Senior Project


The senior project is an independent project selected and completed under the supervision of a Cal Poly faculty advisor. The student earns 5 academic credits (cpe461/462 or csc491/492) for the project. The rule of thumb for ordinary coursework is that there is usually one in-class hour per week per unit, plus another 2–3 hours outside of class per unit. That means one would expect a five unit course to occupy 15–20 hours/wk, or 150–200 hours over a ten-week quarter. In terms of productivity, that is approximately equivalent to a half-time job for two and a half months. Spread over two quarters, that turns into about one full (8-10 hour) work day per week. In addition to being a substantial amount of work, a senior project should represent a significant educational experience.


There are several factors that make something suitable for a senior project:

  1. Independence: A senior project should be a discrete unit. There should be a well-defined beginning and end of the project as well as clearly-defined criteria for success or failure.
  2. Ownership: The student needs to be the one primarily responsible for the project. This means that the student is directly responsible for the success or failure of the project. (As with most projects, failure is mitigated by additional work: e.g., an analysis of the unforeseen circumstances that caused the failure, etc.)
  3. Research: The project should require the student to do some investigation before implementation. Things to consider: How have others approached this problem? What new technologies will be involved? What new techniques or technologies must the student learn (or invent) to successfully complete this work?
  4. Creativity: The project should require creativity on the part of the student. The solution should not be obvious.


Pitch2Programmers is a hybrid event traditionally held in the late fall. It aims to bring senior students at Cal Poly and stakeholders/advisors/project managers/faculty together for creative and unique learn by doing senior project experiences. This event is just one of many ways that students find senior projects (see FAQ). For more information visit

 Frequently Asked Questions 

  • How do I sign up / enroll (guidelines below – not rules)?
    • If you or a team of students have an idea, then your first step is formalize that idea enough to discuss with faculty in the CSSE Department. It is our jobs to advise senior projects, but please keep in mind that faculty have to consider fit and bandwidth before agreeing to advise a project. This should be done as soon as possible (ideally before the quarter starts). It takes individual initiative. If you would like assistance on beginning please reach out to a faculty member who is familiar with you as a student, the department chair, or the senior project coordinator (Dr. Paul Anderson).
    • If you would like to consider projects pitched at the Pitch2Programmers event, please see the paragraph above for more information. 
    • After an advisor and project stakeholders have been identifier and have agreed to advise or otherwise collaborate on the senior project, please email Leanne Fiorentino at and copy your faculty advisor. You need to indicate whether you would like to enroll in 491+492 or 497+498.  
  • What class should I enroll in? (CSC 491, 492, 497, 498)

    • The answer varies depending on your degree plans. Any student can take either senior project sequence (491+492, or 497+498). Both satisfy the undergraduate degree requirement for senior project. BMS students can also take either, but there are implications. If a BMS student takes 491+492, they MUST also take 596+597 to satisfy the grad requirements. If a BMS student takes 497+498, they CAN’T take 596+597, but must take another 500-level course to satisfy the grad requirements. If you plan on applying for the BMS program, consult a faculty advisor on which course sequence is best for you.

  • When do I need to have a project idea?

    • Before you enroll in senior project.

  • When do I need to enroll by?

    • Before the last day to add for the quarter. Check the deadline schedule for the exact date each quarter.

  • How do I find a faculty advisor?

    • If you have your own project idea, email individual professors to see if they are willing to advise you.

    • If you have a project from pitch2programmers, we will work with you to find an advisor during this process