Projects involve more than one individual. They apply several different skills to an overall goal. Engineering and programming skills can be promininent, but so can systems analysis, operations research, market-research, or management. In a project's initial phase, evaluating what a client or customer needs is a very valuable component of the overall work. After a design is completed marketing or sales services, cost-benefit analysis, and other economic considerations from implementing the system could require much more to be in a project document than simply a discussion of software or hardware developed. Copyrights, patents, and assessment of government regulations, involve working with lawyers, and a project can supply the needed technological base to do that ... or not include relevant information that may be necessary to bring about commercial success.
In twelve ten-week terms from six to forty students came to choose and work on their own projects. Students in the project design course formed teams and became acquainted with working on a task involving cooperation with other people. Most of those involved were senior computer science students. But some have had training in electrical, mechanical, manufacturing engineering and medicine. Usually the people who come together have no initial concept of what they actually will work on jointly nor try to accomplish as individuals. Students' training and interests differ. As individuals initially they focus on a variety of things.
Since all need partners, participants must act in informal and formal ways. Dialog in small groups starts the process of discussing a possible joint effort. Talks about possible work delivered to the entire class are useful as ways to recruit partners. Writing about specifics begins with individual statements on a possible group task. To get others involved participants will exchange drafts and comment in writing and by small group discussions on what they have read.
Requiring project participants to consider and reflect on the above is at the heart of the course. Student willingness to learn, to work hard, and to share knowledge with one-another makes the classroom and other project interactions succeed.
Alternatives are part of the project. Is there any reason to prefer one technical solution to another? Is there added cost for certain approaches or solutions? Can the partners or peers suggest more than one approach? [Several solutions changes the work dynamic.] Finding a solution leads to satisfaction and ultimately professional reward. When there are several, the task of analyzing which is best, finding the rationale to back up that decision, can drive the work. Hence, a good project report clearly presents why the design solution is preferrable in comparison with the alternatives. It states what are any advantages of the proposed solution. It lists key design parameters so that if some things should change, e.g., relative values of national currencies, production costs could be evaluated. A convincing project report answers questions. It justifies further investments or expenditure of resources, such as design time, money to be invested. These things need to be the consensus of the several people contributing to the final product.
Titles, Telegraphic Writing, Descriptive Project Title, Goals, Task Description, Requirements Statement, Specifications.
Project Statement, Work Statement, Progress Reports.
Tables, Figures, Graphs, Appendices, Flow Charts, Schematic Diagrams.
Technical Talks, Project Presentations, Recruiting Partners, Design Reviews, Working Updates, Explanations of Choices, Sales Pitches.
Organizing, Recording Items in a Dated Signed Notebook, Protecting Intellectual Property.
Bibliography, Reference Lists, Citing World Wide Web Items, Computer-Based and Hardcopy Information Sources, Journals, Magazines, National Newspapers.
Deliverables, Project Planning, Milestones, Pert Charts.Facing-Page Exposition, Proposals, Budgets, and Business Plans.
Think in original terms. Question things.
Use the newest technology todo something that hasn't been possible before.Questioning [Improving Creating in the Workplace, Max M. Feibelman.]
Develop and use illustrations and examples.
Be sure the things being done yield some concrete demonstration understandable by others.
Rewrite each other's drafts until the wording seems clear to a typical nontechnical person such as a Congressperson.
Everything can be improved.