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Applying Scrum to Manage a Senior Capstone Project

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Software Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Software Engineering Division

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Paper Authors


Zesheng Chen Indiana University Purdue University, Fort Wayne

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Dr. Chen is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2005 and 2007. He also holds B.E. and M.E. degrees from the Department of Electronic Engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China in 1998 and 2001, respectively. He worked as an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Florida International University from 2007 to 2009. He moved to Fort Wayne in 2009 and worked as a limited term lecturer in the Department of Engineering and in the Department of Computer Science from 2009 to 2015 at Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne. He also worked as a software engineer at TransWorks from 2012 to 2015.

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Project management is essential for the success of software engineering projects. Typical challenges for a senior capstone project of computer science students include: (1) misalignment between the software project and customers' requirements, i.e., what students build is not what the customers want; (2) late or delayed development of the project, i.e., students procrastinate to develop and test the product; and (3) uneven distribution of workloads, i.e., some students spend much less time and efforts than their teammates in the project.

To mitigate these challenges, we applied the Scrum methodology to manage a senior capstone project that started from Summer 2015 and ended at the end of Spring 2016. The goal of this project is to create a Web application for the Department of Audio Reading Service at the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) at Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Web application is designed to be used by ACPL to collect the information of library users with a physical impairment that makes it difficult for them to hold a book or turn pages such as stroke, Parkinson’s, and arthritis, or with a visual or reading impairment, including any individual that is unable to read conventional printed material because of blindness, low-vision, or a literacy issue. The project needs to provide an easy-to-access interface for users to input their data such as access to service, service type, demographics, and customer satisfaction. Moreover, the project should deliver Web functionalities that allow ACPL to store, retrieve, and analyze users' data (e.g., users' profile and other survey data) through Web browsers and mobile devices. The designed Web application is expected to help ACPL better serve users with disabilities.

Our capstone project applied the Scrum methodology. Different from the traditional waterfall management, Scrum does not focus on the details of the up-front plan and does not attempt to closely follow a predetermined plan. Instead, Scrum is an agile approach for developing innovative products and can adapt to users' requirement changes quickly. Currently, Scrum is an industry standard for building business software.

Following the principles of the Scrum method, we worked closely with ACPL and set up monthly meetings to allow ACPL to review what we built and give us timely feedback. Moreover, we adopted the incremental development idea and attempted to implement and test an increment each month. Under the spirit of daily Scrum, the advisor met students weekly to discuss the progress of the project and assign tasks to them. Through the project, we applied the online tool, Pivotal Tacker, to track the project progress, and GitHub to control software versions and bug fixes.

We find that the Scrum method contributed significantly to the success of the senior capstone project. ACPL is very happy about what we have built and delivered. The software product has been put into public use and is currently serving people with disabilities. Moreover, the students in the project gained experience on building a real-world software product and working as an efficient team. Therefore, we believe that Scrum serves as a better project management method than waterfall for undergraduate senior capstone projects in computer science.

Chen, Z. (2017, June), Applying Scrum to Manage a Senior Capstone Project Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27605

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