Capstone projects are an excellent opportunity for students to synthesize the knowledge and skills they have gained from different subjects over the course of their studies. Effective capstone projects bring together concepts, questions and modes of thinking from multiple disciplines to gain new insights. Here are some examples of successful interdisciplinary capstone projects:
Music and Technology: A team of music, computer science and engineering students worked together on a project to build an adaptive music instrument. It utilized sensors, microprocessors and computer programming to create an instrument that could modify its sounds based on how it was played, combining concepts from music theory, digital signal processing and embedded systems design. The students had to learn about each other’s fields to successfully incorporate technologies, digital audio processing techniques and principles of music composition into a single project.
Public Health and Urban Planning: For their capstone, students from programs in public health, urban planning, community development and communications came together to study ways to address food desert issues in their local community. They analyzed spatial, economic and social factors contributing to lack of healthy food access. They then proposed multi-faceted solutions involving urban agriculture, transportation alternatives, community education and public-private partnerships. This required an integrated understanding of urban systems, public health determinants, community development strategies and communication approaches.
Environmental Science and Political Science: A interdisciplinary team of students investigated the policy challenges around promoting the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) as part of the transition to renewable energy. They studied the environmental impacts of EVs compared to gasoline vehicles, assessed current and projected EV technology capabilities, reviewed policy case studies from different jurisdictions, and conducted interviews with local stakeholders. For their capstone project, they proposed a comprehensive strategy involving regulations, incentives, infrastructure investments and public engagement campaigns to accelerate EV adoption. This combined technical knowledge of vehicles and energy systems with an understanding of the policymaking process.
Sociology and Computer Science: A group of students created an interactive data visualization tool to explore the associations between different social factors and health outcomes in their city. They gathered publicly available data sets on demographics, socioeconomics, environment, healthcare access and chronic disease statistics. They then applied techniques of data cleaning, modelling and visualization from their computing studies alongside sociological theories of health determinants. The final web application allowed users to visualize how specific social and community characteristics related to rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. This project bridged data analytics skills with sociological perspectives.
Architecture and Business: For their capstone, architecture and business students partnered to propose a mixed-use building development strategy for an underutilized urban site near their campus. They created architectural conceptual designs and 3D renderings incorporating different combinations of housing, office, retail and community spaces. They also conducted market analyses, developed financial models, and created business plans highlighting potential partnerships and funding strategies. This required an integrated application of architectural design principles, real estate market factors, project financing considerations and business planning approaches.
These are just a few examples of the many innovative projects students have created by building on concepts and methodologies from different academic backgrounds. Effective interdisciplinary capstone projects create new perspectives by facilitating conversations across traditional boundaries between disciplines. They challenge students to think more holistically and to appreciate diverse ways of framing and investigating important issues. These experiences equip graduates with a wider range of problem-solving skills applicable in an increasingly multidisciplinary world.