Mentored Projects: A new venture from those that bought you GDC Meet a Mentor

Mentored Projects in association with RecWorks is a spin off initiative from the GDC Meet a Mentor series, it is an effort to help more students receive mentoring from industry during their final year projects.

As part of the GDC’s attempts to get engagement between Academia and Industry we are trying to encourage the amount of industrial projects taken on by 3rd years at University. We have been told by Universities that there is a shortage of projects so we’re trying to help make some connections.

I’m looking to hear from companies whom have projects that they could offer students to complete as part of their third year studies. This could suit any companies from a startup to a bluechip. I have compiled a brief FAQ to explain how this will work.

1. What kind of project would be suitable? Do you have some examples of projects?
2. What is the process?
3. Will it cost anything?
4. What is the mentoring? How much time is required?
5. Could you please let me know when the project would start and how long would it take?
6. How do I get involved?

1. What kind of project would be suitable?

One question that I have found helps you understand what you would add is to consider “What would help you in your day to day job that you could build if given a few weeks spare time?”

Research I have done has said that a project should fit the following criteria:

Projects definitely should
– Project must be something which the student can write up in a report of about 50 pages where the student can explain the background, his or her original intellectual contribution, and have something at the end that can be demonstrated.
– A project must start not just with an end goal in terms of an implementation which will be produced, but also with a fairly clear idea of the computer science needed to reach it.
– A project should have an easy target to reach, so that it’s a reasonable expectation that almost any student taking it and putting some work in would get there, but if they get no further it’s a low grade pass. It should also be extendable with more advanced targets so that a strong student can exceed expectations and so be awarded a high grade.

Projects definitely should not
– Projects should not be very routine tasks which simply cannot be turned into a project report.

Guidance on setting a high risk or low risk project
– The most interesting projects tend to be “high risk” projects, where there’s really good scope for taking them forward and demonstrating exceptional ability and getting a very high grade, but also some big central challenge that needs to be mastered to get anywhere with it (e.g. research in novel programming languages) and the risk that if it isn’t, the project fails. These are balanced by “low risk” projects, which are the more routine ones, easier at least to get something which gets a reasonable grade from them, but hard to find a way to take them forward that would justify a really high mark.

Example projects

i) Android app
iOS 6.0 has a built-in privacy monitor, that tracks which applications access which data on  the iPhone. On Android, there is no such built-in monitor, but monitoring applications exist, e.g. Taintdroid. The goal of this project is to go beyond monitoring, but notifies users about what data applications access and report it to the user.

ii) Javascript measurements
JavaScript is a very versatile language, especially for web developers. Recently, it has also been used to carry out network measurements. In this project, you will extend existing tools that perform various network measurements, e.g., delay, throughput, DNS latency. See: http://coding.smashingmagazine.com/2011/11/14/analyzing-network-characteristics-using-javascript-and-the-dom-part-1/

iii) GUI for Predicting Risk of Death in Emergency Surgery
Trauma surgeons have to make numerous critical decisions very rapidly in short amount of time. Consequently, quick and clear communication of the risks is necessary. The aim of this project is to develop a graphical interface to display risk information. The interface will gather the required inputs from the user, and present the calculated risks. Innovative ways of presenting risks with various graphs will be investigated since time and clarity are crucial for this project.
There is an option to develop the interface using web technology, with the front end running on tablet.
Skills needed: understanding of bayesian nets, programming for interface (Java Swing or web based).
Difficulty: intermediate

iv) Front End Design (User Interface) for charity sector. A Tool to select, edit and purchase marketing material to help the worldwide charity sector
Motivation/Objective: For charities to get the best from this system the easy and accessibility of the user interface will make or break this project. Anyone from anywhere in the world needs to be able to interact and use our system to create what they need with easy and with little skill.
Skills Needed: Aesthetic flair, HTML5, JQuery, MySQL, user interface understanding.

v) A tool to retrieve and browse templates and marketing material to help the worldwide charity sector
Motivation/Objective: The project will require the logging and defining of each piece of material to determine whether a person can search by subject, colour, theme, style, size and more. This will make the searching function the system key in helping people find what they need quickly and efficiently.
Skills Needed: HTML5, JQuery, MySQL, user interface understanding, database experience, user interface understanding.

vi) A tool to define and set editable parameters and areas for each piece of material
Motivation/Objective: Each piece of material will come in with areas that are to be editable. A system is needed to upload each project and define the areas and setting for each area. Picture, text, colour, font, logos and more will all need to have areas defined and the back end system for these settings needs to be created so that these areas can be defined and then the design is to be uploaded into the front end system.
Skills Needed: HTML5, JQuery, MySQL, user interface understanding, user interface understanding.

2. What is the process?

Write a quick brief as per the above examples, specifying example what you would like to have completed. Send it through to Barry Cranford – bc@recworks.co.uk
We will then introduce you to the University (There will not be a necessity to meet with or interview the university etc.)
The University will send the brief around to other academics who will partner with you on the project
Students will then be invited to bid for the project

3. Will it cost anything?

The introduction is completely free of charge both from the university and from RecWorks involvement as far is the project is concerned. If you are considering working with the candidate beyond the project please discuss this with RecWorks beforehand.

4. What is the mentoring? How much time is required?

There is an inherent risk for the student so at least one contact at a company must be prepared to engage and support the student throughout the project. They must be prepared to mentor the candidate accordingly providing advice and guidance where necessary.

In terms of involvement we are probably looking at a few hours per week or fortnightly and answering emails in between sessions, that kind of thing.

This will obviously be more involved at the beginning, with gathering requirements and helping with the design, afterwards it is more a case of pointing the students to the right resources (books, online tutorials etc.) and helping them if they get stuck, maybe time for a demo of certain milestones.

Overall, it should be more about the engagement than about time – i.e. for the students to feel that they are building something useful and that someone in the company actually wants.

5. Could you please let me know when the project would start and how long would it take?

Final year projects are agreed by mid October and then are completed by late April/early May

6. How do I get involved?

In the first instance please email me and let me know what project you have in mind or any questions you have on bc@recworks.co.uk

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