problem.

In completing this course and the subsequent follow-on course (CIS 401), you will gain experience in:

  • working in a team, including division of labor and responsibilities, integration of work, interpersonal communication, etc.
  • identifying a computing-related problem and potential solutions, and exploring and evaluating different solutions' benefits and drawbacks
  • designing and implementing a computing artifact in such a manner that it can be worked on by a team, is easy to modify, is easy to test, etc.
  • assessing the effectiveness of a computing solution, i.e. the extent to which it addresses the problem it is trying to solve
  • considering the legal, ethical, and financial implications of decisions in a computing-related project
  • communicating the high-level goals and low-level details of a computing solution via written documents and oral presentations
Whether your next step after graduation is industry, academia, research, government, non-profit, etc., these are the sorts of skills you will need in your career as a successful computer scientist and engineer.



Prof. Chris Murphy

Teaching Assistants

Alex Marder
Molly Wang
Joe Franz
Brian Ting
Judy Weng

Information about office hours will be available in Piazza.


Project Logistics

In order to achieve the educational objectives listed above, you will work on a group project during the Fall and Spring semesters. The focus of the Fall semester is on identifying and scoping out a problem to address, designing and refining a solution, implementing a prototype, and improving teamwork and communication skills.

Each project team should consist of 4-5 students who are currently registered for CIS 400. Smaller teams will not be permitted without supporting documentation from a CIS faculty member and approval of the CIS 400 instruction staff. If you need help finding teammates, please use the "Search for Teammates!" post in Piazza.

Each team must be advised by a CIS faculty member. Students are expected to meet with their advisor at least four times during the semester, and are responsible for scheduling meetings and keeping their advisor up to date.

For inspiration for project ideas and to get an idea of what is expected, please review the project descriptions from 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The due date for forming teams, writing a short project prospectus, and having it approved by a faculty advisor is 6:00pm on Thursday, September 21. Information about the prospectus, as well the project schedule milestones and deliverables, will be available to registered students via Canvas and discussed at the first class meeting on Tues, Sept 5 (see below).


Project Milestones and Deliverables

Your project this semester will consist of three phases as you get your project ramped up, with an eye toward the overall goal of finishing during the Spring semester.

Phase 1: Proposal

  • Goals: form a team, choose a project, find an advisor; identify problem that you'd like to address and a potential solution
  • Deliverables: project prospectus document; proposal review presentation
  • Timeline: all teams' prospectus documents are due Thurs, Sept 21; your team will be assigned a date between Sept 26 and Oct 12 for your proposal review presentation

Phase 2: Requirements & Design

  • Goals: flesh out more details of proposal; identify requirements for solution; consider design alternatives and select one
  • Deliverables: revised proposal; requirements document; design document; requirements & design presentation
  • Timeline: your presentation will be held four weeks after your proposal review presentation (between Oct 24-Nov 9); the written documents will be due the previous day

Phase 3: Prototype

  • Goals: address major technical challenges and deliver a proof-of-concept to demonstrate the feasibility of your solution
  • Deliverables: final report; final presentation
  • Timeline: your presentation will be held three weeks after your requirements & design presentation (between Nov 14-Nov 30); the written document will be due the previous day

More details for each deliverable will be made available in Canvas.

Students are expected to check in with a TA sometime between their presentations, and should be meeting their faculty advisor regularly.

In addition to the deliverables identified above, all students need to complete an "initial thoughts & observations" document at the start of the semester, and an individual final report at the end.

Last, there will likely be a public demo session for the entire class in early December; details will be made available in Piazza and Canvas.


Class Meetings and Presentations

Instead of regularly scheduled lectures, class meeting times will be used for presentations to and meetings with the instruction staff, and students are only expected to attend on the days when they are presenting.

However, there are two class meetings that are mandatory for all students, even if they are registered for another course that meets at the same time:

Tues, Sept 5: Course overview and logistics (this will be the first class meeting of the semester)
Thurs, Oct 19: "Lightning talk"-style proposal presentations to entire class

These class meetings will be held from 4:30-5:50pm; the location of each meeting will be posted in Piazza.

If you cannot attend a mandatory class meeting because of a time conflict with another class that regularly meets at that time, please have the instructor of that class contact Prof. Murphy. However, instructors of other classes (e.g. CIS 502, EAS 203, ENM 213, NETS 212, etc.) have been notified of this schedule and have approved CIS 400 students to miss class meetings for those other classes on those dates.

All students must attend and participate in at least one of the three presentation meetings, even if they are registered for another course that meets at the same time. However, students are not required to attend presentations or class meetings on dates when their team is not presenting. But you're always welcome to if you'd like, of course!


Grading and Other Policies

Information about grading and other course policies will be made available to registered students in Canvas and at the first mandatory class meeting on Tuesday, Sept 5.