Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Computing and Information Technology
Capstone projects are an important learning experience that gives students the opportunity to gauge how to apply what they have learned in a real-world environment. Traditional approaches have embedded students in industry where often, well-defined self-contained project are the focus. The lack of critical-path projects is necessary, as companies cannot risk their competitive advantage to afford students a cutting-edge experience. A common drawback to industry experience is that it can become difficult to clearly determine performance as goals can change and projects re-defined when students struggle and mentors assigned to them either don’t want to see students fail or lack the time to fully invest their attention on them. Another approach to Capstone projects is to internalize the experience by creating faculty led projects that focus on relevant work. This can manifest itself in research projects for undergraduates where the work that students do directly impact work of the faculty. A positive outcome is that this, by its nature, immerses students in a real-world experience as the research outcomes are not only a means to vet student competencies but are relevant to the work that faculty do for their own scholarship. Though a drawback may be a reduction of exposure to a wider range of emerging technologies one expects from industry, with that type of faculty engagement, and in an academic setting, perhaps a more robust Capstone experience can be achieved.
In the Applied Engineering and Sciences department at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, which offers degree majors in computing and engineering technologies, both types of Capstone experiences have been explored. With its urban setting as a commuter campus in the largest city in our state, the college is ideally situated to work with industry partners in the area. Its engineering technology programs have successfully hosted senior Capstone projects for over 25 years, while its computing programs have similarly hosted professional Internship experiences for over a decade. Over the past seven years computing has introduced an undergraduate research project to augment the Internship experience with relative success ,  and engineering technology has introduced options for its seniors to work in internally funded projects as well . This paper will compare and contrast these two techniques of providing students with Capstone project experience to highlight the pros and cons of each. With a mix of both industry experience and faculty guided work, the aim is to provide an optimal approach that benefits students, industry partners, and faculty involved in this very important element to four-year educational degree program.
Jin, K. H., & Jonas, M., & LeBlanc, C. D., & Tavares, T. S. (2018, June), Modernizing Capstone Project: External and Internal Approaches Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30820
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