CSE 481 Collaborative Projects

Autumn 2002

John Zahorjan


The Department of Computer Science & Engineering would like to team with members of other University departments to build software that would be useful to you and whose construction would be interesting to us. We are soliciting ideas for these applications, to be built during this Autumn quarter.

Project Size

The projects will be built by students in CSE 481, Capstone Software Design. This course is organized into teams of five or six senior CSE majors. Each team works intensively on a single project for the duration of the quarter. A project that you think might be just under a person-year of work is within reach. The major limitation is that the work must be completed in 10 weeks, which requires that we have a pretty good idea what is needed early during the first week of the quarter.

Project Areas

We want to emphasize that we are interested in applications from all disciplines. If you have have a project you're enthusiastic about, it's a candidate for this collaboration.

I should point out that simple web development; (things like setting up or improving site content) are not appropriate to the educational goals of this course. More aggressive use of the web, for instance developing web services, or perhaps even some applications involving integration of back-end database servers with web front-ends, might be, however.

Project Guidelines

It is essential to the success of this course that the development teams be interested in what they build. "Routine programming" tasks - say, building tools for a department's administrative infrastructure - are least likely to interest them. On the other hand, anything "cool" is appropriate. I imagine that most often this would be an application that supports a larger research or instructional effort, but I'm sure the universe of "cool" is larger than I can imagine. Most any application that CSE students are not already familiar with will probably interest some set of our students.

To be eligible, a proposed project must guarantee some minimum involvement by the proposing department - at least one person to interact with the development team in person and/or by email an average of two to three hours a week. This time will probably be disproporationately loaded towards the beginning and end of the quarter - defining the project at the beginning, and evaluating and suggesting changes towards the end.

There must be at least one person from your project clearly identified as a contact. This could be an undergrad, a grad student, a faculty member, or a staff member, but should be someone intimately involved in the project our work will support. Working with a team from your project is also acceptable (and even desirable). The work must be collaborative - we are not simply offering free labor.

Project Selection

To be most successful, student teams must be paired with projects they want to build. This means that some proposals may not be chosen. Because of that, one goal is to minimize the cost to you of making a proposal. Here's the ideal scenario (adaptations to suit your needs are certainly possible):

The student teams will be required to choose projects by the end of Thursday, October 3.

The Risks To You

You'll be investing your time, so it makes sense to wonder whether or not it will be worth that effort. My best assessment is that the major risk is the usual one of custom-built software - support. I'm confident the projects will be functional. The question is how well you'll be able to continue using them as time goes on and your needs change. We're looking into ways to minimize these problems, probably through tight requirements on documentation that will be useful to you in dealing with the maintenance issue. (Your involvement in the project will help define how best to address this issue, though, so other approaches are also certainly possible.)

What To Do Now

If you have potential interest in this interaction, I would appreciate a short note now:

(There is no commitment by you implied by indicating potential interest.) This is the first time we've attempted this on this scale, and I'm sure I'll need to solicit your input on decisions as we go forward.

Other Information

If you have questions, please send them to me:

CSE481 has been in place for six years. The students have always built video games as their projects. If you would like to see examples of these games, as an indication of what can be accomplished in a single quarter, you can find some of them at: