Master of Data Science student Aakanksha Bose

Capstone projects help students get ready for work

18 December 2020
Taking learning beyond the classroom
Three project management and computer science students share their experience completing capstone units and explain how they've turned learning into industry experience.

A capstone is a unit of study that provides students with the opportunity to apply their course learning in a practical way that contributes to professional growth.

Managing an immersive art experience on-campus

Rebecca Ryan

Rebecca Ryan
Bachelor of Project Management student

What was your capstone unit?

All project management students complete a capstone unit during their final year which runs through both semesters. It provides students with the opportunity to successfully initiate, plan, executive, control and close a real life project based on the skills learnt during the first two years of study. As part of the capstone unit, we formed groups to deliver this project as a team.

What was your project?

My project was known as 'Project Connect' and our brief was to "plan and deliver a pop-up space to drive social connection between staff members on campus". My group consisted of seven students and we were under the guidance of our academic director. Our client was the Cultural Strategy Team at the University of Sydney.

We named our Project 'USYD Creative". At the beginning of 2020, there were many challenges considering COVID was becoming a real barrier for delivering this project. We worked with the client and identified that there was an opportunity to bring people together – particularly now as people were lacking social and physical connections.

The proposed solution was a pop-up immersive art experience held on campus for three days coupled with a virtual aspect to accommodate staff and students working from home. The event consisted of three large canvases, which posed three questions prompting the users to reflect on the year of 2020. 

What have you learnt through this project?

I have learnt a lot about myself during this project. Teamwork is a major aspect of project management and I think it is important to establish a leadership style. I was team leader so I was responsible for getting items delivered to the client on time. I learnt a lot about team dynamics and how to manage the team to get efficient results.

I think you learn a lot of theory at University which is why the capstone unit is so significant as it is a real life project, with a schedule and budget you must follow. In a project management career, there is definitely going to be some obstacles during projects, hence learning how to navigate this project during COVID has provided us the necessary skills to overcome barriers. 

Building a 'one-stop-shop' database for medical drug warnings

Karlo Karlovic

Karlo Karlovic
Bachelor of Advanced Computing student

What was your capstone unit?

For our Information Systems capstone unit (ISYS3888), we completed ‘CS36 - Improving Access to Regulatory Safety Warnings on Medicines - Creation of a searchable Database’

What was your project?

Our project was a 'one-stop-shop' for all drug warnings and advisories. After a drug is made, it undergoes many extensive tests to ensure its safety for use. However, once it is released to the public there is no easy way for medical professionals and users of a drug to find out any newly found impacts of the drug.

Some of these impacts can only be found after five, ten, or even 15 years after the drug was first released. It is therefore vital that people who have and are currently using it are aware of these adverse health effects.

We aimed to centralise this information and working with the Charles Perkins Centre (CPC) to create this online database provided us with the ability to transfer our well-developed technical skills into a real-world issue. The team at the CPC provided us with great domain knowledge and professional guidance.

The first thing we completed was to establish a clear scope of work with the client, which included gathering further requirements not specified in the initial document. This was to provide a clear expectation of what the final prototype would look like.

Once this baseline was established, we worked on an iterative design phase to figure out the design and functionally of the prototype. We then worked on implementing the frontend and backend code that would be required to implement the requirements.

The most difficult task was importing all the original data into our newly designed database schema. Throughout development, we would continuously update our live site so our client and associates could review development and changes, providing them the ability to make new suggestions and tweaks.

This occurred iteratively over multiple weeks until we came to the final prototype for handover. We believe we met the initial set of requirements as the client is now looking for ways to use this initial codebase for future use in their original project purpose.

What have you learned through this project?

Our team had to learn a lot in order to complete this project including learning new frameworks to support the site, registering and hosting a domain, and running routine server maintenance.

Working with representatives from the Charles Perkins Centre was an extremely rewarding experience. They provided us a real sense of purpose and direction that wasn’t only technically related, but also socially and culturally.

This project exposed to our group what it meant to work in a team and how the ‘real’ world works in a now online environment.

A dashboard that predicts the price of electricty

Aakanksha Bose

Aakanksha Bose
Master of Data Science student

What was your capstone unit?

DATA5703: Data Science Capstone Project

What was your project?

Our project was predicting the price of electricity in the National Electricity Market (NEM) and building a dashboard for live pricing predictions.

One of our team members works in the energy industry and presented a problem that interested us all. Though COVID-19 presented its challenges, we ensured to always sync up as a team and check-in with one another.

Our industry partner Infigen Energy was very happy with the solutions and end product we created and found that it will add benefit to the processes they are already undertaking.   

What have you learned through this project?

We were fortunate enough to partner with Infigen Energy. They were solving a particular problem and our team assisted in reaching their desired outcome and solution. Having never had any experience in the energy market, I learnt a great deal about the processes and strategies applied in pricing/the interconnected dependencies between each state. It was also very interesting to see that 24/7 monitoring is required for resources and the underlying differences between each state’s electricity needs and the corresponding price.

This project allowed us to work on a real-world problem, where the final outcome may not have been necessarily known. In many of the subjects completed throughout the Master of Data Science, most of the datasets have been explored extensively and the process explicitly defined. Working on this project allowed us to map out the project pipeline from start to finish, which will be invaluable when we carry out projects in our respective careers.

It also gave us the opportunity to explore models and libraries, which we may not have considered previously. In addition to building our technical skills, it was a chance to enhance soft skills such as communication and stakeholder management. It showed us the importance of taking a complex problem but also presenting it in a way that the everyday user can also understand.

Learn more about industry opportunities for engineering students.