CSC 103: How Computers Work

Final Project

Due: Wednesday May 4 at 11:59pm on Moodle


The first part of the final project is an in-class oral presentation. The goal of this presentation is to give you experience with public speaking and communicating complex ideas. The requirements for the final presentation are as follows:

  1. It should be 5 minutes long maximum (I will have a timer to keep us on schedule). This will allow a few minutes afterward for questions and transition to the next speaker.

  2. You may have 5 slides maximum (I said 3 in class, but I think 1 minute per slide is reasonable).

  3. The first slide should include your project title, your name, and the date. You may also include visuals or discuss motivation as part of the first slide.

  4. If your project requires a lot of background or it seems appropriate, you may include another slide of introduction/history/context.

  5. One-two slides should include the most interesting technical thing you have learned as part of your research into your topic. You don't need to be broad for the talk - choose one thing and explain it well. Since most people in the audience will have no knowledge of your topic, try to introduce the topic at a high level, but think of a way to quickly talk about something complex. Think about ways to use analogies or tie the material to something we have talked about in class.

  6. One slide should be a conclusion and/or what you plan to finish as part of your writeup.

  7. For all your slides, think about how to move away from text and convey material visually. I recommend using PowerPoint.

  8. If you want to use layered slides, that's fine and it can count as one slide, but please don't go overboard! No embedded videos.

  9. It will count toward your participation grade to ask questions after each student's presentation. Presenters love questions, it helps them understand what was or was not conveyed and means someone is paying attention. Please ask questions - you'll appreciate it when you're the presenter and others ask you questions.

Submitting your slides: you MUST email me your slides (as a PDF file only, you can convert a PowerPoint project to PDF in "Save As") before 11am on the day of your presentation. If you do not email me your slides before then, you will have to do your presentation on the whiteboard.

Schedule: this schedule was generated using the Python "" program I demoed earlier. Please let me know ASAP if for some reason you cannot present on the day assigned to you.

Monday April 25 Wednesday April 27
Lina Zheng
Ji Won Maxine
Hannah K. Claudia
Tasha Maddie W.
Raphi Allison
Maddie G. Jul
Betty Ava
Dardalie Emily
Alexis Meaghan
Echo Hannah H.


For the second part of the final project, you'll write up the results of your research in a document. This is to practice a different set of skills: reading and understanding primary literature, communicating complex ideas in a written form, distilling information, and developing your own perspective and ideas about a topic. This is all in addition to the goal of learning how computers work! The requirements for the final project writeup are as follows:
  1. 5 pages maximum (including figure(s) but excluding references).

  2. 12 point font (Times New Roman), 1.5 spaces, 1 inch margins all around. Section headings may be bold or in a larger font.

  3. You do not have to stick to this exactly, but a good outline for your paper could be: introduction, methods, results, and conclusions. These section titles may not work for each topic (other sections could be: history, motivation, future prospects, etc).

  4. In the introduction, explain the background of our topic and how it relates to this class. You are welcome to include information about why you chose this topic and/or any other broader motivation for why this topic is interesting or useful.

  5. There should be at least one technical aspect of the project that you explain in detail, imagining that your reader had know knowledge of this class or any background in computer science.

  6. You must include at least one figure created by you, that furthers your explanation. You are also welcome to include equations if they further this purpose.

  7. For the conclusion, provide the reader with a main takeaway of your research. Discuss the implications of the work you investigated and whether or not this is relevant today. If appropriate, discuss what you see as the future of your topic/field, supported by your research.
Submit your paper as a PDF file on Moodle.


Include 5-10 primary literature references (journal articles, books, etc), in addition to any other websites or popular science articles. Include in-line citations with a number, i.e. [17]. Alphabetize your citations or include them in the order they appear in the text (either way is fine). An example citation is included in the board photos.

Honor Code

A reminder of the Smith College Honor Code:

"Smith College expects all students to be honest and committed to the principles of academic and intellectual integrity in their preparation and submission of course work and examinations. All submitted work of any kind must be the original work of the student who must cite all the sources used in its preparation."