Tampa Bay Students' Capstone Projects Showcase Proficiency in STEM

Greco Middle School Capstone Presentation- Shark Tank

Every year, as part of their Capstone project, the 8th grade STEM students at Greco Middle School are tasked to exhibit technical expertise to solve challenging problems by producing ideas and products that have the potential to be marketed in the real world. FLATE was invited to serve as a potential investor, or “Shark.” The Sharks’ role was to evaluate the teams’ presentation of the final products, research methodologies, prototypes and business modules/plans. The groups presented their products and deal with the Sharks. It is up to the Sharks whether to invest their money into the business or keep their funds for another opportunity. 

Students were required to write a concept paper that described the product, the target market, business and marketing strategy, and compile answers to an “essential questions” worksheet; create an outline of the budget; and make a product prototype. This year there were a total of 10 student teams and 12 Sharks evaluating the projects. The Sharks had $500,000 at their disposal to invest in these projects. Given the age level of students, the concept and integration of STEM concepts and ideas into the projects, was highly impressive. 

Some examples of projects this year included solar powered air conditioner for cars, prescription reading glasses made of Gorilla Glass with battery powered wipers, a football containing material that slows down the rate of deflation and also contains a GPS sensor to help field location, and a waterproof backpack with posture-correcting sensor, built-in massager, and music capabilities like an earbud port and speakers.

“The students had put in a lot of time and effort into compiling an impressive portfolio of projects that reflected an integration of STEM concepts and how it can be used in a business setting to market a real product” said Janice Mukhia, FLATE’s Outreach Manager, who served as one of the “Sharks”. 

Comprehensive design projects help students to integrate the many STEM concepts they have learned, practice their teamwork, express their creativity and innovation as well as begin to develop their presentations skills. They can be an important component of middle and high school STEM programs at any level. Mentoring and /or judging these projects is a great way for industry partners to get connected to school programs related to their industry. FLATE encourages all working professionals to consider participating in school projects like the one at Greco middle school and Middleton high school. 

Middleton High School Final Projects: “Project Lead the Way” - Pathways to Engineering 

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) provides a comprehensive approach to STEM Education focused on Engineering. Through activity, projects, and problem-based curriculum, PLTW gives students in high school a chance to apply what they know, identify problems, find unique solutions, and lead their own learning. The implementation of this program provides tools to empower students and transform the classroom into a collaboration space where content comes to life.

As judges of this pre-engineering design event, the objective was to constructively critique and evaluate the projects as though this was a project under development in industry. This type of event is a great opportunity to promote STEM and Engineering Technology targeting high school students. 

This year, 17 students presented final projects. In comparison to last year, this year the Engineering and STEM level of knowledge has increased significantly, and the quality of projects increased. The engineering process for each group was to first determine a problem that they wish to solve through either innovation or invention. Through the course of the year they have justified their problem, brainstormed solutions, and digitally designed their prototype, along with building and testing to various levels of success. 

Some examples of this year’s final projects were a robotic automatic storage retrieval system for small businesses, a timer that reminds you to eat the leftovers in the fridge, a dual flush system to optimize water use in a toilet, a plier-place holder, and a tool to remove burs from pets. Elizabeth Simpson, Lead Magnet Teacher at Middleton High School says that they work hard each year to improve the program given feedback from their industry and community judges and mentors. Its so important for the students to be given the opportunity to express themselves using the tools and develop self confidence in what they have been learning in a more static environment.

For more information, please contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE, at barger@fl-ate.org. FLATE has a number of STEM resources for middle and high school students that can be accessed in our websites- click here for FLATE’s Wiki Curriculum page and here for Made in Florida’s curriculum page.

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