Senior Projects with Dave



General philosophy

This is your opportunity to explore a topic that interests you — something inspired by your course work that you want to dig into more deeply, something that was never covered and you want to learn, etc. In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is squander this chance by choosing some lame project. Identify what you want to spend your time — at least 140 hours of your life! — pursing.

Dave's expectations

My role is to advise, not babysit. I expect you to be self motivated, seek assistance (in a timely fashion) when you need it, work diligently, and be prepared to invest upwards of 140 hours on the project.

Meet with me regularly

You shall meet with me once every two weeks (more often, as needed) and give me a status update. Be prepared to show me the work you have done since our last meeting. These meetings are to ensure you are making steady progress and to give me an opportunity provide timely guidance. That you haven't accomplished anything since the last meeting is not a valid excuse for skipping a meeting.

Deadlines and deliverables

Senior project presentations (to the course coordinator) typically occur during the last full week of the semester (this is determined by the project coordinator, not me, so what ever s/he tells you goes) -- which means you must complete and demonstrate your project to me and provide me with all the deliverables listed below, no later than the end of the week before the final presentations.

You will track your work and your brainstorming in a logbook. Every time you work on the project, you are to add an entry in the log (with date and time) summarizing what you did. You are to bring the logbook to all meetings (I may do unannounced inspections). I will certainly ask for it at the end of the term — where part of your project grade will be based upon how well you logged your activities.
Final report
The senior project coordinator defines the contents of the final report. You will prepare an "extended version" for me, which contains three additional sections:
  1. What was the greatest challenge that you faced and how did you handle it?
  2. Evaluate your learning experience
  3. What grade you you believe you deserve and why?
A copy of the project
On a CD &mdash labeled with your name, year/semester, and project name — I want:
  1. Precompiled, ready to run program
  2. Source code
  3. All libraries necessary to build and run your project
  4. Compilation instructions
  5. User's manual
Senior project evaluation form
The coordinator has a form for me to report your grade; you will need to print out a hardcopy and fill out your parts.

After your project demo, we will arrange another meeting to discuss your paper and final grade. At that time I will return your logbook and the project evaluation form. I will keep the extended report and CD.

Going for honors?

You will need to do a separate honors thesis — which may be based on your senior project. However, if your academic advisor tells you that your regular senior project paper will be sufficient, they fib! The format/contents of the senior project final report are not consistent with a thesis. (Think about it: all the colleges require an honors thesis — why on earth would they explicitly require something that they really didn't intend for you to do?)

The honors thesis must be scholarly. Some discuss an experimental methodology and report of results; others survey other work that has been done in an area and compare it with the work the student did. There is no one-size-fits-all description: it would depend on the nature of your project. Should you select me to head your honors committee, I will of course provide guidance on what form your thesis should take.

This website is an original work, Copyright © 2006 by Dave Small. All rights reserved.