This capstone course hopes to provide students with the opportunity to apply their computer science knoweldge and skills in the context of building and operating community-based Internet networks, based both on WiFi and 3GPP “cellular” technologies. It will include a mix of classroom sessions, practical assigments, and a capstone group project addressing a need of a real-world network. Through this course students will:

  • Become familiar with industry standard open-source networking tools and platforms for building and debugging network deployments.
  • Deploy and configure physical network hardware commonly used by community networks, including point-to-point unlicensed wireless radios.
  • Deploy and configure an open-source 4G/5G cellular network core for local access.
  • Learn the steps of the participatory design process and be able to communicate using terminology from the participatory design literature about the design process, design requirements, and stakeholder objectives.
  • Gain experience working with community partners and communicating about their needs to develop actionable project requirements.
  • Work together as a team to develop a non-trivial deliverable project, practicing good time management to deliver a prototype and documentation on time.

Furthermore, we will facilitate and encourage most students to use their capstone project to:

  • Conduct a real-world participatory design exercise.
  • Engage in the process of codeveloping networking solutions with community partners.
  • Practice communicating design decisions, constraints, and outcomes to audiences with a varierty of technical backgrounds.

Prereqs and Background

There are no hard prerequesites for this capstone, but experience with some of the following will likely be helpful:

  • HCI (CSE-440)
  • Operating Systems (CSE-451)
  • Networks (CSE-461)

Class Sessions

In the first third of the course we will hold class sessions dedicated to quickly exposing students to a variety of skills commonly needed to work on community networks and engage in paticipatory design. Students will be expected to attend and engage during the class sessions to help their peers get up to speed.

In the second third we will have guest lectures from a variety of community organizations engaged in different aspectcs of community networking. The goal of these lectures will be to help students understand the challenges currently faced by different networks and stakeholders, and collectively brainstorm possible project ideas.

The last third of the course will be dedicated time for project groups to meet and work on their prototypes and deliverables. The course staff will be available to help groups work through both technical and non-technical challenges.

Assignments & Grading

The course will contain both smaller-scale practical assignments and a large course project. Grades will be allocated proportionally:

  • 30% practical assignments (3)
  • 50% course project
  • 10% participation and course engagement

Practical Assignments

The practical assignments are designed to give students experience operating and understanding a variety of networking technologies used for metro-scale community networks.

Some practical assignments will require individual submission while others can be done with a small group. See the Assignments page for more details.

Course Project

The course project is designed to give students the opportunity to conduct a substantial design and development leading to a functioning prototype of their design concept. There will be several intermediate deliverables on the way to the final project demos and presentation. See the Projects page for more information.

The projects are expected to be completed by small teams, and individual projects are highly discouraged.


Participation and engatement will be demonstrated through active class particiaption (asking/answering questions in class) and written engagement with the course material via the course mailing list. Every student will also be required to participate in at least one network deployment and outreach event with the local Seattle Community Network.


We understand no set of rules can apply perfectly to everyone in every setting, particularly with uncertainty as we return to in-person education. Reasonable exceptions can be made, and will be much easier to handle if communicated with the course staff as early as possible.


All students are welcome in this course and are entitled to be treated respectfully by both classmates and the course staff. We strive to create a challenging but inclusive environment that is conducive to learning for all students. If at any time you feel that you are not experiencing an inclusive environment, or you are made to feel uncomfortable, disrespected, or excluded, please report the incident so that we may address the issue and maintain a supportive and inclusive learning environment. You may contact the course staff or the CSE academic advisors to express your concerns. Should you feel uncomfortable bringing up an issue with a staff member directly, you may also consider sending anonymous feedback or contacting the UW Office of the Ombud.


This class fundamentally requires interactions with non-UW people and organizations who have existing complete vaccine mandates. As such, we strongly urge students who have UW vaccine exemptions to instead join a different capstone course (there are others available).

Academic Honesty & Collaboration

Learning is a collaborative process, and everyone benefits from working with others when learning new concepts and skills. In general, we encourage you to collaborate with your classmates in your learning and take advantage of each others’ experience, understanding, and perspectives.

However, there is a difference between learning collaboratively and completing work for someone else. This can be a subtle but important distinction. Ultimately, the goal of the course is to ensure that every student masters the material and develops the skills to succeed in future projects and other related work. Submitting work that is not your own, or allowing another student to submit your work as their own, does not contribute toward developing mastery. In addition, this deprives you of the ability to receive feedback and support from the course staff in addressing the areas in which you are struggling.

For more information, consult the Allen School policy on academic misconduct.

Religious Accomodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UWs policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.