Tag Archives: uwaterloo


Faculty of Engineering:

Software Engineering Capstone: Students work in teams to plan, design and develop a large software project from start to finish over the course of two terms. Past projects have included developing mobile apps, web applications, and software for embedded systems. Teams go through the whole software development lifecycle including requirements gathering, design, implementation, testing, deployment and maintenance.

Systems Design Engineering Capstone: In their final year, students complete an intensive two-term capstone design project where they apply their engineering knowledge and skills to a real-world design challenge. Past projects have included designing autonomous vehicles, medical devices, renewable energy systems, robotics projects and more. Students work in multidisciplinary teams to go through the full product development cycle from concept to prototype.

Mechanical Engineering Capstone: Students undertake a substantial individual or group design and build project over two terms under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Examples include designing and building vehicles, bridges, medical devices, aerospace components or testing/demonstrating mechanical systems. Projects culminate in a final expo where students showcase their work.

Electrical Engineering Capstone: In teams, students complete an electrical/computer engineering project from concept to working prototype over two terms. Past projects have involved hardware/embedded systems, communications networks, control systems, biomedical devices, renewable energy systems and mechatronics. Real-world constraints like safety, cost and timelines must be considered.

Faculty of Environment:

Environment & Resource Studies Capstone: Students undertake a major project related to addressing an environmental issue or sustainability challenge. This could involve research, policy analysis, program design or another applied project. Students present their work at a capstone conference at the end of the term. Past projects include developing environmental education programs, analyzing climate change policy, conducting ecological restoration projects and more.

Geography Capstone: In their final year, Geography students complete an individually-designed research project or internship under a faculty advisor’s supervision. Examples are conducting field research, creating mapping projects using GIS, undertaking policy analysis and planning projects related to topics like urbanization, climate change, resource management and more. Results are presented in a major written report and presentation.

Environment & Business Capstone: As a culminating experience, students participate in a sustainable business consulting project partnered with a local organization or business. Projects include conducting feasibility studies, developing business/marketing plans, making recommendations for improved operations/practices related to issues like renewable energy adoption, green building, ecotourism and more. Teams present their findings to the partner organization.

Faculty of Science:

Biology Capstone: Students undertake a research investigation in one of the research labs on campus, analyzing real scientific data and writing a research thesis. Past topics studied include biology of disease, genetics, genomics, evolution, biodiversity, ecology and more. The research experience culminates in a scientific poster presentation.

Chemistry Capstone: In their final year, Chemistry students complete an independent research project in a faculty supervisor’s research lab. Students gain hands-on laboratory experience conducting experiments, collecting and analyzing data towards addressing an open-ended research question. The project culminates in a major scientific paper and oral presentation of results.

Computer Science Capstone: Students apply their computing knowledge by working on an major software or hardware project either through an open-ended individual project or team-based project arranged with an outside partner. Examples include developing machine learning applications, designing databases, creating VR/AR systems, and developing novel hardware prototypes. Projects are demonstrated and evaluated at the end of term.

Physics Capstone: Students either complete an independent research project working with a faculty supervisor, or participate in an internship (usually in a private sector lab setting). Past Physics capstone projects have involved advancing fundamental research in fields like nanoscience, materials science, medical physics and more. The experience culminates in a major written report and oral presentation.

As these examples demonstrate, University of Waterloo capstone projects aim to give students authentic experiential learning opportunities to apply their disciplinary knowledge and teamwork skills by taking on a major applied project that mirrors real-world work or research in their field of study. Across all faculties, capstone experiences provide a culminating pedagogical approach for students to demonstrate and be evaluated on their readiness to transition to post-graduate opportunities or professional careers. The iterative process of conceptualizing, planning, executing and presenting capstone work helps bridge the gap between theoretical classroom learning and practical applied problem solving.


At the University of Waterloo, capstone projects are a core component of many engineering and computer science programs. They provide students with the opportunity to work on a substantial project that integrates and applies the knowledge and skills they have developed throughout their degree. Given the importance of capstone projects in demonstrating a student’s abilities before graduation, the evaluation process is rigorous and aims to comprehensively assess student learning outcomes.

There are typically multiple components that make up a student’s final capstone project grade. One of the primary evaluation criteria is the final project deliverable and demonstration. Students are expected to produce detailed documentation of their project including a final report, user manual, architecture diagrams, code documentation and other materials depending on the project type. They must also arrange to demo their working project to a panel of faculty members, teaching assistants, and other evaluators. The demo allows students to showcase their project, explain design decisions, respond to questions, and display the functional capabilities of what they developed. Evaluators will assess many factors including the thoroughness and organization of documentation, how well the project fulfills its objectives and requirements, the demonstration of technical skills, and the student’s ability to discuss their work.

Another major evaluation component is the project planning and development process. Students maintain a project journal or blog where they document their progress, milestones achieved, challenges encountered and how they overcame issues. They may also submit interim deliverables like requirements documents, architectural plans, test cases and results. Faculty evaluators will review these materials to gauge how well students followed an organized development approach, their process for identifying and solving problems, version control practices, testing methodologies and ability to work independently towards completion. Feedback is often provided to students along the way to help guide them.

Peer and self evaluations are another part of the assessment. Students will complete evaluation forms commenting on the contributions and skills demonstrated by other group members, if applicable. They also conduct a self-assessment reflecting on their own performance, areas for improvement, lessons learned and what went well. This provides valuable reflection for the students and allows evaluators additional perspective on individual efforts within a team context.

Faculty advisors and supervisors play a key role in project evaluation through meetings, conversations and direct observation of students. Advisors provide progress reports commenting on work ethic, technical troubleshooting abilities, communication skills and other soft skills exhibited over the course of the project. They also evaluate any presentation rehearsals to get a sense of how students will perform during their final demo.

Besides the work of faculty evaluators, many capstone projects incorporate reviews or evaluations from external stakeholders. This could include industry representatives for professionally oriented projects or community members for projects addressing real-world problems. Their feedback provides an outside perspective on how well the project meets the needs of its intended users or beneficiaries.

Once all evaluation components are complete, faculty assign final grades or marks based on rubrics that outline specific assessment criteria. Rubrics examine factors like technical accomplishments, documentation quality, process, presentation skills, problem solving, and meeting project requirements and objectives. To pass, students must demonstrate the application of classroom knowledge to independently complete a functioning project that shows initiative, organization and professional capabilities. Grades are meant to reflect the depth and breadth of student learning over the multi-month capstone experience.

In total, the evaluation process aims to provide multiple touchpoints that capture capstone projects from project planning and development stages through to the final product. Using methods like documentation reviews, advisor meetings, peer feedback, external evaluations and formal demonstrations allows for a comprehensive assessment of each individual student’s competencies, teamwork, and ability to launch an end-to-end project. The rigorous evaluations help ensure Waterloo engineering and computer science graduates enter the workforce with strong project management and applied problem solving expertise.