What is a capstone project? And why is it important? | Top Universities

What is a capstone project? And why is it important?

By Stephanie L

Updated May 4, 2021 Updated May 4, 2021

Sponsored by York University

The capstone project has become an integral part of the university degree curriculum. It can take many various forms, but its purpose remains the same. The capstone project is a unique opportunity to carry out independent group research in order to devise an innovative solution for a real-world problem. While a project of this scope and scale can be challenging, it can also be very rewarding.

The capstone project is usually the final assignment and plays a vital role in preparing students for the world of work thanks to its practical applications and ability to help hone students’ professional knowledge and skills.

At York University in Toronto, Canada, things are a little different. In 2019, the university revised the traditional capstone project and created C4: Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom. While it still possesses the fundamentals of the traditional capstone project, C4 is a new, year-long initiative that brings students together from various degree programmes to work in interdisciplinary teams with faculty and project partners on real-world challenges pitched by non-profit organisations, start-ups and businesses to create social impact. 

TopUniversities spoke to Megan Tran and Javeria Mirza, two students at York University, to find out about their capstone project and why they feel it has played an important role in not just their academic development, but their professional development as well.

It prepares you for the working world

The capstone project is designed to consolidate final-year students’ learning with valuable hands-on experience to help develop them into well-prepared and well-rounded graduates.

Students work together in small groups to come up with innovative solutions for real-life problems, all while gaining valuable insights into the demands and responsibilities of the working world. This gives students a chance to bring their leadership and management skills alive and understand the consequences of their decisions in a ‘safe space’.

C4 gives students an insight into global affairs, international relations as well as social corporate responsibility and sustainability. 

Final-year bachelor’s in international studies student Megan and master’s in political science student Javeria were two of the eight interdisciplinary students, from the Faculty of Environmental Studies, the Lassonde School of Engineering, Glendon College, and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University who worked together on the ‘Solar Floatie’ project.

“As a group, we were all interested in using technology and design-thinking for good. Our collective passion for social impact brought us together as a team. CooperLab at York University led by Professor Thomas Cooper was already spearheading the idea of an inflatable solar collector,” said Javeria.

“But how we went about developing the technology and what we wanted to use it for was up to us,” added Megan.

The Solar Floatie was born when the engineering side of the solar collector project was merged with the anthropology side and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework to propose a sustainable implementation model,” explained Javeria.

It helps build your CV and help you stand out as a candidate 

Undertaking a capstone project demonstrates to prospective employers that you’re more than just a potential candidate with the necessary academic qualifications. It shows your dedication to an issue which demands time and effort, as well as strict professionalism, work ethic and experience working in a practical, hands-on setting.

It offers valuable practical experience – something many graduates do not have

As a graduate, the reality of securing a job can be difficult as many roles demand practical experience. Many graduates are conceptually strong and suitable candidates, but a lack of applied knowledge in practical settings can make it challenging to demonstrate such experience and skills on their CV or in an interview.

The capstone project is a great solution and is something which both Megan and Javeria felt helped bridge that critical gap and has given them a competitive advantage as young professionals.

“It gave me an opportunity to learn outside a traditional academic setting and allowed me to explore my interest in sustainability and passion for social impact,” said Megan. “Since being a part of this project, I’ve been involved with a variety of organisations carrying out work that align with these passions.”

Javeria echoes Megan’s sentiments.

She said: “Bridging the lessons learnt during the capstone project such as the value of continuously learning, taking initiative, and working effectively with people from diverse disciplinary backgrounds has been invaluable in both my UN work and my graduate studies.”

It hones on specific skills that are highly valued by employers

The capstone project encompasses a real-life working culture which aims to instil a set of specific skills that are both highly valued by employers and will ultimately serve students well into their careers.

York University’s C4 focuses on the development of a wide range of skills, including creative, critical, and strategic thinking, effective communication, teamwork, problem solving and research analysis through diverse learning approaches and perspectives. Students deepen their sense of social and ethical responsibilities as they learn to mobilise their knowledge across disciplines and work effectively in interdisciplinary teams while engaging professionally with their peers and professors.

Lead image: Solar Floatie project team members work on assembling the solar energy collector, under Professor Thomas Cooper’s direction. Credit: York University

This article was originally published in March 2021 . It was last updated in May 2021

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Written by

As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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