Comets help fellow students plan their degrees with Nebula Labs

Graphic by Oluwaseun Adeyemi | Mercury Staff


Following its beta release in fall 2022, Nebula Planner, an interactive degree planner that supports any combination of degree plans, hopes to launch its full release later this semester.

The Nebula Planner is an initiative by Nebula Labs, a former project from the Association for Computing Machinery’s engineering division (ACM). Nebula Labs currently has six open-source projects: Nebula Planner, UTD Trends, UTD Survival Guide, Nebula API, sk.edge and Project Jupiter. According to computer science senior Willie Chalmers III, the founder of Nebula Labs, the organization has gone through various reworks since its founding in the summer of 2020.

“In the beginning, there was one project called ‘Comet Planning’ and that was a degree planning tool,” Chalmers said. “So that tool was a part of ACM and it was part of a newly forming software development team within ACM. So it was still Comet Planning, and it needed a name change.”

Chalmers said he decided on rebranding Comet Planner to Project Nebula both to match UTD’s space themed mascot and to represent the similarities between nebulas coalescing to form stars and the project’s mission to help UTD students. After its split from its parent organization ACM in 2022, Chalmers renamed Project Nebula to what is now known as Nebula Labs to reflect the collaborative nature of the new organization.

“The collective leadership of ACM and Project Nebula mutually agreed that we should separate because the missions of ACM’s engineering department and Project Nebula as a whole are much different. One is focused more so on ACM and one is focused on building tools for the student body more generally,” Chalmers said. “When it comes to doing stuff like partnerships with other organizations and the university, it is easier to work with other groups as a separate organization, just establishing relationships.”

While ACM currently maintains UTD Grades, a website where students can view grade distributions each semester, Nebula Labs is working on an addendum to UTD Grades. According to President Eric Boysen, Nebula Labs currently has four main product lines — Nebula Planner, UTD Trends, Nebula API and the UTD Survival Guide.

“We’ve got Nebula Planner, which is our four year undergraduate degree planning software that we just launched into Beta last semester,” Boysen said. “We’ve got [UTD] Trends, which is the project that I previously led, which is our data analytics platform that provides grade distribution data. We’re also looking to add professor evaluations, rate my professor data, so you kind of have a one-stop shop for everything you want to know about your classes.”


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