Senior Poster Session for the Class of 2018

November 28, 29, 30 at 7:00-9:30pm

As you're all aware, the CS department is no longer offering Senior Conference (CPSC 097) this year. In place of CPSC 097, the graduating class of 2018 must complete the following requirements to satisfy the senior comprehensive requirement of the CS major:

  1. As a replacement for the CPSC 097 course, CS majors are required to take one additional upper-level CS course. That is, you are still required to take 9 CS credits to graduate with a CS major, with the CPSC 097 requirement being replaced with a third elective. This elective can be additional course numbered above CPSC35. (You cannot combine two or more courses worth less than 1 credit to count as a single credit for this elective.)
  2. For the culminating senior capstone experience, students will create a poster based on a project from a course taken in the Computer Science Department at Swarthmore or a summer research project with a Swarthmore CS faculty member, and present their poster at the CS senior major's poster session. Courses taken off-campus or cross-listed from other departments are not eligible.

A poster session allows all students to design and present on a topic of their choice, which is an important goal for our culminating experience.

  • The Requirements and Logistics sections of this page have more details.
  • The Resources and Tips section has information to help with poster creation and printing.
  • This page will be updated with an FAQ section so please look here first if you have questions.


We will hold two poster sessions in the Science Center commons on the evenings of Tuesday November 28, Wednesday November 29 and Thursday November 30, from 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM each night. You will be assigned to present your poster one of these evenings, and members of the CS faculty will grade your poster and presentation on the assigned night. You are required to attend the entire session (7:00-9:30pm) of your assigned session to present your work, and you are encouraged to attend multiple evening sessions to see your peers' work presented. Other members of the Swarthmore community will be invited to attend the session.

You will be randomly assigned to present at one of the poster session dates. If you have a verifiable time conflict with one of the dates, you need to fill out the conflict form in Bridget's office (SCI 239) by Friday, November 10 so that we can balance students across the sessions. When filling out the form, please specify the nature of your conflict. The expectation is that you will schedule around these dates. Acceptable conflicts are requirements that are beyond your control (e.g., participation in college athletic game/meet, theater or musical performance, etc).

You should print your poster on or before Thanksgiving break. If you plan to print yours during the week of Thanksgiving, sign-up for a poster printing time with ITS poster printing sign-up. See below for resources on how to print.

Nov 28, 29 and 30: Attend your assigned poster session on your assigned evening, and deliver your poster to professors for grading. We encourage you to attend multiple sessions.

During your assigned session you should be in front of your poster, ready to present it to faculty and other attendees at the session. CS faculty will visit you and will grade your poster content and your poster presentation. When a faculty member arrives, you should be ready to discuss your poster project and answer questions about it. Each such presentation will be 7 minutes long, so practice presenting the ideas and work of your poster in about 6 minutes. You may also end up presenting to other attendees who are interested in your work.


All seniors will be automatically signed up for a zero-credit course, CS99: Senior Comprehensive, which represents your participation in the poster session. To satisfy the requirements for the CS major, you must earn a passing grade in CS 99. The grades will be assigned as CR/NC only.

To earn a CR grade, you are responsible for two "deliverables":

  1. a poster (details below)
  2. a well-prepared, practiced oral presentation of your poster that is six to seven minutes long.

You will present your poster to CS faculty members during your assigned poster session. You can expect them to ask you a few follow-up questions after your brief presentation.


Each student will create a poster and present their poster individually.


  1. By October 30 fill out the senior poster session information form with your name, poster title, and the CS course on which you project is based.
  2. By November 10 fill out the conflict form in Bridget's office (SCI 239) if you have a conflict with one of the poster session times. See the note above in Logistics for acceptable conflicts
  3. Print your poster before Thanksgiving. To accommodate a large number of posters being printed, your poster should be printed on or before Thanksgiving. If you plan to print yours during the week of Thanksgiving, sign-up for a poster printing time with ITS: poster printing sign-up. See below for resources on how to print. We encourage you to print as early as you are ready. You can bring your printed poster to Bridget in the CS main office to store before the poster session.
  4. Submit your poster in PDF format to the chair by email before your presentation day.
  5. On your presentation day
    • Between 5pm-6:30pm: Hang up your poster. You will be assigned a poster number. Hang your poster in its designated location by its number.
    • Between 7pm-9:30pm: Attend your assigned poster session and deliver your presentation to professors for grading and to any other attendees.
    • After 9:30pm: Remove your poster.
  6. On the other presentation days: We encourage you to attend the other nights to support your peers!

Topic Selection

The topic you choose to present on must be based on one of the following:

  1. A project you did in an upper-level class taught by the Computer Science department at Swarthmore that counts towards the major. The class must be at least one credit and have CS35 as a prerequisite.

  2. A one credit directed reading done with a Swarthmore CS professor that counts as towards the major.

  3. A research project you did with a Swarthmore CS professor either during the semester or over the summer.

  4. A project you did in a project-based class cross-listed by the Computer Science department at Swarthmore that counts as towards the Computer Science major. As they are currently taught, Engineering 072 (Computer Vision) and Engineering 082 (Mobile Robotics) fit this requirement.

