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Final Year Projects for CS students at UT Dallas 07 November, 2011

Dr. Jey Kesavan Veerasamy
Dr. Jey Kesavan
Veerasamy

Dr. Jey Kesavan Veerasamy, Director of CS UT Design Program & Teaching Faculty, Department of Computer Science, Erik Jonsson School, UT Dallas, interacted with universities on 7th November 2012 via A-VIEW on “Final Year Projects for CS Students at UT Dallas”.

Industry Projects

At UT Dallas, students get to do industry projects in their senior year. This gives them exposure to real world problems and to potential employers after their bachelors program. For Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering students, these projects would be of one year duration and for Computer Science Students, the projects would run for six months.

Kick off Meeting

The projects start with companies pitching to UT Dallas for industry projects. At this phase, the companies would describe the problem statement, objectives and deliverables for the project. Based on these details, students fill out a project proposal. This entire process is termed “Kick off Meeting”.

Following this meeting, students prepare a design for the project, prepare a prototype and make a final report on the project. Students are also made to sign NDA document and all the IP generated out of the project would belong to the companies.

Company Mentor

A person from the company would act as a technical contact for the project. This person would guide the students on all the technical matters and provide feedback to the students on a regular basis. For CS students at UT Dallas, there are weekly or biweekly meetings between the students and the mentor, where deliverables for the past weeks and plans for the coming weeks are discussed. These meetings would continue throughout the semester.

Three month long interview

Dr. Veersamy calls the project a three month long interview where the students and the companies could rate each other before they consider hiring.

Student teams are four members strong and are paid $8000 for the tenure of the project by the company. This makes the companies serious about the project and considers the deliverables important.

Project Pitch

Companies approach UT Dallas a couple of months before the semester to pitch for student projects. In the first two weeks of the semester, companies present their project proposals to students and let the students pick their favourite projects.

Students prepare project milestones and execute the project as per plan. At the completion of the semester, students prepare presentations and posters on their projects. The local industries at Texas area attend these meetings. The best projects are awarded.

Observations

Dr. Veerasamy shared a few observations out of managing 65 successful student projects over a span of 2.5 years.

  • It is hard to do remote projects with 100% effectiveness. So, the companies should not keep their expectations from students too high.
  • Since students cannot graduate without a decent grade in their project work, lethargic teams are warned to get their act correct.
  • Weekly meetings where progress of the projects is discussed are an important factor in deciding the success of the projects.
  • The industry is given a choice – Hire an intern or sponsor a project. If the companies require a lot of coding and ground work, it is best to hire an intern. However, in cases of design and problem solving, it is best to sponsor a project.

A few scenarios to keep in mind

  • Students can put in a maximum of 10 hours of work per week. So, companies who look at these projects as cheap labour are in for a shock.
  • UT Dallas do not accept critical path projects. If a mission critical project is assigned to students, the success of the project cannot be guaranteed. However, too small projects are also not healthy.
  • Too soft industry mentors cannot get much done from students.
  • Big companies usually give very small or unimportant projects to the students. Ideally it is best to look out for small or mid size companies as the students’ work could become a part of the company’s deliverables.
  • It is possible for students to work on their own entrepreneurial projects, with case by case approval.

What can be done in India?

Colleges could start with simple industry projects for which they could contact alumni from the college. One question to keep in mind is whether to charge companies or not. It is best to mix superstar students with average students for optimum results.

Students should cultivate a passion for programming. They should move from notepad and turbo C++ to innovative programming platforms like netbeans and alice.

To make students excited about projects, it would be good to showcase the projects made my senior students. Students should be encouraged to take up industry projects during semester breaks and the staff and teachers should be genuinely interested in getting students industry ready.

Around 30 universities including Bihar Central University, IIIT Hyderabad and Punjab Technical University attended the talk.

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