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Computer Science Capstone Courses Supported By Industry Current Software Tools

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Capstone Courses II

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.343.1 - 11.343.8



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Paper Authors


John Fernandez Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

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Dr. Fernandez is Assistant Professor of Computer Science in the Department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences. Having served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and 10 years in private industry, Dr. Fernandez brings real-world experiences into the classroom for his students. His research interests are in HCI, information assurance, and software engineering.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Computer Science Capstone Courses Supported By Industry-Based Software Tools


Service learning or civic engagement is a goal being pursued by many institutions of higher education. This goal is addressed by computer science (CS) and information technology (IT) programs which encourage or require some form of real world experience. However, students in computer science and in other science fields are not typically attracted by community or real world projects. Faculty and staff in these disciplines have a responsibility to connect students with the community and the world that they will support upon graduation. This paper describes a paradigm for community-based capstone courses that uses industry-sanctioned software engineering support tools. A discussion of the supporting pedagogical approaches used for very successful capstone projects that have been completed by computer science students at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (A&M-CC) are presented. Challenges associated with the software products are presented as well as solutions that use industry grade software development support tools for the entire life cycle. The capstone course experience can truly be the capstone of a student’s education, while also having a beneficial impact on the community.

Conflict of Mindsets: Traditional Versus Engaging

The author has several years of experience developing and managing the development of systems for many organizations, and can attest to the existence of a certain mindset among CS professionals7. Even while teaching software engineering courses, the author has heard comments from students, such as, “users are idiots.” Obviously, these comments are meant as jokes, but it is clear that many students carry a bit of an attitude against the non-computer-oriented community. In the past 25 years, little has changed in the attitudes of students pursuing degrees in computer science or software engineering. In fact, little has changed since the NATO conference which was the genesis of software engineering.

It is a fact that the majority of computer science graduates will not be developing large NATO-type projects, but rather much smaller systems with interactive components. Therefore, a user-centered development methodology like human-computer interaction (HCI) is a much needed discipline within all computer science programs. This discipline is the basis for an engaging mindset. A detailed discussion of this topic may be found in Fernandez7. However, one should mention some of the most commonly cited authors in this area: Preece et al.12, Shneiderman & Plaisant16, McCracken and Wolfe11 and Rosson & Carroll14.

Conflict of Mindsets: Programming Versus Analysis & Design

Alan Cooper relates his experience with programming as such a difficult and absorbing task that it dominates all other considerations, including the concerns of the user4. Fernandez provides an approach to close the gap with user-centered software engineering or HCI education6. However, the challenges are bigger than this. In fact we can safely state that the concerns are international in scope.

From the author’s experience, most computer science students and professionals believe that programming is the most important skill that should be emphasized. One student commented, after

Fernandez, J. (2006, June), Computer Science Capstone Courses Supported By Industry Current Software Tools Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--958

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