Students wishing to present a poster on any other topic may petition the chair of department by email to request permission for an exception.

We strongly encourage you to present a student-selected, open-ended project from a project-based course, which includes:

  • CS40: Graphics
  • CS63: Artificial Intelligence
  • CS65: Natural Language Processing
  • CS68: Bioinformatics
  • CS71: Software Engineering
  • CS81: Adaptive Robotics
  • CS87: Parallel and Distributed Computing
  • CS89: Cloud Systems and Datacenter Networks

You may choose to present on a project or assignment that was defined by a professor from another upper-level Swarthmore CS course. However, it may take more effort on your part to put together a satisfactory poster for such a project. In such cases, you will want to add some general context describing how the project fits into main themes and topics of the course.

Poster format

Your poster should be 35x48: 35 inches tall and 48 inches wide.

Poster criteria

Your grade will be based on your poster and presentation.

Your poster should contain:

  1. The title and author of your work. The author should be you. If you want to list information about the professor (and research project or class) on which your poster is based, you can add a small Acknowledgement blurb in the bottom right of your poster.
  2. An overview with a high-level description of your central problem, hypothesis, or question. It should clearly state your objectives and the purpose of the project.
  3. The background or context for your project. It should frame your project in relation to the broader area and include references to related work, when appropriate.
  4. A description of what you did, that is, your methods, implementation, interesting solutions, and experiments. You should include any relevant figures to help explain complex content.
  5. A summary of your results and the conclusions you've drawn from the project. Results should be presented in the appropriate format (e.g., graphs or tables quantitative data).

The design of your poster should:

  1. Organize main parts with clear headings.
  2. Use bullet points and phrases, and avoid verbosity in text. You do not want a poster that is a singular "wall of text."
  3. Use large font size for the most important points. Smaller font for sub points. Don't use tiny or too much text. The main parts of your poster should be readable from a few meters away.
  4. Use pictures, diagrams, figures, and graphs to show parts of your system/results.
  5. Layout your poster in a logical flow of the story you want to tell about your work. For example, the first part you want a viewer to read should be in the upper left or upper middle of your poster. The conclusions and future work should be at the bottom right. The main part of your work should be near the top (center) and not in a bottom side part of your poster.
  6. Design poster so that anyone viewing it for one minute will leave with the big ideas what your project is. Anyone viewing it for a few minutes leaves with more detail.
  7. Use a white background (save ink). Use color, but don't go nuts; use it simply, and use it to convey related content (like all main topic titles are in the same color).

During your presentation you should:

  1. Prepare enough content so that you speak for approximately six minutes
  2. Clearly and concisely explain each of the poster sections described above
  3. Assume that your audience has a background in CS but not necessarily the specific topic area you're presenting
  4. Answer any follow-up questions from the faculty.
  5. Demonstrate clear organization and practice: do not memorize or read from a script; that's what the poster is there for.
  6. Already know what you're planning to say (even though you haven't memorized it): don't just "wing it"!
  7. Be aware of your audience members and their backgrounds; adjust your level of detail to match your audience.
  8. Define your acronyms and avoid excessive jargon.
  9. Maintain eye contact with your audience and respond to their social cues.

Poster Resources and Tips

There are many good examples of posters in the CS hallway. As you view examples, look at poster layout, font size, and content. If after looking at a poster for a couple minutes you have a general idea of the project, its contribution, and its general solution and results, then it is a good example.

Links to Resources and Tips


Q: How do I print my poster? 
A: You will print it at ITS. Here is some more information from general ITS poster guidelines

Q: When does the poster need to be ready / how early should I print it? 
A: Posters should be printed at least a week before the night you present. The earlier yours is ready, the better, since there will be many students wanting to print near the dates of the poster sessions. Students may store printed posters in the CS department in advance of the poster session dates.

If you plan to print the week before the presentations, you should sign-up for a poster printing time with ITS (see link above). ITS staff can help you print your poster. If you don't use their software for making your poster, print from a .pdf version of your 35x48 poster.

Q: What do I do with my printed poster before the session? 
A: You can leave it with Bridget to store until the session. During the day of the session, come get your poster and hang it up.

Q: What if the project I'd like to choose was group work that I did with partners? 
A: That's fine, you will still each create your own poster and present it solo. You and your group member(s) can choose the same topic. Ideally, you'd focus on different aspects of the project.

Q: How much time should I expect to put into this project? 
A: We anticipate that you will spend approximately 10 hours throughout the semester.

Q: Why can't I use work I did off campus / at an REU / in another department? 
A: We want to make sure 1) that you choose a topic for which at least one CS faculty member is an expert and 2) that the work you're presenting is consistent with the expectations of your fellow seniors.

Q: Can I use work done with a visiting professor who is no longer at Swarthmore? 
A: Yes, as long as the project meets the requirements listed above, it doesn't matter if the professor is no longer at the College.