Suggested School Projects for IT and Computer Networking Students

College student using computer
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High school and university students studying computer networking and Information Technology are sometimes asked to complete class projects as part of their course work. These projects may be designed by the instructor or ones that the students choose for themselves.

If you are a student, or the parent of a student, who needs to come up with some ideas for a good project involving computer networks, try some of these ideas.

Network Design and Setup Projects

The experience of setting up a small network teaches a person a lot about basic networking technologies. Beginner level projects can include bringing together different kinds of equipment and evaluate the different configuration settings each one offers, and how easy or difficult it is to get particular types of connections working.

IT students can consider projects involving the planning for large computer networks such as those used by schools, businesses, Internet Service Providers, and datacenters. Network capacity planning includes estimation of equipment costs, layout decisions, and consideration of the software and services the network can support. These projects can also involve studying the design of existing networks (such as those of a school) and identifying ways to improve them.

Network Performance Studies

Students can assess the performance characteristics of local networks and Internet connections under varying conditions.

Examples include

  • measuring the actual data transfer rates along with the latency of real network applications, and the effects of network traffic congestion on applications
  • measuring the effects of physical obstructions (different types of materials) and/or sources of wireless interference (like microwave ovens) on active network connections
  • measuring performance differences between different types of network hardware (such as routers from different manufacturers) or operating systems (such as between Windows and Linux)
  • comparing and contrasting the performance of software applications like Web servers
  • for software developers, modifying open source software applications to utilize parallel programming techniques

Network Security Projects

Student projects that test the security level of a computer network setup and/or demonstrate ways that security can be breached are also popular:

  • running network sniffers to capture traffic sent over a network connection and identify all the different network protocols it is using
  • measuring the effects of antivirus software on a computer's processor (CPU) utilization and performance.  network worms
  • for software developers, building a network firewall application

Projects Involving Emerging Internet and Network Technologies

Experimenting with technologies that are currently "hot" in the industry can be a great way to learn about their real-world benefits and limitations. For example, a project could investigate what it would take for a family to retrofit their existing home appliances (refrigerator, washing machine, dishwasher, and so on) to work as Internet of Things (IOT) gadgets (and what interesting usages those setups might have.)

Elementary and middle-school students can begin preparing for these kinds of projects by learning to code. Try a few of the free kid-friendly programming languages and tools on this list to help them get started.