Fwd: Re: Thunderbird Project as 3rd-year Engineering Group Project

R. Kent James rkent at caspia.com
Tue Feb 2 22:38:59 UTC 2016


I've had some discussions with James Quilty about major student 
engineering projects involving Thunderbird. Here is his proposal, and he 
is asking for specific suggestions of appropriate projects.

-- 
R. Kent James
Chair, Thunderbird Council
@rkentjames


-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: 	Re: Thunderbird Project as 3rd-year Engineering Group Project
Date: 	Wed, 3 Feb 2016 01:41:21 +1300
From: 	James Quilty <James.Quilty at ecs.vuw.ac.nz>
To: 	R. Kent James <rkent at caspia.com>



Hi Kent,

  Here's the proposal I made for a 3rd-year engineering group project 
working on part of Thunderbird, edited for coherence. I'd be happy for 
this to be forwarded to a mailing list for wide consideration.

  The School of Engineering and Computer Science 
<http://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/> at Victoria University of Wellington runs 
group projects as part of its project management course. The School has 
students from three specialisations, Electronics and Computer 
Engineering (ECEN), Software Engineering (SWEN) and Network Engineering 
(NWEN). I'm running these courses from this year.

  I'm looking for suitable projects for a team of 4-6 students which 
could run across our academic year (March-October) with a workload of 
about 5 hours per week for a total of around 150 hours. Both figures are 
per student. The purpose of the project is to give the students 
practical experience in applying the project management tools they are 
learning about in
lectures. An achievable but challenging project for SWEN (and NWEN) 
students would be really good - this is where I thought a Thunderbird 
project might be appropriate.

  To give you an idea of what students have been able to produce last 
year in a half-year project, please see the WaiNZ <http://wainz.org.nz/> 
homepage. The map UI and the Android, iPhone and Windows Phone apps were 
all produced or refined in a half-year project. I'd like something with 
similar scope for 2016, just run across the full year. If you want to 
know what kind of background the students have by 3rd year, please see 
the SWEN and NWEN course descriptions on the School's homepage. One 
relevant course SWEN students may take in 3rd year, for example, is a 
course in UI engineering.

  Any project for the students would have to be "SMART":

  * Have goal or end-point that can be specified and refined through
    student discussion with the client. For example, a project involving
    the completion of a coherent set of bug-fixes and/or enhancements.
  * Produce measurable/testable effect - something that can be observed
    in Thunderbird.
  * Be reasonably achievable in about 150 hours per student (about 900
    hours for a team of six students).
  * Delivered by/at the end of a single academic year.

What I have in mind when I write "coherent" is bugs or enhancements all 
related to, say, one component of Thunderbird. It shouldn't be a 
grab-bag of miscellaneous work, nor a year experiencing "business as 
usual" in Thunderbird development.

  An example, (somewhat trivial and completely focussed on my own 
niggles with Thunderbird) would be a project to complete a set of 
bugfixes and enhancements to the Attachment pane UI for incorporation in 
an upcoming release. There are a set of bugs and RFE's already filed, 
and it's a reasonably self-contained part of the UI.

  It's not important for the students to write new code for brand-new 
functionality. Some code maintenance and migration is perfectly fine, 
even a desirable experience, but I do think it's important that their 
projects are not dominated by migration or bugfix work. If it were, then 
I fear there could be limited opportunity for them to practice project 
management and/or they will lose interest.

  Other projects up for offer in 2016, to give two examples for context, 
will be (1) making a DIY laser cutter with a usable software and network 
interfaces, and (2) making a 3-in-1 oscilloscope, function generator and 
digital multimeter with undergraduate-friendly UI for use in our 
teaching labs.

  What I am asking from you for a Thunderbird project is for a useful 
project of about the right scope and difficulty to be identified, for a 
1-page high-level spec to be prepared before 29 February (NZ time!) and 
for someone to commit to being acting as the client for the project over 
the year. I'd anticipate a time requirement of 1-2 hours per week over 
the course of the project to interact with the project team to answer 
the usual questions clients are asked (usually clarifying what the 
client actually wants).

  One thing the School does advise external clients for these sorts of 
undergraduate projects is to not rely on the student team to produce a 
100% functional working result, and to not entrust them with a project 
which is mission-critical. That's not to say that we haven't had some 
very successful projects in the past.

  I'd love to hear ideas that people involved with Thunderbird 
development would have after considering what I've written above and I'd 
really like to have a Thunderbird project as part of our group project 
work this year!

Regards,
James.

-- Dr. James Quilty Senior Lecturer School of Engineering and Computer 
Science, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600, Wellington 
6140, New Zealand. Phone: +64 4 463 5233 ext. 4090


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