Computer Science Senior Projects
All GVSU computer science majors must complete the Senior Project course (CIS 467). Students will typically take the course towards the end of their course of study in the program, during their last year. Senior project is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their proficiency as software professionals to the faculty. In other words, over the course of a 15 week semester, students demonstrate all of the skills they have learned over the past 3-4 years in the CS program. In addition, the students acquire additional skills in the area of collaboration, communication, teamwork, estimating effort / complexity, and many other skills needed in a production software development environment. The senior project experience has been designed by the faculty to reproduce with reasonable fidelity, the experience of real-world software development within a supervised academic environment. Recognizing the different career paths and interests of our students, there are a couple of different paths available for students to pursue within the course: sponsor projects and startup projects.
Sponsored Senior Projects
Sponsored projects are software projects that are sponsored by organizations outside of the GVSU School of Computing. Often these projects are external corporations, but sometimes they may be other organizations within GVSU, or non-profits. However, all sponsored projects, regardless of the sponsor involve a real software need. Teams of 3-4 students are formed by the faculty and assigned to project proposals, based on student skills and interests. The team is responsible for engaging the client, eliciting the requirements for the project, and delivering the software requested by the end of the semester.
The sponsored project is by far the most common senior project experience for GVSU computer science majors, and representative of the fact that most students who graduate from the program will go on to careers doing software development within the context of established organizations. It requires the students rapidly assimilate the sponsor’s domain and area of expertise, and understand the requirements well enough to be able to develop the desired software.
Startup Senior Projects
While most computer science majors will go on to careers in established organizations, there are students in the program with strong entrepreneurial instincts and aspirations. The “startup” senior project option has been designed by the faculty for these particular students. Students interested in establishing their own “startup” project will need to attempt to form a team (e.g. 3-4 students enrolled in the same section of CIS 467) and pitch to the faculty prior to the start of the semester in which they are enrolled in the course. In addition to a good grasp of what software needs to be developed, the students should also have a handle on similar and/or competing solutions already on the market and why the project they are proposing is a viable one. Startup projects can be pitched by individuals students (who were unable to establish a team) and may be assigned other students by the faculty, should the proposal have merit.
The faculty will coach / mentor the startup team and play the role of a “virtual” investor over the course of the semester. In addition, the faculty will introduce the student team to resources within GVSU’s Applied Computing Institute and other GVSU organizations to help guide them towards an actual startup organization, if the student team decides to continuing pursuing the project beyond the duration of the capstone course.
Next Steps for CS Students
If you are a GVSU CS major anticipating your senior project, your first step is to enroll in CIS 467 course at the appropriate time. If you are unclear as to when you can take the course, see your academic advisor. Once enrolled, you will receive an invitation from your instructor to participate in a skills / inventory survey, prior to the beginning of the semester. It is important that you respond to this survey in a timely manner, as your answers in part will guide the team assignment process. If you are interested in the start up project path, you can approach your section’s instructor (well before the semester begins!) to discuss further, or you can simply wait for an announcement from your instructor soliciting startup project proposals. This is typically sent out 3-4 weeks before the beginning of the semester.
Any questions regarding senior projects, can be directed to the current instructors of the course: Dr. Adams and/or Dr. Engelsma.