Software Engineering Projects & Computer Science in the City Showcase – Authentic Learning

After the Computer Science in the City Showcase event on the 3rd of May, Hannah Cowell (Engaged Learning Adviser), Peter Oliver (from the ILO), Luke Sweeney (Project client, KWMC) and students Oliver Gay, Yousuf Alawadhi and Tom Burt-Gray reflect on their experiences and share their learning with us.

Project summary

Second year Computer Science students participate in an excellent example of authentic learning as part of the Software Engineering Project unit led by Daniel Schien and Simon Lock and supported by the Industrial Liaison Office (ILO).

Using the “client-led brief” engaged learning format external partners set groups of students a real-world project to which they are asked to respond to by producing software or apps. Thus offering students an opportunity to design, test and evaluate a prototype system or application using a user-centred approach. In return, external partners are provided with fresh insights and potentially receive answers to their challenges.

In this year’s iteration of the project, a multitude of partners were involved ranging from trusts, city councils, charities, and community organisations to large industry partners.

Students share their findings and outputs through posters and presentations at the Computer Science in the City Showcase event. This year there was a real buzz in the room as attendees ranged from interested students, University staff, project partners and potential future partners. Student projects proved to be ambitious and their outputs impressive.



Yousuf and Tom, who both worked on an Augment Reality indoor navigation application for their client at DEFRA, and Oliver Gay, who worked on a complex storage solution project for Toshiba BRIL, shared reflections on their experiences during the project.

The project taught me the art of communication alongside with leadership, my team and I also learned how to organize our time to make sure our code is set to meet our internal deadlines and meet with our clients’ needs.

code coding computer cyberspace

Additionally, we learned the value of teamwork, excellent communication, and flexibility in project management. We obtained a thorough understanding of project lifecycle, risk assessment, stakeholder management, and problem-solving approaches through real-world case studies and practical exercises. Undoubtedly, this unit has given us the skills and knowledge needed to successfully manage and lead complicated projects, preparing us for the difficulties and expectations of the working world.”

Yousuf Alawadhi, Computer Science student

The most valuable things I learned from this project were the transferrable skills such as strong GitHub ability, time management and building good relations with the client (especially as project secretary).

Another great thing about the Software Engineering Project, which being honest, took a considerable amount of time to appreciate, was learning how to succeed from failing countless times. This practical approach of the module enabled me to master the art of learning from my mistakes.

This project is a wonderful opportunity to not only improve your skills in developing software but also to improve your communication skills with your team and client, problem solving abilities and you get to create something to show for everything.”

Tom Burt-Gray, Computer Science Student

blue bright lights

I was working in a small team of 3 other students on a complex storage solution project for Toshiba BRIL. They wanted us to build a web frontend, simulation visualiser and Python backend, along with an AI-powered algorithm. Although I had no prior experience working with real-world clients on projects, I learnt so much about software development processes and GitHub management. Our client gave us considerable freedom to work on open-ended tasks. He gave us lots of constructive and helpful feedback and I found the project great to work on. I feel I accomplished quite a lot in a relatively short amount of time.”

Oliver Gay, Computer Science student

External client

It was really encouraging to see the students come out of their shell and learn to ask the right questions, source answers for themselves, and importantly, their excitement and determination to work together as a group. Figuring out roles is important, and I don’t think they were clear amongst the group at the start. Toward the end, the team seemed to find a real clarity which allowed them to play to their strengths. Although the final product won’t be shippable, the design thinking is invaluable and will form the basis of future development, depending on funding.”

Lucas Sweeney, Knowle West Media Centre

Industry Liaison Office, University of Bristol

Engaging students in real-life project scenarios allow great opportunities for professional development. It is a chance for the students to build teamworking skills, learn to navigate through challenges, and develop effective problem-solving strategies. The mutual benefits of this approach also provide opportunities for industry and student engagement, allowing industry partners to gain fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to their challenges, while students have the chance to gain practical experience, understand the intricacies of software engineering project work in the real world, and establish connections with external professionals. It’s a pleasure to support these projects, and I always enjoy the excitement and buzz of Computer Science in the City and getting the opportunity to see the solutions students have developed to address the challenges they were given…

 I was particularly interested in hearing the students’ positive comments on how the projects had been interesting to them, the challenges they had faced and how they had learned so much more beyond the technical aspects of developing software systems.”

Peter Oliver, Industry Liaison Office

Embed Community Engaged Learning in your teaching

Do you have a software project idea?

Find out how to get involved next year: Your software need – our student project

To discuss options for embedding community engaged learning into your own teaching and for tailored support, please get in touch:

Hannah Cowell / Peter Oliver (Career Break cover until 1st Oct 23)​ – Engaged Learning Adviser for:

  • Faculty of Arts​
  • Faculty of Engineering​
  • Faculty of Life Sciences​

Hannah Tweddell​ – Engaged Learning Adviser for:

  • Faculty of Health Sciences​
  • Faculty of Science​
  • Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

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