Foundations of Software Engineering



Successful software projects require more than just technical expertise. Figuring out what the client wants, collaborating in a team, managing complexity, mitigating risks, staying on time and budget, and determining under various constraints when a product is good enough to be shipped are at least equally important topics that often have a significant human component. 17-313 explores these issues broadly covering the fundamentals of modern software engineering.

Quality and feature conflict Assuming reasonably solid programming skills (including unit testing and code-level design), we will explore the following topics:

This course has a strong technical focus, and includes assignments with and without programming. Assignments also include written components. Students will get experience with team management and modern software-engineering tools. The course puts students on a fast track toward project management positions.

Assignments (mostly done in groups) include:

Logistics and People

Lectures: Tue/Thu 3:00-4:20 p.m. in SH 125
Recitations: Wed 12:30-1:20 p.m. in DH 1209 (Section A) and Wed 1:30-2:20 pm in DH 2105 (Section B)

Professor Claire Le Goues
WEH 5117
Office hours: Friday 1:30-2:30pm
Professor Michael Hilton
WEH 5122
Office hours: Thursday 1:00-2:00pm
Christopher Meiklejohn
WEH 5101
Office hours: Wednesday 2:30-3:20pm

Both instructors have an open door policy: If either of the instructors' office doors are open and no-one else is meeting with us, we are happy to answer any course-related questions. If you prefer an appointment, email the instructors.


The following schedule describes the current planing status and the covered concepts. It is subject to change and will be updated as the semester progresses, especially to help focus on requested topics or support learning. The readings are almost always associated with a reading quiz; please check Canvas!

Date Topic Reading assignments* Assignments due*
27-Aug Introduction
28-Aug rec 1 Tools for collaborative software development rec 1 Recitation 1
29-Aug Metrics and Measurement Scheduling survey! (on Canvas)
3-Sep Case Study TIME Magazine 3/10/14, article "Code Red" & Wikipedia on
4-Sep rec 2 Docker and Docker Compose rec 2 Recitation 2
5-Sep Intro to Process The Homework 2 text hw1 Homework 1
10-Sep Requirements 1: Overview and Concepts
11-Sep rec 3 Measuring Software Characteristics rec 3 Recitation 3
12-Sep Requirements 2: Elicitation, Documentation, and Risk Requirements Notes hw2aHomework 2,
Team Policy
17-Sep Requirements: Validation and risk Boeing 737 Max article, Seattle Times, March 17, 2019 (pdf linked from Canvas quiz)
18-Sep rec 4 Requirements Interviews rec 4 Recitation 4
19-Sep Ethics hw2bHomework 2
24-Sep GUEST LECTURE:Software Engineering for ML (part 1) hw2c,dHomework 2
25-Sep rec 5 Software Requirements rec 5 Recitation 5
26-Sep Software Engineering for ML (part 2)
1-Oct Architecture (Introduction) Twitter architecture hw3Homework 3
2-Oct rec 6 AI/ML rec 6 Recitation 6
3-Oct Documentation, patterns, tactics Sections of Garlan's "Software Architecture, a Travelogue"(see Canvas)
8-Oct Guest + Design Docs
9-Oct rec 7 CI++ rec 7 Recitation 7
10-Oct Design Doc wrap up, Microservices Design Doc exercise background
15-Oct Devops hw4Homework 4a
16-Oct rec 8 Midterm Review
17-Oct Midterm
22-Oct QA (Introduction to QA, Testing, and Static Analysis) hw4Homework 4b
23-Oct rec 9 Kubernetes rec 9 Recitation 9
24-Oct Static analysis: Control/Dataflow
29-Oct Chaos Engineering Zeller. Why Programs Fail. Chapter "Observing Facts" hw4Homework 4c
30-Oct rec 10 Gremlin rec 10 Recitation 10
31-Oct QA and ML, and Guest slides on Chaos Engineering hw4Homework 4d
5-Nov Inspections and Code Review
6-Nov rec 11 Agile Methods
7-Nov QA Process Sadowski et al. Lessons from Building Static Analysis Tools at Google. CACM, 2018 (quiz on Canvas)
12-Nov Teams
13-Nov rec 12 Team Dysfunctions
14-Nov Motivation
19-Nov Process + Teams Data-driven decision making hw5a,bHomework 5a,b
20-Nov TBD
21-Nov TBD hw5a,bHomework 5c
26-Nov No Class
28-Nov No Class (Thanksgiving)
3-Dec Code archeology Setup Pandas locally (Canvas quiz) hw6Task Selection and Planning
4-Dec TBD
TBD Final Presentations hw6Project Report and Presentation
hw6Individual Reflection
* = For details, see assignment in Canvas.

Course Syllabus and Policies

The course uses Canvas for homework submission, grading, discussion, questions, announcements, and supplementary documents; slides will be posted here; github is used to coordinate group work.

Waitlist: We believe the waitlist is cleared; if you disagree or are having trouble enrolling, please contact us.

Prerequisites: No formal prerequisites, but you will get more out of the course if you have experience with some larger development projects, for example, through larger class projects (e.g., 17-214, 15-410), internships, or open-source contributions.

Teamwork: Teamwork is an essential part of this course. Most assignments are done in teams of 3-5 students. Teams will be assigned by the instructor and stay together for multiple assignments. Guidance on teamwork, reflection, and conflict resolution will be provided throughout the semester and are an essential component of the class. Most assignments have a component that is graded for the entire group and a component that is graded individually. The team policy posted on Canvas applies and describes roles and teams and how to deal with conflicts and imbalances.

