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Capstone Guidelines

The purpose of the capstone in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science is for students to undertake an independent project that applies and synthesizes what they have learned in their major(s).

In one of their final two semesters at Drake, seniors are expected to complete a capstone project for each department major. Two outcomes of the project include a written paper as well as a poster that the student will present to students and faculty of the department during a poster presentation session, usually during the last two weeks of the semester.

The selection of a faculty sponsor is a crucial part of the capstone project. Not only can their advice be very helpful, but early, careful planning with the sponsor will ensure a successful capstone project. For students doing more than one capstone, joint projects are possible, subject to sponsor approval. The understanding is that the work put into a joint capstone should be commensurate with the number of majors (for example, the work put into a capstone counting for two majors should be roughly twice as much as for a single capstone). Capstones are graded in the standard fashion, with a letter grade.

Each semester, the department schedules capstone courses which are required for each major. The faculty member assigned to teach this course also serves as the capstone coordinator.

  1. Each capstone student (student doing a capstone) must have a faculty sponsor for his or her capstone project. It is the student's responsibility to find a sponsor within the department. After the student has decided upon a project and sponsor, he or she must send an email to the capstone coordinator no later than the 3rd week of the semester in which they intend to complete their capstone, stating their capstone sponsor and the title of their project, with a cc sent to the sponsor. The capstone coordinator will confirm receipt. Failure to file this email with the capstone coordinator could result in the completion of the capstone being delayed one semester.
  2. No later than the 8th week of the semester, each capstone student must submit a progress report via email to the student’s sponsor and the capstone coordinator explaining the work that has already been completed for the project along with a list of remaining tasks and a planned timeline for their completion. If the sponsor or capstone coordinator judges that sufficient progress has not been made or that proposed timeline is not satisfactory, the student may be required to delay completion of the capstone by one semester.
  3. Each capstone student must write the equivalent of a 6-8 page single spaced paper. Mathematics for Secondary Education and Computer Science majors have some additional specific requirements given below, but in all cases, the student should work with his or her sponsor to ensure that the paper has an appropriate form for the project.
  4. Each capstone student will prepare a poster to present at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science Capstone Poster Session near the end of the semester. The poster should include an overview of the project using figures and short blocks of supporting text (several examples are displayed throughout the second floor of Howard Hall), and students are required to stand with their posters during the poster session in order to explain and answer questions of faculty and students who attend. A wide range of poster styles are acceptable including those constructed from piecing together several normal-sized sheets of paper or those that are large and printed using specialized printers. The student is responsible for the cost of constructing and printing the poster. If appropriate for the project, students may also bring a computer or other device to the session in order to give hands-on demonstrations.
  5. If a student has a compelling rationale to present their capstone orally rather than with a poster, they can do so with permission from their faculty sponsor and capstone coordinator. The faculty sponsor (and not the capstone coordinator) is responsible for scheduling and publicizing the presentation in consultation with the student. This presentation cannot be scheduled during the capstone poster session.  The option to present orally should be exercised judiciously because oral presentations place additional demands on both student and faculty time. A student who gives an oral presentation is still required to attend the capstone poster session.
  6. The department feels that revision is an essential part of a research project. Hence capstone students are required to submit a draft of their poster and paper to their sponsor in time for her or him to give the student useful feedback before the poster session.
  7. The final version of the paper should be submitted to the sponsor for grading as well as to the capstone coordinator for archiving (an electronic submission process for the archival version will be made available). The capstone papers are due the beginning of finals week.
  8. The capstone sponsor, in consultation with the department, will determine whether or not the student has satisfied the requirements for the capstone.
  9. Duties of the faculty sponsor include:
    1. Receiving and approving a proposal for the project.
    2. Receiving and giving feedback, direction, etc. on the progress of the project and paper. This includes working with the student to ensure they are satisfying the capstone requirements.
    3. Receiving and reading the final draft of the paper.
    4. Determining if the student has satisfied the requirements of the project.

Additional Guidelines for Computer Science majors:

Computer Science majors are expected to demonstrate significant development of software, building of systems, and/or contribution to a computer science research project. Good computer science practices should be employed throughout the project by using appropriate abstraction techniques, algorithms, and data structures. Students should also be able to combine ideas from multiple courses, independently learn new skills and information as necessary, and be able to discuss issues like performance/computational-complexity and the context in which the project operates. Thus, the capstone paper should contain the following elements:

  • A project narrative discussing the student’s contributions. The following items should be covered:
    • The problem that the project addresses
    • The context (literature survey, information on the environment, users, etc.)
    • The activities taken to complete the project
    • The results
  • A description of how the project demonstrates appropriate use of abstraction techniques, algorithms, and data structures
  • A discussion of the performance or computational complexity of the software or system
  • A discussion of how the student used ideas from multiple courses in the project and what new things were learned in order to complete the project

Academic Integrity

The Capstone is considered scholarly work, and capstone students should respect their own research as well as the standards typical for scholarly work. In scholarly work, portraying someone else's work as your own is considered a capital offense and is often career ending. Therefore, capstone projects will be held to strict standards. If a student is caught plagiarizing or violating standards of academic integrity, they will fail the capstone, and the incident will be reported to the Arts and Sciences Dean's Office as required by the College of Arts and Sciences.

For information on what constitutes a violation of academic integrity, see the Arts and Sciences Policies and Regulations. In addition, the following are considered violations of academic integrity:

  1. Submitting a capstone that was given in another department without approval from the student's capstone sponsor.
  2. Using material from another student's capstone, without acknowledgement.
  3. Passing off existing material as one's own work. In general, if a statement is not footnoted, quoted, attributed, remarked upon in comments or somehow acknowledged, it should be the student's own work.
  4. Cutting and pasting from the Internet. Anything over three words that is not the student's own wording needs to be attributed.

Students will be required to sign an honor statement stating that they both understand and will adhere to the standards of academic integrity listed above.

Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, 2014-15

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