posted on June 1: McMaster’s first software engineering class graduates today


The University will confer Bachelor of Engineering degrees today on 21 students who are the first graduates of
McMaster's new and innovative software engineering program.

The milestone is one that Paul Taylor, chair of the Department of Computing & Software, will celebrate for a variety of

“We started this new degree program from scratch and have also maintained our strength in computer science.
The graduation of these students is a defining moment for both the department and the Faculty. We've been able to
demonstrate a synergy between the two disciplines and we're also setting the tone for the engineering profession and
the computer science community in terms of how to bring these two sides – computer science, on the one hand, and
software engineering, on the other – together.”

The goal of the McMaster program is to develop engineers who produce software with a warranty and not a disclaimer.
“This is a program that prepares engineers with a specialty in safety-critical and mission-critical software,” says Taylor.

Chad McIntyre, one of the students graduating from the program, enjoyed his four years at McMaster. “It was definitely the right choice for me.” McIntyre will begin working for IBM after graduation. Down the road, he sees himself starting his own software business and designing systems to help people with different computer needs.

Sean Burak is also graduating today (June 1). “When I started at Mac, I wasn't sure what I wanted to specialize in so I took engineering. I looked at the course catalogue and the software program courses seemed to be custom designed for the Software Engineering Program. I'd done some programming in high school so I decided to do the software program and I'm glad I did.”

“They designed the courses from scratch,” says Burak. “The professors were hand-picked by Dr.(David) Parnas. The courses were small with only 20 to 30 students in each course so we got to know everyone. Generally, we had some really good professors. It was great being part of a new program.”

Barak waited until his exams were over before beginning to look for work. He's optimistic that he'll find his first job with a larger company and hopes to eventually start his own software business.

The students are as innovative as the program. In March members of the graduating class, among others, organized a
two-day symposium to showcase the new program and demonstrate their skills to prospective employers and students
at neighbouring institutions. The symposium was supported by Microsoft, IBM Canada, Guidant Software Design &
Management and Evertz.

For their senior thesis project, they were challenged by instructor David Parnas to design a computer face recognition
system that police could also use to match faces in a scanned database. The teams were required to set goals, including
market needs and resource availability, when developing their systems. To show their commitment to the program and
the students a competition for the best project was sponsored by IBM Canada.

“'We would take the winning student project and make it an IBM product.' That's what the IBM people said was their
criterion for judging the students' work,” remarks Taylor.

The words are like music to Taylor's ears. He was charged with starting the new Department of Computing & Software
in 1998 by integrating faculty, staff and students of the former computer science and systems department as well as
recruiting new faculty and staff. The new department had six months to get the software engineering program off the

Bringing Parnas to the department was a key ingredient for success, says Taylor. Parnas, who is described by
many as the grandmaster of software engineering and was recently recognized in Toronto with a symposium in his
honour (see Storymakers), was the architect of the McMaster program.

But success also came, says Taylor, because there was support from members of the former Department of Computer
Science and Systems, government and industry, and lots of hard work and dedication from faculty and staff.

Software engineering has a great future at McMaster. Accreditation of the undergraduate software engineering program
is expected on June. 5. Two new master's programs in software engineering and two new PhD programs (Computer
Science & Software Engineering) are being proposed and it's expected these will be approved by late July. In mid-June
the department will move into its new quarters in the newly renovated and equipped T-16 building, a move that stems
from growth in and expansion of the program.

The department has added three staff positions and 12 new faculty, and is actively recruiting for another six faculty.
“The workloads should come down to normal levels when all the vacancies are filled,” says Taylor. “Extraordinary
efforts by faculty and staff have been necessary to reach this first graduation.”

Thirty other students who were also in the first intake of students will graduate next year when they complete a
combined degree in Software Engineering & Management, a five-year program.

Sixteen others who were among the initial 85-student cohort have taken a year off to complete internships.