A capstone project or course is an assignment that a student takes at the end of high school, or at the end of a college degree. It is similar to a college thesis, but different because it won't be restricted to just answer a single or few hypotheses like in college theses. Although it might be associated with some projects in professional work, capstone projects are primarily associated with assignments performed at the end of high school or academic college degrees. It is termed capstone after the cap-stone used in architecture to denote the crowning achievement of a work or design.
Capstone projects are aimed at enabling students to get a better clarity to what they have learned in the entire degree by performing a culminating assignment that requires them to exhibit their understanding and knowledge of the concepts involved in the degree. Capstone projects are recommended to be started by searching for a topic of interest and then identifying a mentor in the student's field of interest. This allows them to interact with people who have extensive knowledge about the field which only serves to improve the student's own understanding of the field.
Students are also encouraged to seek out sponsors within organizations who can become mentors. It provides the additional benefits of the student gaining a network within the organization and becoming more visible in the market that is in need of their skills and knowledge. It also enables the sponsoring organization to realize significant returns in supporting students who have the required knowledge.
Capstone seminars are meetings where many students undertaking a capstone project gather, discuss and ask critical questions about the field and its concepts. This enables the students to think in a critical and objective manner, be able to solve difficult problems in the real world, develop public speaking and team building skills among other skills. It also provides a space for students to collaborate and develop an appreciation for other fields which they might not have been aware of.
Some instances of capstone projects are:
- Learning about policy by joining as an intern in a legislator's office or in an NGO
- Performing a scientific investigational study along with a research organization into the reasons behind the occurrences of certain phenomena in a region
- Assisting engineers in developing programs that address specific needs like translation software in a multilingual region
- Providing fresh inputs to a marketing plan which can help a company improve and sustain their sales
This multifaceted skill building will ultimately make a student who has completed a capstone project an attractive prospect to be included in various organizations, commercial, academic or otherwise. Introducing students to real world questions facing organizations through capstone projects will help organizations build a skilled workforce for their own needs. From the student's perspective, the skills gained can provide a competitive advantage over other students who don't possess such skills in admissions to higher academic programs and also in the job market where specific skills are much sought after.