COMP 402: Senior Project Implementation, Spring 2022

This syllabus is subject to change based on specific class needs, especially the schedule. Significant deviations will be discussed in class. Individual exceptions to the policies and schedule are granted only in cases of true emergency. Please make arrangements with me if an emergency arises.


Content and Goals

The senior project is the culminating experience of a student’s major in computer science and draws upon everything the student has learned over the course of their studies. The project itself is a means to an end and not the ultimate goal of the capstone experience. Sufficiently interesting and complex projects rely on an abundance of existing research and fundamental principles of computing. The project is, from this perspective, a concrete instantiation of these ideas and principles. By carrying out the project and presenting their work to technical and non-technical audiences students can demonstrate their understanding and mastery of some core element of the computing sciences as it appears in the real world context of their project.

Students are ultimately working towards pinpointing general, abstract, or theoretical concepts that support their project and clearly articulating how their work is a specific instance of these concepts. An important part of this process is the identification of seminal scholarly work that addresses the concept and its applications. Students too often attempt to reinvent the wheel in the course of their capstone work. Occasionally they’re unaware that the wheel already exists. The emphasis on fundamentals is about identifying the wheels, the documents that lay out the general principles of those wheels, and focusing on applying those principles to the specific needs of the project. In doing so the student will better understand where their work sits in the broad spectrum of computing and can present it as such.

COMP 402 is focused on the implementation of the plans proposed by the student in COMP 401 and the identification of the concrete instantiation of fundamental principles of computer science at play within the various facets of the project. Each student in the class will give checkpoint presentations on a semiregular basis in order to receive feedback from peers and faculty regarding the current state of student projects and their understanding of the project’s underlying fundamentals. Towards the end of the semester, students will use their project as the basis for a Scholar’s Day poster and accompanying presentation.

Attendance and Expectations

Students in this course are expected to be respectful of their peers and the instructor. As this course is comprised entirely of student presentations, it is crucial that all students are always present and always on time. Failure to arrive on time and be a productive member of the course will have a detrimental effect on the final grade and leaves a bad impression with faculty that are likely targets for job and graduate school recommendations.

Course Deliverables

The following elements of COMP 401 contribute to the overall capstone grade:

Checkpoint Presentations

The class will meet for regular project checkpoints. At these checkpoints each student will give a 5–7 minute presentation that covers:

  1. The state of the project (1–2 minutes):
    1. The expected state for this checkpoint based off the current time line
    2. The actual state with a demonstration of progress
    3. The expected state for the next checkpoint
  2. Fundamentals (4–5 minutes)
    1. Concepts, theories, and abstract principles
    2. Seminal research and literature
    3. Project specific instantiations

It is important to note that the bulk of each presentation is dedicated to the presentation of computer science fundamentals as they appear in the project. The goal is to get accustomed to presenting the project in the context of a larger issue in as opposed to simply presenting the project.

Scholar’s Day Posters & Final Presentations

By the midpoint of the semester students will have identified at least one fundamental principle that acts as a cornerstone of their project. One of these principles will become the subject of the Scholar’s Day poster. It is important that students understand that the project is not the subject of the poster but the vehicle by which the actual subject is presented.

The poster is to be done in the standard scientific research style. The CSB is ripe with examples of this kind of poster. Students will begin submitting drafts of their posters beginning shortly after midterm, and the final posters will be presented as a part of the Scholar’s Day poster session.

The final presentation will be a 7–-10 minute self-evaluation and debrief about your capstone experience. During this time you should briefly discuss the final state of your project, what you think went well this semester, what could have gone better, and what advice you might have for current and future 401/402 students as they begin working on their project.

Completed Project

By the end of the semester each student must have a completed project. It may not entail everything proposed in COMP 401 but it should be complete by some measurable sense of the word. For example, it may be a rough prototype of the proposed project or lack some of the originally proposed features, but still carries out some clearly identifiable part of the project as proposed. What is important is that it stands on its own and that the student presents it as such. Too often students lament the features they didn’t get to and overemphasize what the project might have been as opposed to what it finally ended up being.

The final version of the project must be submitted to the instructors by Scholar’s Day. In addition, students must find a means of making their work publicly available. Standard paths to this include, but are not limited to:

The exact means by which projects are made publicly accessible must be approved by the instructors ahead of time. Projects must be publicly accessible by Scholar’s Day.

Project Bibliography

The poster and presentation are in-depth demonstrations of the students ability to connect their work to a singular larger issues in computing. This bibliography is a demonstration of the student’s ability to continue this practice across a broader range of issues as they relate to their the project. Over the course of COMP 401 and COMP 402 students should have accumulated several key texts related to the foundational computer science that underlies their project. The project bibliography should list and cite all of these sources. Some of these will be cited on the poster and presentation, some will not. Multifaceted projects will rely on many different ideas and should thereby have a lengthier bibliography. More constrained projects might have shorter bibliographies as a reflection of their narrower focus. Either way, the bibliography should accurately reflect the breadth and scope of the project.


At the completion of this course, the grade for both COMP 401 and COMP 402 is determined. Students will typically receive the same grade in both courses to reflect the work throughout the capstone project and not in one individual phase of the project. Grades will be determined based on the following items:

The following examples provide an idea of what we are looking for in the above items. These are rough guidelines only! Assessment can vary considerably depending on the project.

Course Engagement and Workload Expectations

The weekly workload for this course will vary by student but on average should be about 5–7 hours per week. Since class meetings are only scheduled for 1 hour a week, we expect students to dedicate at least 4–6 hours a week towards the development of their project proposal and implementation. This time can include research, coding, writing, meeting with professors, and so forth. Being a capstone project, it is likely that your weekly work will occasionally exceed the expected amount – everything takes longer than you think!


Checkpoint presentations will occur on roughly a weekly basis. Unless otherwise specified, the topics listed below are the topics of checkpoint presentations. These topics correspond to some or all of sections of the final proposal. This calendar is subject to change based on the circumstances of the course.

Week Date Checkpoint
1 01/10 – 01/14 Initial Meeting
2 01/17 – 01/21 Checkpoint 1.
3 01/24 – 01/28  
4 01/31 – 02/04 Checkpoint 2.
5 02/07 – 02/11  
6 02/14 – 02/18 Checkpoint 3.
7 02/21 – 02/25  
8 02/28 – 03/04 Checkpoint 4.
(03/07 – 03/11) (Spring Break)
9 03/14 – 03/18 Checkpoint 5.
10 03/21 – 03/25 Poster draft.
11 03/28 – 04/01 Checkpoint 6. Poster draft.
12 04/04 – 04/08 Poster draft.
13 04/11 – 04/15 Checkpoint 7. Poster draft.
14 04/18 – 04/22 Poster and Bibliography Due.
15 04/25 – 04/29 Scholar’s Day (04/26).
16 05/02 – 05/06 Presentations.
Finals 05/08