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Capstone Experiences

Please cite as follows: Chan, CKY (2015). "Capstone Experiences", Engineering Education Enhancement and Research Asia (E3R Asia).

Frameworks for a Capstone Experience (Rowles, Koch, Hundley, & Hamilton, 2004)

Capstone experiences can be organized with respect to these four frameworks that target the capstone programs’ needs. Although, one framework is generally adopted, other frameworks may also be incorporated or acknowledged where appropriate.

  1. Mountaintop: Interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary capstone experience, in which students from two or more disciplines work collaboratively on the same project. Such capstone projects mirror the real-world setting, whereby students are required to work with people from diverse background. For instance, at Georgia Institute of Technology, students from mechanical engineering and industrial design (architecture) collaborated on a multidisciplinary capstone project (see http://www-old.me.gatech.edu/jonathan.colton/detm/detmbrochure.pdf ).   
  2. Magnet: Discipline-specific capstone experience which requires students to draw upon concepts learnt from various courses in the discipline. Such capstone projects act as a ‘magnet’ that pulls together knowledge in a summative manner, requiring students to produce a final product to demonstrate their learning.
  3. Mandate: Students enroll into the capstone courses that are organized to meet the standards and requirements set out by external industry or professional bodies (e.g. ASCE, ABET, and HKIE). For instance civil engineering students who are enrolled in a capstone course in the US gather evidence that demonstrate they have achieved the outcomes set forth by American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). 
  4. Mirror: Capstone courses which requires students to reflect on their experiences and metacognitive skills in relation to program objectives and goals. Through reflective writing, students may describe what they have learnt and how their assignments and experiences have helped them achieve each of the expected learning outcomes.


  • Rowles, C. J. Koch, D. C., Hundley, S. P., & Hamilton, S. J. (2004). Toward a model for capstone experiences: Mountaintops, magnets, and mandates. Assessment Update, 16(1), 1-2.
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa. (2013). Assessment how-to: Capstone experiences. Retrieved from http://manoa.hawaii.edu/assessment/howto/capstone.htm