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Capstone projects can demonstrate students’ learning throughout their college career and connect learners with local business partners.

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In higher education, the capstone course is an opportunity for students to present on the culmination of their learning, tying together their degree experience. In many cases, students are also granted the opportunity to make a difference through partnering with an outside organization to provide insight and support in their field.

As experiential learning, capstone course projects give students hands-on experience, confidence in their skills and deliverables they can discuss in their next opportunity after college. They also benefit local organizations, create a talent pipeline to the workforce and give students social capital through professional connections.

Here are five examples of recent creative capstone projects college students have completed.

Michigan State University — Promoting Hispanic Heritage in Professional Baseball

Advertising students in their capstone class partnered with the Lansing Lugnuts, the local minor league baseball team, to put together campaign materials for the team’s seven-game series in the Copa de la Diversion. The Copa is a season-long event to embrace culture and values of local Hispanic communities that rebrands the team in Spanish.

The Lansing Lugnuts became the Lansing Locos and MSU students helped create a new slogan, promotional food and drink menu, social media graphics and videos for the team. As part of the project, students put together market research, checked in with their client throughout the semester and gave a final presentation of their campaign to the client.

Virginia Tech Innovation Campus — Spotting Rain for Autonomous Vehicles

At Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, computer science and computer engineering master’s students have the option to create their own capstone project or work with a private corporation on a specific venture.

Recently, a student group worked with Torc Robotics, headquartered in Virginia, to create rain detection software for autonomous trucks. The six students collected camera data and lidar sensor data to create a machine-learning model that can detect rain in images, as well as an algorithm that detects rain in scans. The two pieces had a 90 to 92 percent accuracy when working together.

Torc Robotics plans to test the group’s software and possibly implement it within the company’s autonomous vehicles.

Indiana University, Indianapolis — Solar Eclipse Promotion

Indianapolis was one of the U.S. cities in the path of totality for the 2024 solar eclipse and, to celebrate, Visit Indy and the White River State Park hosted a Lunacy! Solar Eclipse Festival in April. IU Indianapolis students in the tourism, event and sport management senior capstone worked together in six teams to create event strategy, marketing, planning and vendor coordination for the host.

It was students who came up with entertainment ideas such as local musician performances, a dance group, a mural, Tabata and yoga sessions and more, and the students also got to help transform the pitches into reality, from recruiting volunteers for the event to making sure the eclipse party went off without a hitch.

Ferrum College — Cabbage Patch Growth

Crop science students at Ferrum College in Virginia were out in the field for their capstone course, spending 14 weeks conducting a fertilizer trial to gauge the most effective method.

Survey Says

In a winter 2023 Student Voice survey by Inside Higher Ed, conducted by College Pulse, 43 percent of students said experiential learning opportunities influenced their career decisions by making them want a career in that field. An additional 33 percent learned what tasks they enjoy and 21 percent realized they were suited to that career field.

Through a partnership with a local farm owner to utilize a portion of his field, students planted and are caring for cabbage by hand. The students will harvest the cabbage they need for data and the rest will be given to the owner to sell at the local farmers’ market.

The students plan to harvest around 700 heads of cabbage in the final week to weigh, log and establish the best fertilizer methods, professor Tim Durham told WDBJ.

Trine University — Dunking Basketball Ticket Sales

For several years, students at Indiana-based Trine University’s sports management program partnered with a professional basketball team to sell tickets, but when the team moved from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis, faculty member Brandon Podgorski turned to a new team for support.

In fall 2023, the university partnered with an NBA team, the Detroit Pistons, for its capstone course, receiving six weeks of sales training from their faculty members and staff at the Pistons.

For the rest of the term, learners could sell discounted tickets to the Pistons’ 41 home games. The top seller in the course received four tickets to a game, an autographed mini-basketball and a one-on-one meeting with the ticket sales hiring manager.

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