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In this course, we will learn about software engineering by creating a significant piece of software—a large, multi-faceted software system. This will be a team project in which the class will be formed into sub-teams that tackle specific parts of the design, and integrate their pieces into a whole.

We will learn how to design software by reading case studies of large software design projects, considering theory of well-designed software, and reflecting on the design process as our own projects are underway.

From a technical perspective, we will:

  • Discuss requirements elicitation, agile design, the role of documentation, design patterns, test-driven development, the second-system effect, and the role of community / peer-pressure in sotware design.
  • Use the following technologies: Java, MySQL, PostGreSQL, Moodle, PHP
  • Work with source code control

A Bit More...

To generalize, there are two types of software engineering classes: one in which everyone builds the same thing, and one in which everyone builds something different. The former is good because it lets instructors focus in on specific and particular theoretical material. Instructors know exactly what problems you will be encountering as you write code, because they have created the design challenges expressly to expose certain ideas! A great example of this type of class is MIT's course 6.170, Laboratory in Software Engineering.

On the other hand you have courses that are more representative of life in the unstructured real-world, where every project is indeed different. As described by Diane Pozefsky in her Software Engineering Laboratory at UNC, this course is a “faculty-coached team project.” Student teams in this type of class might each have a different client and be working with wholly different software technologies.

Here, we will take a middle ground. Primarily, we will have project implementation as the heart of the class. But we will all be working a joint project, and will share code and technologies.

Required Books

We will use two required books. They are ordered and available now at the UML North Bookstore. Please buy them there to make sure you have them right away:

The Mythical Man-Month, 20th Anniversary Edition (1995)
Frederick P. Brooks
Dreaming in Code (2007)
Scott Rosenberg
This is a landmark book on software engineering. It was written in 1975, but it's based on the experiences of lead designer of the IBM System/360 mainframe project in the 1960s. It was updated 20 years later. The book gets more and more relevant as the years pass, because its core thesis remains true, even as technology advances: adding more people to a late software project makes it even later!!This is a recent study of the design process of Mitch Kapor's Chandler Project, an open-source personal information management system. It's a modern take on what makes software development hard.

There will be other readings, including essays published on the web and material photocopied from out-of-print books. The latter will be handed out in class. The current reading assignment is always here.


This is a project-driven course with a reading component. Discussion, writings, and other reflections on the readings will illuminate your design process as you are engaged in your own software development.

Therefore the projects themselves and the readings/reflections are both important.

The specific deliverables you will be responsible for are:

  1. Tools Setup and Integration Build. This is the proof-of-concept design that implements all of the essential functionality of the iSENSE system.
  2. Pre-Alpha Release. This is the first significant release of the iSENSE system. We will continue to spec out new functionality based on our experience using the release.
  3. Alpha Release. This release will incorporate most of the features we plan to include, and will be usable (if a bit buggy) by project partners.
  4. Beta Release. This release has a feature freeze. Only bug-fixes are allowed after this release.
  5. Version 1.0 Release. This will be used by teachers and students during a summer 2008 workshop.
  6. Documentation.' This includes having your code on the course source code control server, and turning in specific documentation on the design.
  7. Reading reflections. Short, 1-page essays on the assigned readings will be a regular event. Weekly.
  8. Mid-term. Precise placement in semester TBD.

Build Technology

You are free to use your choice of development tools. I will probably demonstrate most stuff typing at the Unix console. Most people seem to like Eclipse.

There will be a CVS or SVN server set up for course use. Instruction on using this will be made available. By the 3rd week all code should live on the server.


Some work will be done individually and other work will be done in pairs.

For project work, teams will be responsible for conceiving work in such a fashion that each person is responsible for a separable portion of the project. A clear division of work, with an API between each person's portion, will be spec'ed out before substantial implementation is undertaken. Students will be responsible for implementing their portion of work as originally agreed. If the design changes dramatically, so that the original definition is no longer applicable, this should be documented and reported as soon as it become apparent.

We will use a course Wiki for each team to post its game releases.

Discussion Group / E-Mail List

We will use Google Groups for class conversation and announcements. Please join this group. I'd advise setting it to send email to you directly.

⚠ (:html:) <table style="border:1px solid #aa0033; font-size:small" align=center> <tr> <td rowspan=3> <img src="" height=58 width=150 alt="Google Groups"> </td> <td colspan=2 align=center><b>Subscribe to 91412-s08</b></td> </tr> <form action=""> <tr> <td>Email: <input type=text name=email></td> <td> <table style="background-color:#ffcc33;padding:2px;border:2px outset #ffcc33;"> <tr> <td> <input type=submit name="sub" value="Request"> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </form> <tr><td colspan=2 align=center> <a href="">Browse Archives</a> at <a href=""></a> </td></tr> </table> (:htmlend:)

The group address is You have to be a member to send to the list.


This course does not have an objective external standard (i.e., curriculum) with respect to which student performance will be measured. Instead, I expect that students will enter the course with different backgrounds and abilities, and I am interested in seeing how you challenge yourself and grow rather than where you end up.

The following schedule will be used in determining course grades:

20%Classroom participation
20%Coding and implementation work
20%Documentation and reporting work
20%Readings and written reflections