Still Life

A Series of Mental Snapshots

Fourth Year Systems Design Engineering Project: My uwaterloo classes

Posted by Steve on October 26, 2008

A little background is in order for those unfamiliar with engineering at waterloo. First off is to explain this whole fourth year project business. In not too much detail, the project is done in the fourth (and final year) of engineering at Waterloo and is something that is done by all all engineering departments. The project spans the last two school terms (8 months) and the only requirement is that it has an acceptable amount of engineering content.  Now as a student in Systems design (SYDE for short) I have already done two projects similar to this, the only real difference is that they only lasted 4 months instead of 8. The project is usually done in groups of at most 2-3 but I am going at my project alone.

The main problem that I have chosen to tackle revolves around the information that is available to students when they are attempting to find information on different classes that they could potentially take at UW. I have come up with a problem statement, which is part of my Design Plan , it is as follows:

Students at the University of Waterloo are subject to an undergraduate class system that is less
than ideal; information is disjoint, there are no reviews for classes, there is no search feature,
rendering it difficult to plan out a university career. A successful solution will allow a user to
easily and quickly ascertain the quality of a class and enable them to plan their university careers
such that a university student requires reduced effort in choosing courses.

I have told quite a few people about my project, and the first response from those outside of Waterloo is surprise at how inadequate the current system is. I personally have had tons of trouble with finding classes that I want to take. The only hard information that is offered is the schedule of classes that tells you when classes are and the undergraduate calendar which provides you with an at most 4 line description of a course. In my experience a four line, antiquated description of a course is not nearly sufficient when I am selecting a class that I am paying close to $1000 to take. This is jus the tip of the ice berg to the problems that are with the current system, for more details read over my design plan, or leave me a comment and I will be more than happy to elaborate.

The solution that I am planning to implement is another web based application, but one that addresses the major difficiencies that I see. My web application will allow users to: rate classes, upload course informaion, view the schedule along with the description in a single location, plan out their whole university career and search the database of classes. These are the main areas that I am focusing on for now, if I finish faster than I anticipate, then I will be tackling a few other issues that I have identified!

The plan is to create the web application using the Django framework, so it will mainly be python based. For scripting needs I will most likely be using Ruby because that is where I have the most experience. For database needs I anticipate using MySQL. I have actually already scraped all of the information that I require from the current uwaterloo pages and placed into an excel table, just until I get the MySQL database setup.

I will be making posts here and there about the project, the first most likely being on the scraping script as I feel some of the things I learned from it might be useful to others!  If you want more info check out my Design Plan.



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