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.

In 2021, Penn Engineering Online launched SPARC (Side Projects for Advancement, Refinement and Collaboration), a summer-long competition designed to help MCIT Online students take their side projects to the next level. This year, SPARC is sponsored by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Students will gain exposure to a top-tier tech company through a 12-week program that is supported by industry software development managers from AWS.

With SPARC 2022, MCIT Online students will work collaboratively in teams to solve a real-world AWS engineering problem over the course of the summer. Final projects will be presented at a symposium in September. The winning team will receive $500 each and will be fast tracked to an interview with AWS. 

Round One (March – May 2022)

In round one, students will complete the SPARC 2022 prerequisites and submit their group application for consideration. Student teams will have four students each.

SPARC 2022 Prerequisites

Core Class Requirement

Each student must pass and complete at least four core classes by the end of the Spring 2022 semester:

  • CIT 591 Introduction to Software Development
  • CIT 592 Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science
  • CIT 593 Introduction to Computer Systems
  • CIT 594 Data Structures & Software Design
  • CIT 595 Computer Systems Programming
  • CIT 596 Algorithms & Computation

Elective Requirement

Each student must pass and complete at least one MCIT Online elective by the end of the Spring 2022 semester.

Exam Requirements

Note: The following two hyperlinks are included for general information. Do not register or pay for the products using the links below. Registration details will be distributed to each participant after the interest form collection closes.

1. Complete the Real World Cloud Product Management Specialization

2. Pass the AWS Cloud Certification exam

Round One Timeline

Thursday, March 3Internal Information Session with MCIT Online and AWS (4:00-5:00 PM ET on Zoom)
Thursday, March 17Interest Form Closes
Thursday, March 31Internal Networking Session & Application Opens (Begin Peer to Peer Networking to Form Teams)
Saturday, April 30Application Deadline

Round Two (May – August 2022)

During round two, the top teams will work with mentors to complete their projects. Final submissions are due at the end of August.

Round Two Timeline

MayMentor(s) Assigned
AugustFinal Submissions Due

SPARC Symposium

Join us on Friday September 23rd 12-1:30pm EST for the SPARC Symposium

During the Symposium, representatives from each SPARC team will be reviewing their project demos and answering your questions about engaging in side projects while completing the MCIT Online program. This event will also feature speakers from AWS, project mentors, and the EIR judging panel. Register for this event here

Judges / Mentors

Judges for the SPARC Symposium will be composed of representatives from the Penn Engineering Online Executives in Residence.


The members of the winning team will win $500 each and have a fast track to interview with AWS.