It’s UCSB Senior Capstone time again!
On June 5, eight teams of Computer Science and Computer Engineering students presented their industry-sponsored projects to the public in an all-day event centering on 22-minute team presentations and a poster event/lunch session.
I am an integral part of the two-quarter Capstone class. Working alongside CS Professor Tim Sherwood and Teaching Assistant Geoff Douglas, my role is to coach the groups for their public presentations. Before any coaching from me, I was coached by the students! I had to work hard to understand the stories behind the project problems and technologies so I could provide honest and instructive feedback.
So let’s break things down a bit. What were the important things about a Capstone presentation that we talked about and practiced?
1. The core message. I urged the groups to think about a few key questions:
What is the real world, concrete problem that you are addressing? What did you develop/create/build to solve your problem? What are the complexities of your solution? What were the technical challenges you faced and how did you resolve them? What specific things are interesting and unique about your solution? If you had more time and support, how would you continue to develop your project?
2. The presentation plan. Organizing a collaborative project effort into a 22-minute talk that tells a complete story and that all group members can agree on is a challenge. This is especially true when you have been working with 3 or 4 other classmates for 6 months; you have other classes and work obligations; and you are a graduating senior and are thinking of new jobs and new graduate school experiences.
We talked first about backward buildup and parsing the talk into its essential components, and then the best order for sequencing the components of the talk. We talked about how each group wanted to introduce itself to the audience and how much preliminary material should be included with these personal introductions.
Since it is a course requirement for each team member to give a portion of the talk, the group had to decide who said what.
And what about the live demo — when in the talk should that happen, and who should be in charge?
3. Visuals. How do you embed visuals into the presentation story and use them in the most excellent way during your talk? How many visuals should there be anyway? What is the best way to transition from the visual you are talking about to the next visual and keep your story moving forward?
4. Delivery. Practice, practice, practice — Introductions, timing, volume, facing, remembering the story, projecting excellence and enthusiasm, the demo, breathing. And preparing for the question and answer session following each talk.
The Capstone students were coached through all of these things.
And more. In addition to creating amazing products and preparing for their presentations and demos, the groups produced beautiful and informative posters for audience participants to look at during the courtyard lunch celebration.
Capstone Presentation Day 2014 was amazing. Congratulations to all of the UCSB Computer Science Capstone students and their industry mentors!