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Inviting Clients for 2020 HCI Capstone Projects


students stack a pile of boxes in the arms of a teammate to illustate the burden of being a caregiver during a capstone presentation

The Human-Computer Interaction Institute is currently seeking client sponsors for spring semester 2020 projects.

Capstone projects are a partnership that benefit both parties involved. Project sponsors get hundreds of hours of skilled research and development, while our students gain valuable experience working on a real-world project.

If you are interested in partnering with the HCII this spring, details about the undergraduate and graduate level HCI capstone projects are below.


Undergraduate HCI Capstone Projects (spring)

We are looking for approximately 10 project clients for the spring semester of 2020.
Our talented undergraduate HCI students have improved the features of the popular reservation app, Resy, built the controls for a kid-oriented robot, designed an interactive exhibit for the Carnegie Museum and built an application to help players on the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team to learn their playbook. Other prototypes designed and built by our student teams include a video game to help orthopedic surgery patients with their rehab exercises and novel controls for a robotic arm for quadriplegics.
Each spring semester, teams of 4 to 5 seniors from several disciplines (Computer Science, Design, Psychology, Information Systems, Business, and many, many more) majoring in Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon complete a semester-long project for an internal or external client. Projects involve several activities: user-centered research to assess needs, ideation and concept validation, interaction design, prototyping, and several rounds of user testing and redesign. The final deliverable is a highly polished prototype with documentation of research and code. Clients often turn their prototype into fully functional products, sometimes by hiring one or more members of the project team for the summer.
Projects begin in mid-January and finish in early May. The best projects for students and clients balance flexibility and structure, meaning that they are open-ended with room for research discoveries, judicious scoping decisions, and design creativity, but are not all the way over at the far end of being ill-defined. Projects can be based on an existing product, but do not have to be. Because the course has its own set of deadlines and deliverables, projects should not be tied to the client organization's production schedule. Although clients do not pay for the projects, they must commit to weekly contact with their student team, with at least one person on the client side who will spend a few hours per week providing materials, software, and feedback to the students (as needed). Clients are also responsible for helping the project team gain access to users and other stakeholders over the course of the project.
If you have a project that could benefit from the expertise of our students, please  email Professor Vincent Aleven [with "Undergraduate Human-Computer Interaction Capstone Project" in the subject line] by November 25, 2019. Be sure to include the contact information of your intended client liaison, as well as a short (1 to 3 paragraphs) description of your project. Also, in your project description, please explain how you would help the project team gain access to users and, if appropriate, other important stakeholders. We will invite 10 to 15 potential clients to give a very short presentation to the students in early December. The students will then vote their preferences, and projects will be selected and student teams formed prior to winter break.


Master of Human-Computer Interaction Capstone Projects (spring & summer)

The MHCI Capstone Project is the premier engagement with the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, delivering the greatest educational benefit to the students and deepest exploration for industry partners. Capstone Projects provide fundamental integration between a student team, faculty mentors, and a corporate sponsor, focused on an area of exploration and design development driven by the industry partner.

The equivalent of a masters thesis, the Capstone serves as the culmination of the student’s MHCI experience and is often a means by which corporate sponsors can explore products, services, and emerging technologies that may not fit into their existing roadmaps. Capstone projects have been used to invigorate existing teams or to supplement corporate partners without an internal experience team. Over the 23 years of the MHCI program, students have worked with clients ranging from early stage startups and non-profits to global tech giants, and have created a variety of solutions in past MHCI Capstone projects.

The duration of an MHCI capstone project is 8 months. A team of 4 to 6 students and 2 faculty advisors is assigned to each project. The project sponsor is expected to serve as a domain expert and provide regular critique and collaboration with the team.

(For shorter duration projects, sponsors can also consider Independent Studies and Externships, which range from 1 to 3 months. See: Doing Research with Us.)

A gift to the university as defined with the CMU team.

For more information about sponsoring an MHCI capstone project, please let us know that you're interested as soon as possible by  contacting Engagement Manager, Jessica Stanley