McMaster University
Computer Science - Capstone Project

COMP SCI 4ZP6, Term 3 202021


Term 3: Wednesday 14:30-16:20 and Friday 15:30-16:20. Will be virtual both terms.


Dr. J. Carette, ITB-168 , ext 26869, email: carette at mcmaster dot ca.

Teaching Assistant

Ethan Chan (chaneh)

Brendan Fallon (fallonb)

Course Objectives

The calendar description says: Students, in teams of two to four students, undertake a substantial project in an area of computer science by performing each step of the software life cycle. The lecture component presents an introduction to software management and project management.

Prerequisite(s): Registration in Level IV of an Honours Computer Science program, Honours Business Informatics or Honours Computer Science as a Second Degree (B.A.Sc.)

The project will be broken into pieces (requirements, design, prototype and final implementation), each of which will be graded separately, and may also themselves be sub-divided.


  1. Students should know and understand:
    1. Rudiments of software specifications, design, architecture, implementation and testing.
    2. Need to be able to put software together using frameworks and libraries.
    3. Experience working on a team.
  2. Students should be able to
    1. write software requirements
    2. write tests and test plans
    3. pick up a new programming language
    4. use revision control, issue tracker, wiki

Learning Objectives

  1. Students should know and understand
    1. Basic project managament concepts.
  2. Students should be able to
    1. Gather requirements from an advisor
    2. Put these requirements together into a coherent proposal that captures the problem which needs to be solved, as well as a plan of attack.
    3. Design a solution to this problem, and document it.
    4. Implement a solution to the problem, and document it.
    5. Plan, perform and document validation and verification of their implementation with respect to their requirements.
    6. Explain (orally) the problem, the solution, and the adequacy of the solution. If the solution is software, demo it.
    7. Produce a set of precise, consistent and usable documents for the resulting project.

Electronic Materials

The latest version of this outline and the most "up-to date" information as well as hand-outs can be found on the course web page. (Or go to my home page and then to the course page).

Every group will be assigned a gitlab repository (shared with the TAs and the professor) for all of their work. Optionally, you may use a public github repo for the same purpose.

The issue tracker will be used for some communication. Other means (like Discord) will be used as well.


There are 3 kinds of projects that you may embark on

  1. Industry/community proposed
  2. Faculty-member proposed
  3. Self proposed
Generally, it is easiest to satisfy an external customer, second-easiest for a McMaster faculty member as client, and hardest when you are "recruiting" a faculty member to supervise a project they are only somewhat interested in. There is a list of proposed projects.

Note that in all cases, it is possible to do a software development project (the most common) but also a 'research project' whose end result is a research paper.


The deliverable schedule is below. Dates in the future are approximate, but will not be changed without advance warning. Associated grade in parentheses. These may be (slightly) adjusted in the future. 0% grades will not ever change.

  1. Form groups: Sep. 18 (0%)
  2. Select project with a supervisor: Sept. 25 (0%)
  3. 2 page project summary and problem to be solved description. Oct. 2 (5%)
  4. Self-Reflection (see below for details) (3%)
    1. At start. Sep. 30th. (1%)
    2. Middle (early Jan) (1%)
    3. End (April 8) (1%)
  5. Requirements specification, Oct 9 (11%)
  6. Ongoing: summary of meetings with 'client', every 2 weeks. (5%)
  7. Prototype 1.0, Oct 28 (7%)
  8. Design, Nov 18 (9%)
  9. Prototype 2.0 (10%)
  10. Internal and external testing (10%)
  11. Final version (10%)
  12. Internal Demo (5%)
  13. Faculty of Engineering Capstone Day (materials due April 5th, showcase on April 8th) (25%)

Each deliverable will be graded. There will be individual grades too in that some of the deliverables above will have pieces that are individually done pieces.


Learning does not happen through experience alone but rather as a result of thinking about what you learned through reflecting on it.

"The role of reflection is to generate learning through connecting theory to practice; deepen learning by challenging students’ thinking; document learning by producing tangible expressions of new understanding gained through integrating experience and disciplinary knowledge -Ash & Clayton, 2009

In this course, you are asked to reflect on your experience of applying your disciplinary knowledge to your Capstone project. Specifically, the reflection assignments ask you to articulate your learning through the process of applying your specialized engineering-based knowledge to your Capstone project. Your ability to articulate your process and your learning will help you to better communicate your skills and competencies to future employers.

Each of the three self-reflection assignments are individual assignments. Each reflection assignment will be posted on Avenue. These are required course elements that must be satisfactorily completed to pass the course. You will be provided with a rubric that will be used to mark each reflection assignment so that you are aware of the criteria that must be met. All reflections should be written in Times New Roman Font, 12 pt, with 1in margins, single space. You are encouraged to do a free write/first draft that includes all your ideas. Edit your writing so that you are sure to succinctly address the reflection prompt within the word limit prior to submitting your assignment on Avenue.


Schedule Changes

At certain points in the course it may make good sense to modify the schedule. The instructor may modify elements of the course and will notify students accordingly (using the standard communication mechanisms used for the class).


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The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:


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September 2020