Notes on Your Capstone

What is the Olin Senior Design Capstone? Officially, it is a two semester project class that is a culmination of the skills that students have learned over their Olin career. The Design Capstone focuses on design, effective communication, and teamwork; skills that, in other college capstone projects, are also taught alongside the capstone itself.

It should be noted that “Capstone” here actually refers to two different paths, not just SCOPE (Senior Capstone Project in Engineering ((this is one of the only times the “O” does not stand for “Olin”))). The two paths that the Design Capstone encompasses are SCOPE and ADE (Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship).

These two Design Capstone directors also coordinate with and inform each other. Benjamin Linder (ADE) and Alisha Sarang-Sieminski (SCOPE) work very closely to provide experiences for students that will meet a broad spectrum of needs, from job preparation to international engagement.

So now, a few facts and dispelled myths about the Design Capstone:


A lot of students think that SCOPE is really rich and ADE is really poor. Actually, both programs have roughly the same amount of funding per student. They just spend it differently.



SCOPE has a big celebratory event at the end of the year. ADE doesn’t. That is in part due to the fact that SCOPE has a beginning and an end, while ADE is designed to keep going for many semesters, trading out students as they graduate.

The other reason for this is that, in Ben’s words, “[it would be] very difficult for [ADE partners] to attend, and they don’t have the resources to do it.  When you do work in poverty, it’s not appropriate to have celebrations where resources could have gone to this specific context.”



This was a personal query, but it’s still a valid fact: you don’t have to travel in order to take ADE (or SCOPE). For example, I would possibly be in physical danger were I to travel to Uganda (they’re very anti-LGBTQ+). Now, I can obviously choose a different team. But let’s assume that I wanted to be on the Mississippi Delta team that I’ve been working with for another class. I don’t feel particularly safe in the deep South either, but I could still be on that team. I wouldn’t travel, and while my experience would be different, it wouldn’t be significantly diminished for not having personally interacted with stakeholders.


Thoughtful Sponsors

Some people say they don’t choose SCOPE is because of the military aspect of it. Currently, the only SCOPE sponsor that has military ties is Raytheon, although they are not solely a defense contractor and do important work in supporting STEM education. SCOPE is aware of students values when it comes to choosing project sponsors.

No, you’re not selling your soul to the Defense Department if you choose SCOPE. And you can choose to not work with a sponsor with defense ties. Bottom line: if SCOPE is a compelling option for you, there are plenty of great sponsors to choose from.


Getting Technical

Once upon a time, there was actually an ADE project that had to be discontinued because no one at Olin had the technical skill to move the project along. “At one point, I sent an email to the entire student body of one semester, saying ‘we are dying for technical expertise here,’ and I listed all the technical challenges that we needed help with.”

Conversely, SCOPE is not purely technical. The Mitsubishi Team is doing a very experience-heavy, UOCD-esque project that isn’t really geared toward a technical solution. That said, if you want a technical role, it can be found in almost any project. If you want a more user-centered role, it can be found in almost any project.


Your Design Capstone will ultimately be what you make of it.


To help you make an informed decision, Alisha and Ben will be holding an info session this Wednesday at lunch (12:30-1:30) in the Crescent Room. Bring your lunch and your questions. You do not need to be a Rising Senior to attend.

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