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About the Capstone Project


Preparing systems engineers for professional practice invites a unique laboratory experience. At the University of Virginia, our most valuable laboratory is the real world of real clients with real problems to solve. Systems Engineering students prepare for practice by experiencing practice in our award-winning Capstone Program. 


Students enrolled in the Capstone Program work in small project teams under the direction of a faculty advisor. Each team is assigned an open-ended design problem, which has been framed by an outside client in consultation with the faculty advisor. Students apply what they have learned in the classroom - the perspectives, methods, tools of systems engineering - to the resolution of the client's problem. This typically requires the team to work closely with the client, visiting facilities, interacting with employees, refining goals and objectives, researching the literature, defining appropriate models and tools, determining data requirements and availability, collecting data, verifying analyses and results, and validating recommendations. Students are responsible for team organization and management, for developing, budgeting, and maintaining work and reporting schedules, and for adhering to the highest standards of professional conduct at all times. 


Since its inception in 1988, the Capstone Program has benefited from the enthusiastic support and participation of a wide range of client companies and agencies. The work of individual project teams has been recognized in TV and press coverage and has earned numerous awards and commendations from clients. The Program has been honored with the first Award for Educational Innovation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and the Boeing Outstanding Educator Award

Course Credits

The Capstone Program is administered through the two-semester course sequence SYS453 Senior Design I and SYS454 Senior Design II, required for all fourth-year systems-engineering majors. Each course earns three credit hours and course requirements are integrated with the School requirement for a baccalaureate thesis. Through a sequence of four one-hour design colloquia, taken in the third and fourth years of study, the Capstone Program also sponsors an innovative undergraduate seminar series, featuring alumni accounts of their own professional experiences since graduation.


Each spring, the Capstone Program culminates in the IEEE Systems and Information Engineering Design Symposium, an international professional conference featuring the fruit of undergraduate student projects in systems and information engineering and related disciplines. Student teams prepare and present papers, which are published in the Conference Proceedings. Proceedings papers are available on-line and may be purchased on CD or hardcopy format from IEEE. Examples of past Capstone projects can be found here.

Further Information

For more information about the program, contact our Capstone Coordinator: Reid Bailey, Assistant Professor, Department of Systems Engineering. Phone: 434-924-6352 E-mail: