EDD Capstone Phase 1

Defining a problem to research and solve through engineering


As your last semester of high school starts, you’ll also be starting your capstone engineering project.  This project will take all semester as you identify a problem, research a component of your solution, and build multiple prototypes as you work toward a final solution.  The entire project will culminate in your presenting both your research and your solution to the problem.  As you work through the first phase of this project, you will be expected to:

  • Select and fully define a real-world problem
  • Research, brainstorm, and select some possible solutions
  • Identify a key area of needed research & plan that research
  • Complete the first phase of your research report

In addition to our engineering work, we’ll also do some work related to college and the future.  While you’re budgeting time for your research and planning, you also need to do three important college tasks.

  • Apply to UAF (if you haven’t… time it right and you can do it for free!)
  • Fill out the FAFSA online with your family
  • Apply to the AEEF Scholarship

When you’re done you will have gotten a good start on your senior capstone project as well as its corresponding engineering research project.  You will also have made some major headway in your college journey.


(40 pts) About 3 days

To start, you need to identify a real-world problem you want to address.  The problems can be large-scale, small-scale, or anywhere in between.  You want a problem that is interesting to you, and that can reasonably be addressed in our lab in one semester.


(60 pts) About 6 days

You’ll identify an area of research relevant to your project and prototyping.  Maybe you want to research the some materials properties, pneumatic systems, antennae signal strengths, or manufacturing processes.  You’ll then make a plan for that research and conduct a short literature review.


(20 pts) About 2 days

While all that’s going on, you need to budget time to complete three additional college tasks. If you haven’t yet, you’ll apply to UAF, fill out the FAFSA, and apply to AEEF’s annual scholarship!


Choose, define, and research a problem you want to tackle

Capstone: Choosing a Problem

As you get started with your semester long Senior Design Capstone Project, we’ll start by brainstorming different problems.  The problem you choose could take on a range of scopes.  You could choose a very narrow problem that only impacts you individually, or a larger problem that impacts our entire classroom.  You could look further and identify a problem that the Lathrop community faces, or possibly a problem that all of Fairbanks has to deal with.  Whatever you choose, you’ll then need to clearly define the problem with a design brief including all the components we always need to include.

Once we’ve fully defined the problem we need to start some research.  Early on, you’ll do some basic research just to wrap your head around the problem. Once the problem is better understood, your next job will be to take the key element of the project and develop it into a full research project, and the next part of our description focuses on that.  If time permits (and it likely won’t), you might take some time and build a very basic “proof of concept” prototype.  This initial prototype likely won’t do what you want it to do, but it should at least demonstrate the principle and get us thinking about what it will take to make things work fully be the end of the semester.


 Select a problem and develop a complete design brief to define it

 Research the problem and brainstorm possible solutions

 Identify a research question and topic for your own research

 Have Mr. Benshoof approve your design brief & research topic

 Select a few ideas for what your solution might be

 Discuss your ideas with Mr. Benshoof

What’s Due In Capstone: The Problem

  • Design Brief
  • Research & Brainstorm
  • Research Topic
  • Mr. Benshoof’s approval
  • Solutions
  • Discuss with Mr. Benshoof

Here’s what’s due in Capstone: The Problem

  1. Develop a design brief for your problem
  2.  Research & Brainstorm possible solutions
  3.  Identify a research topic
  4.  Have Mr. Benshoof approve your design brief & research topic
  5.  Select a few ideas for what your solution might be
  6.  Discuss your ideas with Mr. Benshoof


Researching an engineering principle that is essential to your problem

Capstone: The Research

Engineering is all about using math and science to solve problems and make the world a better place.  A big part of the math and science component is being able to research principles that relate to your problem or to the creation of your prototyped solution.

The research component of your capstone project will run concurrently with the building and prototyping aspect of your project. You’ll need to budget your time carefully to make sure both are progressing at the right place, and so that you meet the required deadlines.

In this part, you’ll write a short literature review on the topic you’ve chosen.  You’ll then design an experiment that will test the principle(s) you need to investigate.  You’ll then complete that experiment and collect as much data as you can.


