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Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies Program

Freedom to Choose / Freedom to Create / Freedom to Travel

Senior Project Guidelines

IMPORTANT NOTE: Students should start planning for their senior project at least a quarter in advance as they will need to submit senior project proposals to Michael and David 2 weeks BEFORE registration begins for LAES 461.

Senior Project Due Dates Summary

  1. Project Proposal: Due 2 weeks before LAES 461 registration.
  2. Project Outline:  Due at the end of the fourth week of LAES 461.
  3. Progress Report I:  Due at end of the tenth week of LAES 461.
  4. Progress Report II: Due at the end of the fourth week of LAES 462.
  5. Final Presentation:  Due during finals week of LAES 462.
  6. Final Project: Due at the end of LAES 462.

There are 8 steps that LAES students should follow when going through the senior project process:

  1. Registering for senior project independent study courses
  2. characteristics of a senior project
  3. Project objectives
  4. Senior project proposal
  5. Status updates and deliverables
  6. Final project delivery
  7. Professional review presentation
  8. Final project submission requirements

1. Registering for Senior Project Independent Study Courses

Requirements: LAES students must be at senior status in order to enroll in senior project courses. 

Offered: Although schedules are subject to change, both courses are usually offered in the fall, winter, and spring quarters.


  • LAES 461 and 462 are a two-course sequence, meaning that the 462 capstone course builds upon work done in 461, finishing with a professional review presentation.
  • It is highly recommended that students take LAES 462 immediately following LAES 461, in order to complete and submit projects for the final professional review presentation in time for graduation.

IMPORTANT: A Senior Project proposal is due 2 weeks BEFORE registration begins for LAES 461. See section IV. Senior Project Proposal for details.

2. Characteristics of a Senior Project

There are several factors that make something suitable for a senior project. Be sure to consult with the LAES 461 instructor for individual requirements. The following are the factors that make a senior project suitable:

  • Independence - A senior project must be a discrete unit.  There should be a well-defined beginning and end to the project, as well as clearly defined criteria for success or failure.
  • Ownership - The student needs to be primarily responsible for the project.  This means that the student is directly responsible for the project's success or failure.
  • Background Research - The project should require some investigation before implementation.  Things to consider: How have others approached this problem?  What new techniques or technologies must the student learn (or invent) to successfully complete this work?
  • Creativity - The project requires creativity (i.e., the solution should not be obvious).

3. Project Objectives

The Senior Project is an essential part of the education of students who hope to become professionals in their career focus. 

In order to make this a successful learning experience, there are three objectives that should be accomplished within the Senior Project. The grade awarded will be determined by the degree to which all are effectively exhibited. Please review the following outline of objectives:

  1. Technical Accomplishment: The technical results presented in the Senior Project should reflect the maturity of a senior-level student in both the depth to which the subject is developed and in the degree to which a variety of information or viewpoints is brought to bear on the problem.
  2. Diligent Execution: The senior project will be independent work by the student, developed under his or her own initiative, and on a timetable under the student's control. The instructor who supervises the Senior Project is expected to supply only general advice and guidance to help the student avoid pitfalls and blunders; the day-to-day activities, which affect the execution of the project, are the responsibility of the student.
  3. Effective Communication: The Senior Project should include a well-polished piece of writing, with careful consideration given to presenting the results in such a way as to provide a maximum of information with a minimum of effort required of the reader. Standard procedures for footnoting, referencing, and symbol usage (as utilized in technical literature) should be employed. The final project document should provide evidence that the student has acquired the ability to skillfully communicate on a technical subject to an audience less knowledgeable than the author. All media programs utilized in the project are to be completely and fully documented.

4. Senior Project Proposal

The specifics will vary according to the project, but the proposal should be approximately 1 page (no more than two) and should include the following components:

  • A clear, concise statement of the problem the project is intended to solve.
  • An outline of the general scope of the work—including specific anticipated milestones and deliverables—and a tentative schedule.
  • A list of any special equipment or facilities that will be needed.
  • A description of how the proposed project will satisfy the criteria outlined above.

Students are also given the opportunity to collaborate with their peers if they wish to do so. Proposals for group projects should also address:

  • The division of responsibilities among group members.
  • A means of evaluating the individual contribution of each member.

Once again, your Senior Project proposal is due prior to LAES 461 registration.

Please e-mail your proposal to the instructor at least two weeks BEFORE registration begins.

Once the instructor has approved your proposal, you can then request a permission number by contacting the LAES department to register for the course.

5. Status Updates and Deliverables

In addition to being a technical consultant and providing suggestions that will permit the student to be more effective, the instructor evaluates the work and assigns a grade for the course.

It is customary for the student and instructor to meet regularly to ensure continuous and effective communication.  Certain progress reports and outlines of the work are required by the University.

In addition to special reports that the instructor may require, the following deliverables are mandatory:

  1. Project Proposal: Due 2 weeks before LAES 461 registration.
  2. Project Outline:  Due at the end of the fourth week of LAES 461.
  3. Progress Report I:  Due at end of the tenth week of LAES 461.
  4. Progress Report II: Due at the end of the fourth week of LAES 462.
  5. Final Presentation:  Due during finals week of LAES 462.
  6. Final Project: Due at the end of LAES 462.

If additional advice is required, it is recommended that the student request a meeting with the instructor.

Examples of proper formatting can be found in the LAES section of the DigitalCommons@CalPoly site

6. Final Project Delivery

Once you have completed all project requirements, you must deliver your final project to the LAES 462 instructor in a presentation.

A CD/DVD that includes all of your media, web, and documentation files in .PDF, .DOC, .RTF, .HTML and/or .PS format, and clearly labeled with your name, course, title, and date is required.  The CD/DVD must also include a README file detailing all of the data on the disk, with a short description of what is contained in each file.

7. Professional Review Presentation

Once your final project has been delivered to the LAES 462 instructor, you will give a formal presentation to a combined faculty and professional review committee. This presentation is usually scheduled during finals week. The LAES Program Office will contact you with the date, time, and location details.

At the end of your presentation, you must get your instructor's signature on the Senior Project Requirement Form (PDF) so that you can submit your project documentation to the Cal Poly Library for public availability.

8. Final Project Submission Requirements

Take the completed and approved Senior Project Requirement Form (PDF) to the Cal Poly Library, pay the senior project fee, and upload only the documentation portion of your Senior Project to the DigitalCommons@CalPoly site, following the Cal Poly Senior Research Project Guidelines.

Important Note: You must forward your Senior Project e-mail confirmation to your instructor by the stated due date in order to receive your grade. If the instructor does not receive this confirmation within the stated timeframe, you will receive an "I" (incomplete) grade for the class.

This is the last step required to receive your final grade.  When your submission is complete, your project will be available in the LAES section of the DigitalCommons@CalPoly site.

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