In 2020, the Cheriton School of Computer Science launched a new extracurricular entrepreneurial program for upper year undergraduates and graduate students known as the eCapstone. Delivered by the Math Innovation Office, the eCapstone gives students an opportunity to explore the market potential of their class projects as well as any personal projects they are keen to commercialize.
When students opt in to the eCapstone, they participate in a series of workshops that guide them through the entrepreneurial process — from problem identification to customer discovery to developing a proof-of-concept to pitching an idea to a lay audience. Workshops are led by industry leaders as well as alumni entrepreneurs.
Forty students participated in the 2020 pilot cohort and five teams submitted a pitch to judges for a chance to win one of three grants to further develop their business ideas.
We are especially grateful to Steven Woods and a number of engineers at Google Canada who volunteered their time to deliver the 2020 workshops, and to the Cheriton School of Computer Science alumni who volunteered as mentors, giving students the opportunity to meet and get advice from experienced industry professionals.
The e-Capstone is an opportunity for CS students to take initiative and develop entrepreneurial skills by solving a real-world problem they are passionate about. It is also an opportunity for industry partners and alumni to become involved with the Cheriton School of Computer Science.
The eCapstone is offered every term, starting in fall 2021.
Undergrad and graduate CS students
Interested in signing up for the fall 2021 session of the eCapstone? Please register on Airtable.
Industry partners and alumni
Would you like to become involved with the eCapstone as a mentor? Please contact Camelia Nunez, Director Innovation & Research Partnerships at the Faculty of Mathematics, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
eCapstone funding is made possible by the generosity of Sam Pasupalak, a Cheriton School of Computer Science alumni and co-founder of Maluuba, a company acquired by Microsoft in 2017 for $140M. Through Sam’s philanthropy, we are able to offer three grants totalling $5,000 to the top three student projects.
|Date||Activity or milestone|
|Sep 26, 2021||Last day for students to opt in|
|Oct 6, 2021||Problem identification (workshop)|
|Oct 20, 2021||How others have done it (workshop)|
|Nov 3, 2021||Customer discovery (workshop)|
|Nov 17, 2021||Proof-of-concept (workshop)|
|Dec 1, 2021||How to get buy-in for your idea (workshop & pitching)|
|Dec 14, 2021||Live pitches • Top 3 winners announced • Certificates of completion from the Math Innovation Office|
CS 497: Capstone Project is a pilot offering of a single-term course similar to the CS 493/CS 494 Team Project sequence but scoped for completion in a single term. Students form teams of three to five members that work together on a project of their choosing. The course gives students the opportunity to work in teams on open-ended, large-scale computer science projects.
After an initial project identification and refinement effort, students are instructed on and gain experience in teamwork, planning, communication, critical thinking, requirements definition, and agile development. Teams must use modern software tools and methods, as appropriate to their project. User-centred design and test-driven development will be emphasized. Ethical and legal implications must be considered, as appropriate to the project. Guidance will be provided from the start (forming teams, picking projects), through development work, to a culminating symposium.
Teams will be composed of three to five students and projects may range from new software systems, to contribution to existing open-source projects, to research projects. There will be in-class instruction on several topics, but the emphasis will be on the project work with guidance from the instructor, and there will not be lectures every week. Project work will lead up to a demo day near the end of the term. This demo day will include technical presentations from each group, providing an opportunity to learn and practice technical presentation skills.
Linkage with e-Capstone
The course will be structured so that students participating in our non-credit, non-academic e-Capstone (see above) will be able to obtain academic credit for some of the e-Capstone activities. The course itself will contain additional content beyond the e-Capstone and can be taken independently of the e-Capstone. A student can take one or the other, or both.
- Only CS major students with fourth-year standing may enroll
- Pre-requisites: CS 246, CS 341, CS 350
- Anti-requisites: CS 493, CS 494, SE 390, SE 490, SE 491
- May not be taken by software engineering students
The SE Capstone Design Project Handbook will be used as a resource for the course. While the SE Capstone is a three-term sequence, so that it will not be possible to cover all material from that sequence, the project handbook distills many years of experience and provides invaluable guidance.
Hardware and software requirements will vary with the chosen project. Beyond the standard hardware/software resources provided to all CS students, students are responsible for obtaining any necessary resources. Free/open-source tools are encouraged where applicable. Students should be aware that some widely used free services are hosted on servers physically located outside Canada, and it may not be possible to provide alternatives hosted at the university or within Canada.
If a team drops below three students due to students dropping the course, illness, etc., the instructor will work with the remaining students to restructure their project or to merge them with another group depending on the individual situation and the point in the term. Irreconcilable conflicts and similar situations are handled on a case-by-case basis by the instructor working directly with the students to develop a reasonable and equitable solution.
- Preliminary idea/proposal/pitch — 10%
- Refined idea/proposal/pitch — 10%
- Established development methodology and initial iteration — 10%
- Mid-point check-in and feedback — 20%
- Final iteration and feedback — 30%
- Technical presentation and demo day — 20%
Instructor: Professor Charlie Clarke, email@example.com
Three prizes worth a total of $5,000 were awarded to the top three eCapstone projects in 2020.
1st Prize • SalesBoost • $2,500
CS students | entrepreneurs: Lucas Harvey and Rushi Gandhi
Salesboost is a Shopify app that adds post-sale cross-selling functionality to any Shopify store. Merchants can increase their average order value by offering discounts on additional products after a customer makes a purchase.
How will the funding be used?
Lucas and Rushi are planning to use the money for marketing and advertising. They will be creating informational videos, marketing assets and covering advertising expenses on both Shopify and social media.
2nd Prize • Arbitrium • $1,500
CS students | entrepreneurs: Ahmed Hamodi and Greg Maxin
Arbitrium is a collaborative decision-making platform for organizations to make group decisions, currently focused on the grant application space. Our product is a web application where all stakeholders in the process — administrators, reviewers, and applicants — can perform their part of the decision-making process virtually and efficiently. Future application spaces include recruitment, scholarships, venture capital firms, and many more.
How will the funding be used?
Ahmed and Greg will use the money for product upkeep — servers, databases, deployment, etc. — and helping to support some of their sales efforts. The product is currently complete, and the focus is on user acquisition.
3rd Prize • WatWeLearn • $1,000
CS students | entrepreneurs: Cynthia Ren, Tracy Meng, Yizhe Liu, Francis Sun
WatWeLearn is an all-in-one platform for interactive e-learning. This project's goal is to provide seamless, interactive, and trackable online learning experiences for students and instructors. We hope to connect learning by demonstrating dependencies in course topics using graph visualization
How will the funding be used?
The team plans to use their prize funds to pay for web servers, cloud computing resources, obtaining consulting advice from professionals, and connecting with course staff for potential improvements.
“We really liked the first workshop with Derek Phillips, as he opened our minds towards identifying small and big problems worth solving with our expertise. We also liked the pitching workshop, there were many useful tips, dos and don’ts that really helped us formulate our own pitch.”
“The most helpful workshop was the one on Pitch Practice because it gave us a clear structure for our pitch. In fact, we even used the example provided in the workshop to format our pitch effectively. We also benefited from tips such as using eye-catching icons, limiting text and ending with a summary slide.”
“The most helpful workshop for our team was the third one with Ronuk Raval since we were at the stage of customer discovery. So the insights we got from that workshop were very valuable and applicable to us at the time.”