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CM30076 / CM30082
Individual Project

Project Ideas

Dr Carsten Fuhrmann


A CASE tool for student projects
CASE stands for ``Computer Aided Software Engineering''. Software engineering involves various activities: specification, design, implementation, validation, evolution; depending on the nature of the software project, these activities are arranged in some SOFTWARE PROCESS MODEL, for example, the ``waterfall model'' or ``evolutionary development''. Along the way, documents are produced: requirement analysis and specification, description of the design, user and system documentation etc. A CASE tool helps the software engineer to organize and carry out the activities and produce the documents and the code.
Typical student projects, e.g. final-year and MSc projects, are a special kind of software project whose development follows well-known patterns: the final document produced is a dissertation with certain standard chapters, the deadline is known, the planning process always involves a supervisor, and so on.
The goal of this project is to create a CASE tool that helps students to carry out their final-year or MSc projects, for example by providing a facility for choosing a software process model (as mentioned above), scheduling the activities, controlling the progress, producing the documentation, and putting all documentation and code together into a thesis in WORD or LaTeX.
An editor for proof-nets
Proof-nets are a user-friendly way to present logical proofs in graphical form. In 2004, our MSc student Yifan Xie wrote a convincing editor that allows the user to create and validate such proof-nets.
However, there are still desirable features left to implement: most importantly, the possibility to simplify proof-nets automatically; but also an undo function, and the possibility to print the proof-nets in publishable form.
The goal of this project is to add some of these features, building on the code of Yifan Xie. (The code is in good shape.)
Pre-requisite knowledge: a student undertaking this project should have enjoyed the more mathematical courses offered in computer science and - in particular, `COMP0019: Computation III: Introduction to Formal Logic and Semantics' - and should be planning to take 'CM30071: Application of Logic'. The project also requires good programming skills, basic knowledge of parsing, and an interest in the design of graphical user-interfaces.
An email client with hierarchical views
This project is about improving email clients by `views'. A `view' in an email client is a criterion for selecting the visible messages (see e.g. 'views' in Outlook, Mozilla, 'searches' in Kmail, or 'virtual folders' in Ximian Evolution). Ideally, view is the same as a search which has been stored for re-use. Views are a very useful, because they eliminate the users' need to sort messages into folders. In particular, this eliminates the danger of mis-filing messages. (This is also the philosophy behind Google's GMail - "search, don't sort".)
Many email clients do not support views, but even those that do suffer from the problem that new views cannot be built from existing ones.
The goal of this project is to build a graphical email client that allows the user to not only create views like "sender is John", but also build views from other views by using logical connectives like "and", "or", "not". For example, consider the following definitions of views:
  • Person X = (sender is X) or (recipient is X)
  • John = Person "John"
  • Claire = Person "Claire"
  • Fred = Person "Fred"
  • People = John or Claire or Fred
  • Friends = People and not Fred.
"Person X" is a view that shows the bidirectional email exchange with Person X. John, Claire, and Fred are views built in this way. For example, when the user wants to see all their communications with John, they invoke the view "John". Similarly, when the user wants to see all their communications with their friends, they invoke the view "Friends"
There should be a convenient way for users to create, edit, and invoke views.
Good work on this project has already been done by the former MSc student Yuen Chan. The idea now is to refine that work and design an graphical user interface that appeals to typical users.
Pre-requisite knowledge: good programming skills (the use of Java is very likely)
A Java board game API
The idea is to provide a Java Application Programming Interface (API) that enables a Java programmer to implement new board games quickly by using your API's classes and interfaces.
For example, there may be classes called:
  • "Board", which allows the implementation of a game board,
  • "Move", which describes a Player's move,
  • "Strategy", which describes a computer strategy, and which essentially maps Boards to Moves.
There should be features like "load game", "save game", "undo move", and the possibility to let the computer play against itself (using two different strategies). An optional feature would be the implementation of an optimal strategy for ANY game that assigns scores to board situation. This could be implemented by a technique called "alpha-beta search" (also "minimax search").
The usefulness of the API should be demonstrated by using it to implement at least three SIMPLE games, like Tic-Tac-Toe or Connect-Four. The point is to demonstrate that your API nicely captures the common elements of board games, and any Java programmer who is interested in implementing a board game would have an easier time if they used your API.
Pre-requisite knowledge: This project requires an excellent understanding of object-oriented programming, and Java in particular, because the code you produce is not aimed at end-users, but at PROGRAMMERS who build on it.
Indicative reading: To get an idea of alpha-beta search, look at http://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~cs251/OldCourses/1997/topic11/
Learning tools for computability lectures
As a final-year student, you probably remember how hard it was in the beginning to understand Turing machines, or abacus machines, or mu-recursive functions.
I am interested in learning software that makes it easier for students understand these topics. For example, one could produce a simulator that allows the user to enter a program for an abacus machine and then visualizes the program execution. Or similarly for Turing machines or recursive functions.
Optimally, such a teaching tool should encourage students to experiment, and thereby learn in a playful way.
Pre-requisite knowledge: good programming skills, basic knowledge of parsing, interest in designing graphical user interfaces.