Communication: We make announcements through Canvas, including clarifying homework assignments and other interactions. The instructors and TAs hold weekly office hours and are reachable by email; see above for information on how to contact us. Email them for additional appointments. They also have an open-door policy: When our door is open and we are not currently meeting with somebody else, feel free to interrupt us for course-related issues.

Textbook: Various readings throughout the semester available online or through the library; we do not have a single text book but rather assemble readings from different sources.
As optional supplementary reading consider Ian Sommerville, Software Engineering, 7th or 8th edition. Note that we do not expect that the bookstore will carry the old edition; instead, many copies are available online, such as through (and many other booksellers and textbook reseller) for significantly less than 20USD.

Grading: Evaluation will be based on the following distribution: 60% assignments, 20% midterm, 10% participation, 10% reading quizzes.

Time management: This is a 12-unit course, and it is our intention to manage it so that you spend close to 12 hours a week on the course, on average. In general, 4 hours/week will be spent in class and 8 hours on reading and assignments. Notice that most homework is done in groups, so please account for the overhead and decreased time flexibility that comes with groupwork. Please feel free to give the course staff feedback on how much time the course is taking for you.

Late work policy: Late work will receive feedback but no credit. Due to heavy reliance on teamwork in this course there are no late days. Exceptions to this policy will be made only in extraordinary circumstances, almost always involving a family or medical emergency---with your academic advisor or the Dean of Student Affairs requesting the exception on your behalf. Accommodations for travel (e.g., for interviews) are possible if requested at least 3 days in advance. Please communicate also with your team about timing issues.

Writing: Describing tradeoffs among decisions and communication with less technical stakeholders are key aspects of this class. Most homework assignments have a component that require discussing issues in written form or reflecting about experiences. To practice writing skills, the Global Communications Center (GCC) offers one-on-one help for students, along with workshops. The instructors are also happy to provide additional guidance if requested.

Professionalism: Your classmates are your colleagues. This is particularly true in this course, where we aim to provide you with principles, practices, tools, and paradigms that will enable you to be an effective, real-world Software Engineer. We ask that you treat one another like the professionals you are and that you are preparing to be.

To that end, we will not tolerate harassement in this class. We define harassment as unwelcome or hostile behavior of an ad hominem nature, i.e., that focuses not on ideas but on people and identity. This includes offensive verbal or written comments in reference to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, race, or religion; sexual images in public spaces; deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of class meetings, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

Harassment is against the law and we have no tolerance for it, and neither does the university. Even when behavior does not rise to the level of harassment (even if you think you're "just joking!"), it can still make people very uncomfortable, and harm their educational and professional career by forcing them to devote mental energy to something other than the material they are trying to learn or the professional successes they are trying to acheive. However, we expect that we do not need to threaten you to earn your respect on this matter: we simply ask that you treat one another like professionals, in the most positive sense.

This has two implications:

We, the course staff, are committed to affording you the same respect we ask you to afford one another. If you feel that we are not doing so, we hope you will feel comfortable either telling us so directly, or approaching another one of the course staff with your concerns.

(Thank you to Shriram Krishnamurthi and Evan Peck for sharing their own policies, from which we drew inspiration for this one.)

Academic honesty and collaboration: The usual policies apply, especially the University Policy on Academic Integrity. Many of the assignments will be done in groups. We expect that group members collaborate with one another, but that groups work independently from one another, not exchanging results with other groups. Within groups, we expect that you are honest about your contribution to the group's work. This implies not taking credit for others' work and not covering for team members that have not contributed to the team. Otherwise, our expectations regarding academic honestly and collaboration for group work are the same as for individual work, substituting elevated to the level of "group."

The course includes both individual assignments and individual components of group assignments. Although your solutions for individual parts will be based on the content produced for the group component (e.g., written reflections on lessons learned), we treat individual component of group assignments as equivalent to individual assignments overall, and expect you to complete such components independently of your groupmates.

The rest of this academic honesty and collaboration content is taken from the policy used in 15-214, which we reuse almost directly (with minor modifications, and attribution).

"You may not copy any part of a solution to a problem that was written by another student, or was developed together with another student, or was copied from another unauthorized source such as the Internet. You may not look at another student's solution, even if you have completed your own, nor may you knowingly give your solution to another student or leave your solution where another student can see it.

Here are some examples of behavior that are inappropriate:

If any of your work contains any statement that was not written by you, you must put it in quotes and cite the source. If you are paraphrasing an idea you read elsewhere, you must acknowledge the source. Using existing material without proper citation is plagiarism, a form of cheating. If there is any question about whether the material is permitted, you must get permission in advance. We will be using automated systems to detect software plagiarism.

It is not considered cheating to clarify vague points in the assignments, lectures, lecture notes; to give help or receive help in using the computer systems, compilers, debuggers, profilers, or other facilities; or to discuss ideas at a very high level, without referring to or producing code.

Any violation of this policy is cheating. The minimum penalty for cheating (including plagiarism) will be a zero grade for the whole assignment. Cheating incidents will also be reported through University channels, with possible additional disciplinary action (see the above-linked University Policy on Academic Integrity).

If you have any question about how this policy applies in a particular situation, ask the instructors or TAs for clarification."

Note that the instructors respect honesty in these (and indeed most!) situations.

A note on self care. Please take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress. All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.