15-712 Semester Project

See the ideas list (viewable inside CMU)

Projects should be done in groups of two or three. If you're looking for partners or ideas, also try out the 712 Project Wiki Page.

Some prior 712 class projects are described in the following techreports: CS-CMU-05-138, CS-CMU-05-201. Another good resource to look at is An Evaluation of the Ninth SOSP Submissions, or How (and How Not) to Write a Good Systems Paper (by R. Levin and D. Redell, in Operating Systems Review, vol. 17, no. 3, July 1983, pp. 35-40) -- it is available on the Readings page.


(3 pages; single spaced, one or two columns, 10 point font or larger)
Describe the project idea/application, how it relates to the course material, what work must be done (suggesting how it can be partitioned among you) and what resources you will need (including software systems you already have access to). Concentrate on convincing us that it will pertain to the course, that you will be able to complete it, and that we will be able to evaluate it. The third page should be dedicated to providing an outline of your intended final paper, identifying the specific experiments to be run and what questions they will answer.

In your proposal, provide three types of goals: 75% goals, 100% goals, and 125% goals. Think of these as the equivalent of a B grade, an A grade, and a "wow!" grade. The goals can be dependent or independent of the prior goals.

Think also about providing answers to the Heilmeier Questions in your proposal, as appropriate.

Interim Project Report and Literature Survey

Due 4/2. The interim project report should contain:

Feel free to include additional material in your interim report: If you wish to include, e.g., your design section or preliminary results, we will give you feedback to help ensure that your final report is great.

Project Management

You should strongly consider using either Subversion or Git to perform source code control for your project and the paper you write describing it.

I also strongly suggest writing your course project report using LaTeX. It is the de-facto tool in which most CS research papers are written. While it has a bit of start up cost, it's much easier to collaboratively write complex research papers using LaTeX than Word.

Writing Papers


The most popular network simulators are ns-2 and Opnet. ns-2 is free, and CSD has some licenses for Opnet.

Testbeds and Emulation


Emulab is a network emulation environment at the University of Utah. It provides racks of machines and programmable switches that can be configured to form mostly-arbitrary network topologies, with controllable delay and loss between nodes. It's a great way to test real programs in repeatable conditions or at scales that you can't get on your own.

Emulab also provides a set of wireless nodes that you can control, located around their building. They also have an experimental mobile robot testbed that could make for fun projects (the robots are designed to move computers and radios around so that you can do repeatable experiments involving mobility).


PlanetLab is a large-scale, distributed collection of machines that can be used for experiments and measurements. It has about 594 nodes scattered over 282 sites. The machines run something linux-ish that you can login to and run programs, and there exist a variety of utilities for automatically distributing software to the nodes, running programs, and so on.

You must sign up to use a PlanetLab account. Please only sign up if you're going to use the account, since it imposes some management overhead on people not involved with the course.

Wireless Nodes

Dave and some of the other faculty have a handful of various wireless nodes, cards, old laptops, etc., available that you may be able to use for your projects.


moteLab is a wireless sensor network deployed in the CS building at Harvard. It has 30 sensor motes that users can upload system images to, collect data from, etc. To use moteLab, you'll need to send them an email (listed on their web page). Please CC: dga on the mail.


Mistlab is a wireless testbed with 60 Mica2/Cricket nodes (sensor boards, much like the motes in moteLab) distributed over the 9th floor in the Stata center at MIT's Computer Science and AI Lab. For access, see their web page and send them an email, and please CC: dga on the mail.




Misc Tools

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