Course Project

Computer scientist Margaret Hamilton poses with the Apollo guidance software she and her team developed at MIT. Source: MIT News Office
Computer scientist Margaret Hamilton poses with the Apollo guidance software she and her team developed at MIT. Source: MIT News Office

For your final project you’re asked to demonstrate your engagement with the course material in a creative and robust way.

This could be a presentation, video, software package, comic, experimental set-up, short story, skit, essay, or otherwise.

You can work individually or in groups. If you work in groups, you’ll be expected to produce more.

You might…

  • Explain a concept from class in a manner accessible to anyone.
  • Explore an implication of one of the concepts from class.
  • Conduct an experiment derived or related to one from class and write up your experience.
  • Demonstrate a course concept in an intuitive and provocative way.
  • Plan (and stage?) an activity with outside stakeholders based on an implication from an idea from class.

If you’re looking for guidance, the most traditional project would be an analytic ten to fifteen page double spaced Times New Roman term paper. If you choose that route, consider consulting Jim Pryor’s guide.

If you’re in the honors section of class (or in the CS section and would like a writing credit), your project must be an essay and it can’t be a group project.

Project proposal: 5% of final grade

By Friday, April 14th turn in your project proposal. This is to encourage you to get started; you’re welcome to change your project proposal later. (Please do get in touch if you change your project.)

Turn in:

Aim for about two paragraphs of description. Consider addressing:

  • ideas you would like to engage with,
  • potential directions to take,
  • resources you might use,
  • and questions you might answer (or need answered).

Indicate if you are conducing the project alone or in a group. If in a group, only one group member needs to turn in this and each subsequent part.

If you’re applying in a group, include a couple of sentences one what each member of the group will do.

Approximate rubric (out of 4):

  • 1: alone or in group?
  • 2: two paragraphs (1 pt for one paragraph)
  • 1: topicality

Progress check: 20% of final grade

By Friday, May 12th turn in:

  1. a description of your project as well as
  2. a draft of your project materials in a digital medium (so a picture if you are making a sculpture).

Turn in:

(If you’re in a group, have each group member turn in the same copy of the assignment. This helps for automatic peer reviews.)

  1. In about three paragraphs (two double-spaced pages), your description should address:

    • What you are trying to do with your project,
    • With what ideas of class you are engaging,
      • Consistently cite at least two scholarly works referenced in class and at least five scholarly articles total—news sites don’t count! All five articles can be from class. (These citations can be in the draft if you have written an essay.)
    • What you plan to do and improve by the final, and
    • On what you would like suggestions or feedback.
  2. You don’t need to dress up your project materials too much but you should them understandable. For example, if you are writing an essay a very rough draft of a bit more than half of the final length is fine so long as the rest of the essay is outlined.

If you’re applying in a group, your description should be around n / 2 times longer and include a paragraph or so on what each member of the group has done and will do.

Approximate rubric (out of 12):

  • 7: description…
    • 1: included at all
    • 1: is long enough
    • 1: addresses aim
    • 1: addresses improvements
    • 1: addresses desired suggestions
    • 1: cites two class sources
    • 1: cites at least five scholarly sources
  • 5: draft…
    • 1: included at all
    • 1: appears like a feasible project
    • 1: is at least a quarter done
    • 2: is at least half done

Peer review: 10% of final grade

After you submit your progress check you’ll be asked to review those of two of your peers. These are due by Friday, May 19th.

Turn in: (look for the peer review tab on the right).

Reviews should be constructive and about three paragraphs in length.

For example, you might start off thanking your peer for their submission, note something that you liked or found interesting (“I like how you covered W”), include clarifying questions (“Is it the case that Y follows X?”), and conclude with positive suggestions (“I wonder if you might be able to speak to Z”). Write a review that you would want to receive. We’re not looking for copy-editing; don’t comment on spelling or grammar unless you are genuinely confused.

If you don’t know how to submit a peer review, try reading this instructional page from Canvas.

Approximate rubric (out of 6):

  • 6: each review (times two)…
    • 1: has been finished
    • 1: is long enough
    • 1: is constructive

Final: 45% of final grade

Turn in and, if relevant, additionally present your project by the end of the finals period for class, Thursday, June 8th.

Turn in:

After the due date, your projects will be posted online for your peers to view.

You should incorporate your peers’ feedback and finish your project as proposed, continuing to meet the criteria of the progress check.


Please be prepared to give a brief presentation (three to five minutes) about your project in class on Friday, June 2nd. I’m not expecting these to be polished; an informal discussion without any materials (e.g. slides) is fine.

If we run out of time on that Friday, we’ll use the finals period on Thursday, June 8th.

For participation on those days, you’ll be expected to give brief feedback on each presentation (besides your own) on index cards I will hand out. A single sentence question or comment will suffice.

If you’re in a group, make sure that everyone speaks for roughly equal time in the presentation.

If you have a presentable project (such as a video or demo) simply plan to give that. Let me know if it will take more than five minutes.

Otherwise if you have an essay or story describe your thesis; give the elevator pitch or abstract.

In either case, make sure to address…

  • how your project relates to class
    • mention those two class sources you use
  • and what you’ve learned.

Approximate rubric (out of 15):

  • 10: project…
    • 1: included at all
    • 1: addresses feedback (you don’t need to explicitly address feedback)
    • 1: appears to be a significant elaboration of the draft
    • 2: appears to be a finished elaboration of the draft
    • 1: clearly relates to class
    • 2: demonstrates a robust and creative effort
    • 2: meets the standard you have set for yourself in the progress check
  • 5: presentation…
    • 1: gives a presentation
    • 1: presentation is long enough and not too long
    • 1: includes thesis or demo
    • 1: cites two class sources
    • 1: addresses what you have learned

Example projects

Here are three example projects, in their final submission form, from previous quarters. You can see some of my inline comments if you view the pdf annotations.

Example project one on creativity in AI. This one was too long so I took off some points. Otherwise I thought it was very good.

Example project two on consciousness as control. This one was a bit short so it was not long enough to qualify for writing credit. Nonetheless, I thought it was very well argued.

Example project three on Dennett’s descriptions of intelligence at different levels of organisms. This project really demonstrates how creative you can be, although it does not qualify for writing credit. I liked how it made the concepts accessible to a wider audience. Still, I was not quite convinced by the chapter on Skinnerian creatures.