ETC Project Critiques

The ETC Project Course is one of the core elements of our curriculum and is a course that drives many students to our program.  ETC Students have completed hundreds of projects over the years, and a key component to the success of these projects is feedback.  Professor Randy Pausch, co-founder of the ETC liked to state “students at the ETC receive 20 years of industry feedback in 2 years of the program”, and critiques of the projects make up the majority of this feedback.

Each project is reviewed four times per semester by the entire ETC faculty.  This is in addition to the daily and weekly critiques with individual project instructors.  The first review takes place during a “quarter walk-around” which happens during Week 5 of the semester.   Professor Brenda Harger explains the quarter review process for us in the following way: “Quarters are an opportunity for faculty to see and evaluate the projects in the idea phase.  What I especially value is the chance to hear a variety of responses from faculty of all the disciplines.  Because it is early in the process, we can help the projects sharpen their focus without throwing too much away within the givens of the project and before too much actual work has been invested.  I like to tell the students that no amount of technology can fix a bad idea so by this time, many ideas have been put on the table so it’s time to evaluate”.

This past week, students complete the second review of the semester, “half presentations” which includes a formal presentation by the team, delivered to faculty, staff, clients, alumni and their classmates.  Professor Dave Culyba shared the following quote about halves: “The halfway point of a project is a great chance to see where a project is and understand where it’s going. It’s often the first time a team brings all of their research, planning, and prototyping together in a way that shows what they hope to accomplish by the end of the semester”.

One goal of the ETC is to help prepare students for the industry.  Thus, similar to industry practice, students and faculty participate in a “soft opening” which Professor Chris Klug describes in the following way:  “In an effort to emulate industry, the faculty visit the project teams and play the game or walk through the experience in order to put the project to the test.  While the project isn’t entirely finished, the goal is to have it playable with final code, art and story.  This way, the faculty can give feedback to help the students in the last two weeks get the the project ready for opening night”.

Unlike other programs that have a variety of final exams, ETC students must present their final work in the form of a presentation as well as a “play-through”.  Professor Scott Stevens describes this process for us: “At final presentations, students have spent 15 weeks immersed in their project. They have researched the field related to what they have built and looked at what other groups have done in the space. They have command of the subject and are confident, but not arrogant. Faculty usually feel like “proud parents.” For me though, the best part is I always come away learning something new”.

As you can see, Randy’s quote about feedback is quite true!  ETC students receive a lot of feedback on their projects throughout the semester.  If you are interested in a closer look, each semester we live stream both half and final presentations.  Dates for these live streams are available on our ETC calendar.


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