What Are Capstones?
Capstones are design projects conducted in collaboration with industry partners during their senior year. Sponsored capstones allow faculty and industry professionals to guide students through the process of identifying practical opportunities and creating innovative real world solutions – including prototypes, new designs and processes. Faculty and students first define the project scope in collaboration with business professionals after which students engage in a hands-on approach as they solve open-ended problems supervised by a capstone coordinator and industry professionals.
Capstone teams consist of several students and may be multi-discipline; they are led by a faculty advisor who mentors the team, makes sure it is on track and has access to appropriate resources. Team members participate in guest lectures by industry and academic experts; learn and apply engineering design processes; meet deliverables and deadlines; and attend regular coordination meetings among team members, project sponsors and participating faculty.
Examples of Capstones
Here are a few examples of capstones that took place in recent years:
- Predict power failures in power distribution systems through data mining and multivariate statistics
- Develop sustainable structure designs that meet LEED Gold standards, with an emphasis on resiliency and sustainability; address sea-level rise adaptation and climate-change mitigation; meet the local community’s needs and adhere to city codes
- Advance statistical inference tools and productivity measures to improve patient experience, decrease employee idle time and optimize appointment scheduling processes in health care environments
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who Benefits from Capstones?
Capstones benefit not only students but also industry and academia. Industry partners can, at minimal expense, explore new low-cost solutions while retaining full rights to intellectual property rights developed in capstones, and observe future potential hires in real-life situations. Engineering students learn practical skills by solving actual problems of interest to industry.
- What Is the Difference Between a Capstone and an Internship?
Internships are training experiences that students take in the industry for a period ranging from one to three months during summer. In contrast to internships, the capstone projects must adhere to standards of performance set by the national engineering accreditation agency and include coursework that meets those standards as well as a practical application of the academic concept being explored. Capstones are performed in teams and include deliverables that students present in front of an audience. Distinct from internships, capstones facilitate dynamic ongoing industry/academia partnerships.
- How Can Industry Get Involved in Capstones?
Capstone partnerships foster an active engagement dynamic consisting of industry partners’ project identification followed by an academically rigorous project engagement to ensure a robust development process. Supported by a modest financial contribution from the sponsor to defray the expense of both human and physical University resources, the projects are then activated. This financial engagement begins at $10,000 per semester for a group of two students supervised by a faculty member. The project sponsorship can be scaled up for larger groups and longer projects. These estimates are based on costs actually incurred by the University, such as faculty advisors, professionally equipped workspaces, workshops and training for students, access to the UM College of Engineering – Johnson & Johnson 3D Printing Center of Excellence Collaborative Laboratory and makerspace facilities, UM library and research laboratories.
- Who Owns the Intellectual Property (IP) Developed During Capstones?
At this time, the University of Miami has agreed to make no claims to the IP developed during capstones. The IP is between students and the company sponsoring the capstone. The industry sponsors may ask capstone instructors to sign non-disclosure agreements so that their trademarks and IPs stay protected.
Lisa Merritt, executive director of development, provides information and guidance regarding the funding process, as well as relevant taxation and sponsorship policies and regulations.
Ericson De Paula, PhD, lecturer in Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, conducts external marketing and engagement including corporate site visits and industry visits.
Bob Williamson, entrepreneur-in-residence, handles all types of intellectual property and licensing issues.