It is essential that MCIT Online students showcase their technical abilities to future employers as well as transferable skills from past academic and professional experiences. Side projects are a reliable way for employers to assess technical abilities, time management, enthusiasm, and creativity.

This year, Penn Engineering Online partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) once again to engage students in the SPARC competition. Students gained exposure to a top-tier tech company through a summer-long program supported by industry software development managers from AWS.

With SPARC 2023, MCIT Online students worked collaboratively in teams to solve a real-world AWS engineering problem over the course of the summer. Final projects were judged by volunteers from the Executives in Residence Program. The winning team members received $500 each, provided by AWS.

“My most cherished aspect of the competition was the invaluable opportunity to work on a full-stack project from scratch. It involved an enriching journey of discovering and harnessing various resources, tutorials, and documentation crucial for project development. Additionally, I deeply enjoyed delving into the trending realm of cloud-based, server-less services and actively participating in the implementation.”
Yushan Li
Yushan Li
  • 2023 SPARC Winning Team Member
  • Current MCIT Online Student, Fall 2022 Cohort
“The main challenge was that none of us had experience with AWS before, so we all needed to research and learn from zero about how each building block works, how they connect with each other, and how we could efficiently work with them.”
Vivienne Jing Zhang
Vivienne Jing Zhang
  • 2023 SPARC Winning Team Member
  • Current MCIT Online Student, Fall 2022 Cohort
“SPARC is a full set of software engineering experiences … from familiarizing with existing tools, brainstorming ideas, drawing flowcharts to programming/implementations, QA testings and demonstrations. This enabled me to know behind the scenes [of software engineering].”
Aishan Zhang
Aishan Zhang
  • 2023 SPARC Winning Team Member
  • Current MCIT Online Student, Fall 2022 Cohort

SPARC 2023 Prerequisites

Core Class Requirement

Each student passed and completed at least four core classes by the end of the Spring 2023 semester:

  • CIT 5910 Introduction to Software Development
  • CIT 5920 Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science
  • CIT 5930 Introduction to Computer Systems
  • CIT 5940 Data Structures & Software Design
  • CIT 5950 Computer Systems Programming
  • CIT 5960 Algorithms & Computation

Exam Requirements

Note: The following two hyperlinks are included for general information. Do not register or pay for the products using the links below.

1. Participants completed the Real World Cloud Product Management Specialization

2. Participants passed the AWS Cloud Certification exam

Final Project Format

Final projects included a technical design doc and video demo no longer than 15 minutes.

Introduction & Design Doc Details

  • Project Name & Team Member Names/Emails
  • Brief Introduction–  What was the problem? What was the team trying to accomplish?
  • Proposed Design– Brief, high level description of the solution
  • Sample details:
    • System Architecture– List components of the system (or provide a diagram of their relationship)
    • Data Model– How is data stored? What is the database schema?
    • Interface/API Definitions
    • Business Logic
    • Migration Strategy
  • Impact– How does this influence performance, security, and other system aspects?

Demo (15 Minute Video)

  • Walk through of deliverables
  • Other Project Details 
    • What was the testing strategy?
    • What new skills were learned through completing this project?
    • Team Dynamics– What collaboration methods were utilized as a team?

Judges / Mentors

The Executives in Residence judged all final student submissions and collaborated to choose a winner. 


The members of the winning team won $500 each.

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