The course project is designed to give you a chance to develop a meaningful deliverable project to benefit communities beyond ourselves (local and global), where you can demonstrate your engineering and design skills learned throughout your time in CSE. In addition to concrete deliverables related to community networking, a major component of the project is to gain experience working with an external organization. Much of the learning will come from communicating with them about their needs to develop actionable project requirements.

Note: Final projects may be technical and non-technical to varying degrees. As a less technical example, your project may consist of participatory action research (PAR) workshops/facilitation which end up producing primarily non-technical co-designed artifacts (e.g. user help platforms / communications infrastructure, technology education materials, etc). Either way, you should talk to your community partners as early as possible so we can try to verify from your initial proposal that your deliverables are impactful enough to work as a class project.


You will be expected to work in teams of 2-4 students each on your projects. We recommend groups of 3-4 to allow you to develop a more meaningful final deliverable! Everyone on the team will be expected to contribute something to both the technical prototype and documentation.


Since the project timeline is short (you will have about a month and a half from initial ideation to the end of the quarter), you will probably only be able to complete a single design iteration on your project. There will be 5 major project phases with corresponding (small) deliverables building to a final overall presentation and a report targeted for a more general audience.

  • Initial team formation: 10/27
  • Requirements gathering + design concept generation: 11/3
  • Minimum viable prototype implementation: 11/17
  • Prototype evaluation with feedback from stakeholders: 11/24
  • Design refinement: 12/6
  • Poster: 12/8
  • Video: 12/10
  • Final report and public-facing documentation: 12/10

Project Steps

Milestone 1- Team formation

Form teams of 2-4 students with a common topic/partner of interest!

Turn in:

A list of the members of your project team, and the general area your team hopes to work in. If you anticipate you may need specific resources (lab equipment, radios, cloud resources, etc.), let the instructors know as soon as you can.

Milestone 2- Requirements + design concept

As a team, gather a deeper understanding of your problem domain via consultation with community partners, the course staff, and any other stakeholders in the space.

Turn in:

In a short document (1 page or less excluding figures), write down the key stakeholders, the issues you hope to address, and why they are important to the different stakeholders. Include:

  • a design concept formed together as a group
  • the key specifications and features of your design,
  • a timeline for developing a minimum viable prototype to evaluate your design

This information should help make the background and motivation sections of your final writeup.

Milestone 3- Prototype Implementation

Work as a team to develop a deliverable project. The technical details of each prototype will be team specific, and the course staff will work with each team to troubleshoot technical issues and help keep the development on track.

Turn in:

  • The prototype itself
  • In a short document (1-2 pages or less) outline the major components of your design, and how they map to the features you identified in Milestone 2. Discuss any new constraints you discovered while developing your prototype and how these constraints influenced your prototype.

This information should help make the design and implementation sections in your final writeup.

Milestone 4- Prototype evaluation with feedback

Share your prototype with the course staff and any community stakeholders for early feedback.

  • In what ways does your prototype work well?
  • In what ways could it be improved?
  • Has the prototype elicited any new insights from your stakeholders that would change your design?
  • If your project has multiple stakeholders, is the feedback unique to a single perspective or are there common elements across stakeholders?

Turn in:

A short summary (1 page or less) describing:

  • the methodology you used to generate the feedback
  • the feedback you received
  • the implications it has for your design
  • any changes to your understanding of the constraints and needs of your stakeholders

Milestone 5- Design refinement

With the insights gathered from your feedback, how will you change your design? Are some changes easier than others? Is the current design sufficient, or were there any major constraints that were only discovered after the design iteration? What advice would you have given yourself at the start of the project?

Turn in:

A short (1 page or less excluding figures) explanation of how you have improved your design given the new information you have received. Be sure to include both elements that you maintained as well as elements you changed.

This should help make a large part of the reflection section of your final writeup.

End of Quarter Deliverables

Your team is responsible for two final deliverables: a short summary video, and a written document for a more general audience (in the form of an extended blog post or website).

The Preview Video

The goal of making a video is to give you a chance to demonstrate your project to a broad audience, get practice pitching and explaining your project and design, and think through what the most important takeaways are from your project for a general audience.

Videos should:

  • be ~2-3 minutes in length
  • cover the core motivation for your project, what you build/did, and what the key takeaways are.
  • help the viewer know why your project is important and decide if they should learn more.
  • demonstrate your prototype in action if appropriate!

Technical Specs:

Videos can be recorded either from a screen capture with voice overlay, with an external camera such as a phone, or a combination of sources edited together. If your group is not sure where to start with recording and editing, reach out to the course staff on ed and we can give you some pointers to different approaches. We strongly encourage groups to post their completed videos publicly on a video sharing site like youtube or vimeo, where they can be linked and shared. If your group does not wish to share your video publicly, it should be uploaded to canvas as a .MP4(h.264) file and caption file (SRT, SBV, VTT). All videos should include a captions file to improve accessibility (see for instructions on generating one with the youtube captioning tools).

The General Writeup

The goal is to create something durable you can use to add to your portfolio/resume and get the insights from your project out into the wider world. The audience for the writeup is not the course staff, but rather a general audience who would be interested in your project! Depending on your specific project this audience may be more or less technical.

The writeup should be in a long-form narrative “blog post” format to post on the course webpage. In addition to appearing on the course webpage, the course staff can offer to crosspost to the UW ICTD lab’s public blog, and send the links out to the wider CSE community!

Your writeup should contain at least the following elements:

  1. [introduction] Why should a reader be excited about your project?
  2. [background and motivation] What is the context of your team’s project? Who would benefit by using your project and what problems does it solve? Are there any ethical implications of your project? How can people get involved (is the project open source)?
  3. [design] What is your team’s design concept to address the core problem? How is the solution different from other available approaches?
  4. [implementation] How did your team go about implementing your design? What challenges did you all face and how did you all overcome them?
  5. [reflection] How did it all go? Does your team’s prototype solve the problem(s) you set out to address? What are the next steps to improve or release it? What advice would you give to future engineers working in the same area?
  6. [credits + contacts+ references] Who was on the team? What are you all interested in outside of this project? If your stakeholders consent to being referenced, who gave you advice and help with the project? What key resources did you reference?

There is no strict page limit or requirement, but for calibration the intention is for the writeups to be ~5 pages long (i.e. a 10-15 minute read) with figures/drawings/screenshots/pictures as appropriate to communicate your main points. Ideally most of your content should be adaptable from your intermediate deliverables.