CSCE 490 Syllabus

Instructor: Jose M Vidal  <> or @josemvidal in github and gitter.
Contact Information:

  1. Email me at I check my email constantly.
  2. gitter with @josemvidal to ask quick questions.
  3. Office Hours: see my calendar, drop by SWGN 3A51 during the listed Office Hours. Or email me for an appointment.


Text: There is no required textbook for this class. But, you will find my reading recommendations at the end of each one of the Lectures pages. The one book I highly recommend everyone must read is
The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master. You will likely hear me repeating the tips from that book many times.

Course URL:

Meeting Time/Room

No lectures. No labs. Every student must use his/her own laptop, software, find a meeting space, etc. The USC Library provides study rooms.

Every team will meet with me in my office every other week. Meeting times will be scheduled after teams are formed. The typical agenda for these meetings is:

  1. Progress report / demo of your work in the last 2 weeks
  2. Individual reports
  3. Questions / Decisions/ Issues that need my input.

Every team should meet once a week. You should

  1. Send out an agenda before the meeting, just a couple of lines.
  2. Discuss your approach to the next Milestone
  3. Make decisions
  4. Assign tasks
  5. Add these tasks as Issues in github/

Description and Goals

This is the first of a two-semester capstone course in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering for computer engineering, computer science, and computer information systems majors. It is intended to bring together and use many of the concepts and skills learned in other courses in the curriculum.

The official course prerequisites are CSCE 240 (Software Engineering), CSCE 311 (Operating Systems), and either ENGL 462 (Technical Writing) or 463 (Business Writing).

The goals of the course are for you to:

  1. Pursue an independent project under time and resource constraints;
  2. Refine a topic, formulate an approach, and solve a significant technical problem to achieve the project goal;
  3. Organize and work as a team to design and accomplish an independent project under time and design constraints;.
  4. Design a computer based system, consisting of an appropriate mix of software and possibly hardware components, using the techniques, skills, and tools of modern computer system development practice.
  5. Develop effective written and oral skills to communicate among team members as well as with outsiders in a real-world styled environment;

Project teams will be formed very early in the semester. Each team will be responsible for developing the product requirements, designing the product, implementing it, and demonstrating that it works as required.

At the end of the semester each person will also be asked to submit a peer evaluation of his or her teammates and assess their contributions to the project.


All code in git, pushed to github.

We will use github issues. You will add our Milestones.

You will turn in everything else in the github wiki.

IOW, everything you do will be in your github repo. If it is not there, it will not get graded.


The final grade for this class will be calculated as follows:

Item Percentage of Final Grade
M1: Form Teams 2%
M2: Personal Log 2%
M3: Research 5%
M4: Project Description 2%
M5: Rough Designs 2%
M6: Detailed Design 10%
M7: Functional Requirements 10%
M8: Architecture 5%
M9: Source Control 2%
M10: Working Prototype 50%
M11: Presentation and Demo 10%
Personal Contribution up to 100%
Firing a Team member F if you are fired

Most Milestones receive a team grade, meaning everyone in the team receives the same grade. Others are individual, everyone gets an individual grade.

Notice that your personal contribution counts for up to 100% of your final grade. Your personal contribution will be determined by me. I will be looking at:

  • the peer evaluation done by all team members on all their team members, submitted at the end of the semester
  • your personal log wiki page
  • your git log for repo and wiki
  • participation/attendance in team meetings and in our group meetings (in my office)

Note that if your personal contribution to the project is minimal then your grade will reflect that, regardless of what the project itself receives. Thus, it is possible for a student to fail the class even when the students' project receives an A.

Also note that doing the work for someone else or copying code (that is, git-committing code under someone else's name or committing someone else's code under yours) will also result in a formal report to the Office of Academic Integrity, which might lead to expulsion from USC.

But, what if you want to do pair programming? Then you have to create commits with multiple authors.

Firing a team member

The steps to fire a team member are:

  1. Keep a record of the team member's performance: git log, wiki edits, assigned Issues (all of which are automatically kept for you in github), meeting attendance, etc.
  2. Write up the complaint and bring it to me.
  3. Come up with some specific Issues (features) that should get done by the team member, within a 2-3 week period: the deadline.
  4. I give the student a Formal Warning, and tell them they need to get their assigned Issues done by the deadline.
  5. If no significant improvement happens within the deadline then the student fails the class. Yes, the student gets an F in the class.

I recommend you start the firing process at the mid-semester point. If someone has not done anything by that point, they will almost certainly not turn around and will only drag down your team, which will affect your final grade.

If you don't have the time to devote to this class this semester I recommend you drop it. This class takes a lot of time. It is better to graduate a year later than to get an F and graduate a year later anyway.

Academic Integrity

Cheating is giving or accepting unauthorized aid on any assignment, test, or program, not documenting outside sources of information, or falsifying work records. You are expected to know and abide by the “Rule of Academic Responsibility” found in the Carolina Community Student Handbook and Policy Guide. For this class you may work together and help each other to understand course concepts and to learn how to do specific tasks; but project deliverables are to be either your own individual work or the work of your own team as appropriate.
Cheating on a test or copying someone else’s work, will result in a 0 for the work, possibly a grade of F in the course, and, in accordance with University policy, may be referred to the University Committee for Academic Responsibility and may result in expulsion from the University. To avoid academic espionage be careful how you dispose of printed copies of your work and who you show your work to, do not leave disks or thumb drives with copies of your work lying around, and never give anyone else access to you account for any reason.

In this class, using someone else's github account is considered cheating. That is, making a git commit, or pull request, or editing a wiki page, etc., using someone else's account will be treated exactly the same as taking a test for someone else. If it is done with the consent of the other person then both people are equally at fault.