If you talk to our alumni, they'll probably say the MHCI Capstone Project is both the most valuable and most challenging experience of the program.

While the curriculum and work for this project are demanding, it provides our students with valuable user-centered research, iterative design and product development experience before they step outside of our halls and back into the business world.


Capstone Project Overview

The Capstone project is structured to cover the end-to-end design process of a product development lifecycle.

Working with faculty mentors and their industry partner, Capstone teams conduct user research in order to create product designs and interactive prototypes to improve or design new applications to a partner's existing technology. The project culminates with a presentation of the team's final prototypes at the end of the summer.

We have more than 20 years of projects. Take a look at past MHCI Capstone projects on our archive.

The Schedule

The Capstone project is made up of two core classes taken consecutively: 05-671: HCI Project I in the spring and 05-672: HCI Project II during the summer.

During the spring, students complete their remaining core classes and electives while also taking HCI Project I. In the summer term, students are expected to be full-time on their capstone project and typically only are enrolled in HCI Project II. Part-time students must make arrangements to be full-time students during HCI Project II in the summer semester due to the demand of the project, view the MHCI sample study plans.

The Work

The spring semester of the Capstone focuses on getting to know the sponsor and their company, setting scope and secondary research like competitive analysis and user research. At the end of the first semester, students are required to produce their findings, which include a documented report, photographs, video, field notes, models and frameworks.

The summer semester includes an ideation phase, where students use their data to design a prototype that addresses the needs, desires and problems of their users. The remainder of the summer is spent iteratively programming and testing that design, which should be put through at least three iterative phases. At the end of summer, the teams will have produced a designed, developed and tested prototype.

The Student Teams

Each team is comprised of four to six MHCI students completing their final two semesters. Teams are interdisciplinary, with students from design, technology and social sciences backgrounds. Each team is matched with an industry sponsor based on student choice and background at the beginning of the course.

The Faculty

Two Carnegie Mellon HCII faculty members advise and mentor the student teams. Faculty meet with the students on a weekly basis to provide guidance on scope, time management and to ease communications across the student teams and sponsors. Faculty also lead weekly capstone lectures for the cohort.

The Sponsors

We work with a variety of industry partners on our Capstones. Past project sponsors have included a variety of organizations from nonprofits and nimble startups to globally recognized brands.

To learn more about sponsoring an MHCI Capstone project, please contact MHCI Engagement Manager Jessica Vogt at vogtj@cmu.edu.

IP, Contracts and Gifts

Carnegie Mellon University is a non-profit organization. Legally our students own the intellectual property they develop in the performance of the course. In order to participate in a sponsored project, students are required to sign a non-exclusive, royalty-free license. Any additional rights by the sponsoring company are negotiated directly with the students at the completion of the project.