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Please see the instructions  “Project Definition Report and Format” to complete the PDR.

“Project Overall Description.” It may help you to complete the PDR

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Project Definition Report and Format



The Project Definition Report is another term for a Feasibility Study.  It is used to study a business or organization problem that will be addressed through the implementation of a system. When using the term “system”, it can be defined as an integrated set of software and hardware procedures, protocols, and operational guidelines that carry out a task, achieve a goal and/or perform a function. Systems integration is process by which each piece of a system is linked together to form a complete working system. A detailed description of the business or organizational problem(s) that are addressed with the system you are designing is conducted in the first section.



Identify the various stakeholders for the application.  This includes your group, potential users of the system, and external entities that have a stake in the system’s successful use.



Concisely list and briefly describe the functionality of the system (each part).  This should be anticipated functionality and may grow because of “scope creep” or poor planning.  In addition, be sure to list what is not included in the scope of the project. Each functional unit of the overall system project (including parts that must be coded and parts that are policies and training) must be stated. Do not forget to detail how users would be trained (manuals, etc.).


The Statement of Work (SOW) is another term used for a scope statement.


Operational Feasibility

This section describes how the users interact with the new system in theory (anticipated). It is a statement of when the system might be utilized and how.



Specific benefits the project is expected to provide (both tangible and intangible).





Worth 70 Points:

  • 30 Points for clearly describing the nature of the project (Integration of various technologies into a system that can take an encoded handwritten note and attempt to decrypt it using commonly available or public domain software). This includes describing this problem and how current systems are not built for analog, hand written encrypted messages that may be using a foreign or contrived alphabet. This requirement is incorporated into the Scope/SOW and Purpose parts of the format document.
  • 10 Points for describing potential stakeholders for such a system. (FBI, NSA, etc.)
  • 20 Points for describing how potential users would interact with such a proposed system. (First encode the handwritten message into a form that can analyzed, then digitize it, then try to decrypt it, etc.).
  • 10 Points for describing the benefits of such a proposed system (to be able to handle encrypted analog communications that criminals and terrorists may utilize to avoid sophisticated electronic decryptions software used by the government and law enforcement).


Group Project Description


You have been tasked with creating a system (procedure or set of steps that may include novel computer programs or scripts created by the group) linking “off the shelf” technologies in such a way that handwritten encoded messages (encrypted possibly using a foreign language or “made up” alphabet as the plain text original message) can be digitized and processed by automated decryption techniques (using open source or inexpensive software) in order to decrypt them. The ideal goal of the project is for a group to demonstrate a working prototype of the entire “system” (which is a set of linked procedures) taking a handwritten encrypted message, digitizing it, and then using software to decrypt it.

This project has its roots in a real life scenario. The “Zodiac Killer” terrorized the Bay Area of Central California in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The killer (who was never fully identified or captured) wrote a series of hand written letters to the media in an alphabet that included several symbols along with standard English characters. To this day, some of these letters have still not been decrypted or deciphered. Part of the problem in developing an automated “system” solution to decrypt the messages deals with the unique alphabet the killer utilized. This is not unlike the case where a handwritten message is in a foreign language. There are examples throughout history of specialized languages being used as a simple form of encryption. One example is the Navajo language that was used by the United States during World War II to protect communications from German decryption. A specialized or contrived alphabet would require additional procedures(such as the adding of characters to an alphabet set used by an optical character recognition program) prior to the digitization necessary in order to utilize software-based decryption strategies.

Main Focus of the Project:
Three major problems need to be addressed in the project:

  1. How to interpret or encode a handwritten message that may be written in a foreign language or “made up” alphabet
  2. How to digitize the handwritten message once step A is complete
  3. How to take the digitized message rendered by step B and link it to a series of open source or inexpensive decryption algorithms (software) in order to decipher the message

This project involves natural language processing, data security, and the linking of various information technologies (such as optical character recognition and readily available decryption software).

The group may propose using any type of information technology that is readily available (COTS or Commercial Off the Shelf) that costs under $1000 (and utilize such software if a group member has access to such or a trial version of it) and link several of these together; but the total cost of the entire procedure proposed (including hardware and software) is not to exceed a theoretical $5000 (no software or hardware is to be purchased). The cost for each step or enabling technology in the proposed procedure must be put forth as part of the project’s deliverables. A secondary goal of the overall project is to create a procedure that costs as close to $0 as possible (not counting free trial versions, the cost for a yearly license would be used in this final costing for a proposed solution utilizing various applications).



Grading of Deliverables During the Semester and Final Grade for the Course is Based on the Following Criteria:

  1. If the final “system” procedure proposed to solve the problem appears viable and correct. A working prototype of the procedure demonstrated in a video would be the “ultimate” deliverable where a hand written message is decoded step by step. A partial prototype combined with a description of the rest of the procedure is less desirable and will result in the awarding of less points. A mere listing of the steps and hardware/software used is acceptable, but even less desirable and has the least possible points total of the three. Students do not have to buy equipment or software, but are encouraged to utilize open source, trial versions, and other readily available resources
  2. Completion of each set of deliverables listed under the Modules section in Canvas in a timely manner
  3. Instructor evaluation of each group member
  4. Peer evaluations from each group member
  5. Perceived quality and level of effort for each deliverable
  6. How well the group follows the Systems Development Life Cycle in its approach to each deliverable and for creating the overall system (related to E above in terms of level of effort and quality)

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