Identify a relevant principle to research

 Have Mr. Benshoof approve your idea/topic

 Take notes on 5 pieces of scholarly literature

 Write a 3-page literature review

 Define your problem, make a hypothesis, and design an experiment

 Conduct the experiment and collect the data

 Have Mr. Benshoof edit your literature review and confirm your data

What’s Due In Capstone: The Research

  • Identify Research Topic
  • Mr. Benshoof’s Approval
  • Notes on Literature
  • Literature Review
  • Problem, Hypothesis, Experiment
  • Collect Data
  • Mr. Benshoof’s Check-off

Here’s what’s due in Capstone: The Research

  1. Identify a relevant principle to research
  2.  Have Mr. Benshoof approve your idea/topic
  3.  Take notes on 5 pieces of scholarly literature
  4.  Write a 3-page literature review
  5.  Define your problem, make a hypothesis, and design an experiment
  6.  Conduct the experiment and collect the data
  7.  Have Mr. Benshoof edit your literature review and confirm your data

College Tasks

Application Time

College Tasks

In addition to your work on your semester project, you also need to complete three important tasks for your college work. First, if you have not yet applied to UAF you need to do so.  If you time it right, you can apply for free.  Having an application in and accepted to UAF gives you the peace-of-mind that you’re ready to go somewhere, and also lets you start the ball rolling on some important scholarship pieces. If you want to apply elsewhere, now’s the time to do that, too!

Then, you’ll fill out the FAFSA with your family.  This is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  It’s filled out online, and requires you to sit down with your family to include various financial information.  The FAFSA is a required step for applying to most scholarships at any university – including UAF.

Finally, once you’ve been accepted to UAF and the FAFSA is complete, you can turn your attention to the Alaska Engineering Education Foundation scholarship application.  This essay was written last semester, so all you need to do is complete the resume and application portion, attach your essay, and get it submitted.  Watch the deadline!


 Apply to UAF

 Complete the FAFSA

 Complete the AEEF Scholarship Application

 Have Mr. Benshoof check-off your completed work!

What’s Due In College Tasks

  • Apply to UAF
  • AEEF Scholarship
  • Mr. Benshoof’s Check-off

Here’s what’s due in College Tasks

  1. Apply to UAF
  2. Complete the FAFSA
  3. Complete the AEEF Scholarship Application
  4. Have Mr. Benshoof check-off your completed work!

Double Check: Unit Expectations

Check what you need to have completed by the unit deadline

The purpose of the capstone course is to give you the time and opportunity to go through the entire Engineering Design Process completely to solve a real-world problem.  Along the way, you’ll be using all six steps of the engineering process to develop the best solution you can to a problem of your choosing.  In doing so, you’ll create and submit an engineering research report to the Alaska State High School Science Symposium (ASHSSS) engineering project competition.  Your final prototype will be able to compete for the yearly Ehnert Prize in April as well!

In this first phase of the Capstone Project, you’ll be asked to define the problem clearly.  You’ll also need to dig into the research and brainstorm step as you understand your problem better.  This investigation will lead to a topic for your engineering research project as well, and you’ll even develop and conduct an experiment to collect some original data.

To keep college in mind, you’ll need to complete three college tasks.  First, you’ll apply to UAF (if you haven’t already).  If you want to apply to other schools, January is the time to do it!  You’ll also complete the FAFSA as well as the AEEF Scholarship application.  Getting this done now will relieve a lot of stress as your spring semester continues to get busier and busier.

Engineering Notebook:

(Capstone Project) You should have selected a problem and created a detailed design brief including criteria and constraints

(Capstone Project) You should recorded your research as well as developed a list of brainstorming ideas for possible solutions.

(Capstone Research) You should have taken detailed notes on your 5 pieces of scholarly literature

 (Capstone Research) You should have designed an experiment to collect data on your chosen engineering principle

Building & Making:

(Capstone Project) You should consider building a very simple proof-of-concept/prototype if time permits

(Capstone Research) You should have written your 3-page literature review

(Capstone Research) You should have collected as much data as possible for your research project

 (College Tasks) Apply to UAF

 (College Tasks) Complete the Alaska Engineering Education Foundation Scholarship

Benshoof Checkpoints

(Capstone Project) You need to have Mr. Benshoof approve your design brief and research topic before collecting and discussing your research data

(Capstone Research) You need to have Mr. Benshoof edit your literature review and confirm your collected data

(College Tasks) Have Mr. Benshoof check-off your completed work!