Help think of a capstone

Can anyone help me think of a capstone idea? My mentor would like me to think of something that hasn’t been done already. I work at a university so he suggested finding a current problem here on campus that could be alleviated via an app and website. Problem is in my surveys, students’ main problems are getting around campus more easily and having a better to do checklist system, and both of those have been done already. I don’t know what to do.

Thank you for replying. He means that someone - anyone - has created that app before. I think he wants me to design an app for a problem that noone has created before. The demographics I interact with are just faculty and staff. I hardly have any contact with students, and definitely not with prospectives or parents. (huge university with thousands of staff/faculty)

If the problems you’ve identified have been ‘done’ sufficently, surely students wouldn’t have any remaining issues? :wink:

Could you look at those existing solutions and then take your project in a totally different direction? Or focus on a sub-set or niche where you can make a meaningful difference using a different approach? It’s already a realistic scenario because identifying a novel, outside-the-box idea and convincing others of the opportunity is an everyday part of UX. With the benefit of hindsight it’s easy for everyone to say ‘of course!’ about the solutions that were implemented. Much harder when you’re on the front side of an issue.

Or it sounds like you also have the option of addressing a problem that has nothing to do with being on campus?


Thank you for replying.

One common problem on campus is getting to class on time and staying out of the brutal heat. Figuring the shortest route through other buildings with maximized air-conditioning is a common dialogue here. So I thought about designing a navigation app for campus, but there wouldn’t be any innovation in the research aspect, or really much need to survey folks at all.

The office I work in also manages reservations for our fleet of vehicles. Maybe I could design a vehicle reservation app?

Other ideas I had were:
a sketch improv app that helps you practice thinking on your feet. It could generate different scenarios for you to practice what you’d do. It could have a timer mechanism so that you only have a few seconds to come up with a ‘yes, and’ reply to a line.

a social currency app that has a time-banking feature. For example: you give an hour’s worth of graphic design work; a couple weeks later, you need yard work done, you have an hour’s worth of work on which you can collect.

Do you think any of these would be compelling to a potential employer, and do you think they have ample opportunity for research?

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It’s hard to comment without seeing the previous research projects or your own studies and being there amongst it all. They’re all interesting ideas. The sketch improv app seems the most unique.

The shortest route app may still have plenty of scope for innovative research and a compelling result. In my experience, you don’t always see something there until you get amongst the thick of it and give it, and the people involved, an opportunity to talk to you. Would it be true that a university audience would have more appetite for something humourous or quirky?

Overall, I’d suggest taking a close look at what those problems actually mean to the people caught up in them, and let that inspire you. Then compare that to what has been done previously, where it missed the mark, and carve out your own original approach.

Are there any other criteria for selecting the capstone idea, other than ‘an original problem’?

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I feel you’re already thinking of a solution, which could be the issue. You could start by focusing on exploring the problem space more in-depth and remember most of these are assumptions at this stage. If you’ve gathered these problems by conducting observation or quantitative research, you could potentially explore more of the students’ pain points (if that’s your target audience) through qualitative research methods. Also, for the same problem, there could be many different solutions and as @Lukcha said, most likely there’s not an efficient solution yet even if the problem isn’t original.
In terms of what is compelling to a potential employer (though it could depend), it should be mostly about your approach and how you’ve tackled the problem. Without research, testing, and basically without interacting with the real users, we can’t really know how effective these potential ideas can be.


@AnaSantos and @Lukcha thank you for your thoughtful replies and help. I agree that I am jumping ahead and sort of looking at things from a solution perspective. One UX designer friend felt that the sketch improv app would be tricky to collect enough research on. I can see it being useful for folks to practice, but I can’t see doing in-depth research around it. So now I’m not sure I want to do that one after all, either.

There’s no other criteria other than refraining from doing something that’s been done already.

Why not do a electronic search for thesis research? Where students could use your app to search on existing research to relate on your thesis? You can make it local to implement the privacy of each thesis research. Just a suggestion if students haven’t done it yet.

@dianeleannemiller thank you for this suggestion. I did look through a list of research topics but had difficulty thinking about how it would fit into an app. that is a good thought! I meet with my mentor today so I will ask what he thinks about this.

Sure! Just check first the terms and privacy of all the thesis research. I think, your thesis adviser already have the soft copy of the thesis. You can convert it to pdf for the students to view.