Capstone Projects Are a Win-Win for Students, Industry

An increasing number of companies are turning to Iowa State University students for possible solutions to business needs through capstone projects. 

CIRAS project manager Jake Behrens said student capstone teams work with nearly 70 Iowa companies each year on projects that span one or two semesters. Students use the opportunities to demonstrate their ability to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a real-world problem. 

CIRAS coordinates with engineering faculty and businesses to match company needs to the correct department on campus. 

“We keep our ear to the ground and help vet projects to make sure there’s value for the students and the clients,” said Behrens. “The goal is to ensure that everyone benefits from the opportunity.” 

“It’s a win-win situation,” added Jacek Koziel, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) at Iowa State who supervises his students’ capstone projects. “Graduating seniors get a unique opportunity to apply competencies from the entire curriculum in a team-based learning setting, and our industry partners benefit from our students’ fresh perspective.”  

ABE is one of many departments that have senior capstone projects. Companies find such value in their participation in capstone projects that they often continue their relationship with Iowa State beyond the initial endeavor.  

Orbis Corporation, a plastic container manufacturing plant in Monticello, has a long history of working with the ABE department. Students have proposed new restacking technologies, developed concepts for measuring melt-flow temperatures in injection molding, and completed a cost-benefit analysis of using autonomous guided vehicles in a facility expansion. They also designed a solution to reduce noise levels produced by a grinding machine that saved the company several thousand dollars that would’ve been spent constructing a new granulator room to make the process safer. 

ABE students meet with their capstone advisor. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Orbis operations manager Doug Wortman has three goals for capstone projects: (1) to help students get real-world experience; (2) to expose them to Orbis as a future employer; and (3) to get a value-added solution to a problem. 

“These projects help students learn a little more about what goes on in a manufacturing plant so they can decide whether that’s something they want as a career,” he added. “The work they have done for us has made a significant difference.” 

 For more, contact Mayra Ramirez at or 515-520-3101.