• What is a Capstone Project?      cap

    From the perspective of a former STEM student...

    STEM students during their junior and/or senior year enroll in a course called Honors Research & Design/Capstone. This is the final requirement in the STEM Academy in order to earn recognition in the pathway. In this course, students are required to conduct an independent research project in one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) disciplines. The project incorporates annotated research, critical thinking, creative problem solving and/or the scientific method or engineering design process of a topic of the student’s choice. Each student is paired together with a STEM mentor who is a scientist, mathematician and/or engineer to assist them with their capstone. Throughout the year students will research, test, and put together a poster presentation for the end of the year STEM Gallery Walk.

    My journey: I am Rachel Jones and I am finishing my Capstone Project this May of 2016. The purpose of this STEM project is to restructure the Cecil County Public Schools STEM website.  I felt the previous website was not user friendly because it was confusing, hard to navigate, and lacked the information needed for a student or parent interested in the STEM Academy.  Background research was collected about website design and how to attract viewers. Through this research I learned the basic elements of design and how to create a good design by using basic techniques like lines, shapes, color, space, texture, and value.  These elements were a challenge to use because the website editor was limiting on the things I could change.  Another source discussed keeping the website simple and streamlined, so the first thing we did when accessing the website was simplifying the navigation and consolidating some pages.  Graphic designers normally create and customize their own designs for their website but I didn’t have the skills to do that so it limited how much I could customize the website.

    A survey was created for current STEM Academy students, parents, and teachers in Cecil County.  A total of sixteen responses from parents, students, teachers, and administrators helped determine the content that needed to be included in the website and narrow down the main focuses of the website.  The focus areas are: About STEM, CCPS STEM Programs, Capstone Project, Gallery Walk, and Need to Know.  The new website is user friendly, easy to navigate through, and has all the information STEM Academy students and parents requested to have.  

    Lessons Learned: Throughout the STEM Capstone Project class I have learned a couple things that I would fix if I had to do the project over again.  A really big factor of getting this project done is good time management, which is something I do not have.  I am a person who puts everything to the last minute.  In this class, that does not work; there is always something that can be done for the project. I recommend making a timeline of due dates in addition to what the STEM teachers gives you.  Also communicate with your parents, they will help you stay on top of things.  

    Another thing is keep this project high on your priority list so you don’t fall behind.  Also, stick to the deadlines, it will help you later in the project.  This class is just as important as all the other classes you might have.  The work needs to be done because at the end of the year you have to show your progress in front of a lot of people at the gallery walk.  This program can also help you get into colleges, internships, and future careers, so make yourself look good by putting time and effort into your project.

    Rachel Jones
    Former student