One notable capstone project that received awards and recognition was a solar-powered autonomous boat created by two students at John Marshall High School in Rochester, New York. The students designed and built a solar-powered boat made from carbon fiber, resin and balsa wood that was able to steer and navigate autonomously on water using an onboard computer and sensors without any remote control. They entered their boat in the Solar Splash competition held by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers where it took 3rd place overall out of 30 teams from around the world. Their project received praise from judges for the boat’s autonomous capabilities and innovative design.
At Scarsdale High School in New York, a group of students created an app called Curb that helps locate and request accessible parking spaces on demand. The app uses geolocation services and crowdsourced data to map out accessible parking spots and their availability in real-time. Users can request an accessible spot through the app and be guided to its location. The students presented their project at an app development competition hosted by Columbia University where they won an award for their innovative solution to an accessibility issue. Their Curb app addressed a real problem experienced by many in the disabled community and showed off their strong skills in technology and civic problem solving.
At the International Science and Engineering Fair held in Phoenix, Arizona, a student from Washington-Lee High School in Virginia won top honors with her research project on improving solar cell efficiency. Through her experiments analyzing different semiconductor materials and their absorption of photons, she was able to develop a novel method of transferring photon energy between multiple materials to maximize absorption across a broader spectrum of light wavelengths. Her advancements could lead to more efficient Third Generation solar technology. She received the top Grand Award at the prestigious global science fair for her significant contributions to the field through thorough research and analysis as part of her capstone project.
A diverse group of students at William Annin High School in New Jersey worked on a capstone project to design and construct a functional prosthetic arm. Through CAD modeling, 3D printing, and the integration of electrical and mechanical components, they engineered an affordable prosthetic device that could be operated using muscle impulses from the residual limb of an amputee. They presented their project at various engineering expos and competitions where it garnered a lot of attention from medical professionals for addressing an important medical technology need. The students learned valuable skills in collaborative design thinking, prototyping, and biomechatronics integration through completing this meaningful project.
For their capstone at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, a team of four students developed a ground-penetrating radar device that uses ultrasonic waves to map subsurface geological structures and detect voids or anomalies buried underground. Their radar system was more compact, high-resolution, and cost-efficient compared to industry standards. The students presented their device at an science and engineering showcase hosted by NASA where it was selected as a top project. Since graduating, one of the students has gone on to major in geophysical exploration and apply their capstone experience to related academic research. Their radar prototype demonstrated how impactful student innovation can be through intensive problem-solving and hands-on engineering applications.
These examples showcase the types of meaningful, consequential projects students across various disciplines have undertaken for their high school capstone experiences. By addressing real-world issues, advancing fields of study, developing innovative technologies, and demonstrating perseverance through scientific research and engineering design, these standout projects have received well-deserved professional recognition through top awards, academic publications, and continued work in their respective areas. The hands-on, self-directed experiences offer invaluable lessons in collaboration, critical thinking, and using knowledge gained in high school to initiate meaningful contributions apply outside the classroom.