So, What's this about a Capstone Project?

Dear Future GREEN Student,

Now that you have been accepted into the adventure of your lifetime, you may be examining the agenda and wondering to yourself, what the heck is a Capstone Project?  Fear not.  To ease your apprehensions and fire up your imagination, let me tell you about why I think the Capstone is the one best parts of this program.  

So, what is the Capstone Project?  

A Capstone Project is an interdisciplinary assignment that serves as a culminating academic experience. Capstone projects typically involve developing a solution to a real world problem.  Because these projects are interdisciplinary, students are encouraged to apply skills and investigate issues across many different subject fields.  Capstone Projects teach students to think critically, problem-solve, and develop skills such as public speaking, teamwork, planning, self-sufficiency, and marketing.  These skills will prepare students for modern careers in any field of study, and in fact, many corporations ask their employees to complete Capstone Projects in training in order to build these skill sets.  

As you may have seen in the itinerary, all of the GREEN Program’s sessions culminate in a Capstone Project.  While this might sound daunting, there is no need to stress about this project — it’s simply a way to think outside the box and apply your knowledge from school to a real life problem. What an incredible opportunity!  There’s only one major rule: your project must pertain to the program’s general subject of focus.  For me, that meant exploring a whole new area of my knowledge.  

Setting The GREEN Program apart from any other study abroad program

I want to tell you more about my experience, group, and Capstone Project to demonstrate how the this project sets The GREEN Program apart from any other study abroad program.  When it came time to brainstorm ideas and form groups, I chose a group based on how my specialties and skill sets could improve and assist the project. As a geoscientist, I am consider myself a fundamental scientist. I wanted a group that I could put to use my hard science skills.  

Let me tell you about my Capstone Project:
Introducing renewable energies into the petroleum industry

I joined a group that proposed to help the petroleum industry integrate renewable energy into their companies. I could not have chosen a better group! What I found most intriguing was the group dynamic; we had engineers, bio-materials scientist, policy makers, and a geologist. I learned more from my group members than I imagined I would. I had no idea policy was so important in the energy industry until we worked together to brainstorm a business plan or how solar panels and wind farms can produce enough energy to reduce revenues for a company until we calculated energy outputs and costs using real data. Our ideas fed off each other and we worked collaboratively as a group to develop our project. 

We all gained different viewpoints of the energy industry, realizing that for the energy revolution from petroleum to renewable energy to ever take place, collaboration and integration are key.  This was by far my favorite part of the project.  In traditional study abroad programs, you learn in a class of students who all have the same major from a professor who specializes in that field. The GREEN Program, however, allows students to explore a new field of study by applying their existing knowledge from their degree, learning new viewpoints from other students in different majors, and learning new aspects about themselves in the process.  

As mentioned previously, my group proposed a consulting company that would help oil and gas companies integrate renewable energy into their industry.  This was near and dear to me because coming from Texas, I live in the capitol of the petroleum industry and therefore had more knowledge of the industry than my team members.  To implement our consulting company, we designed a business plan that would help companies understand how implementing renewable energy would be beneficial to them on financial, political, and social bases.  Currently, oil and gas companies waste one-third of their revenue to produce more oil and gas.  We chose Chevron as a case study for this project because they already have some renewable energy production as the largest producer of geothermal energy in Argentina.  We focused on three real production sites and worked together to design the best plan to implement renewable energy for the site based on the resources available.  For example, for an off-shore rig near New Orleans called Blind Faith, we calculated the energy cost, the production cost, taxes, and the wasted revenue for that rig for one day using real data.  

To implement renewable energy, we decided that an off-shore wind farm would be the best option.  The engineers in the group helped calculate how many windmills would be needed to produce enough power, how much building would cost, and how much money this would cost the company in one day.  The same analyses was completed for a potential geothermal site and a solar farm site.  In the end, it was neat for all of us to see how important collaboration is—both in our team and between the petroleum industry and renewable energy industry. Renewable energy implementations did save our case study company some money, which made us realize that collaboration and integration is the first step towards the energy revolution.

There’s nothing quite like applying your knowledge to a real-life problem 

I’ve worked in a lot of group setting before, but nothing quite like this where I am applying my knowledge from school to solve a real life problem.  What’s really neat is that some students even take their Capstone Projects to the next level and bring them to life!  I think future GREEN students will benefit from this type of project because it teaches you a lot about yourself. I learned more about myself as a teammate and leader than any other project.  Perhaps that was because this was a new field of study for all of us or because we were all self-motivated and brought different viewpoints and specialties to the table.  Most of all, I think all students walk away from the Capstone Project with a better understanding on how to problem solve and apply what we’ve been leaning in school for years. Capstone Projects are challenging, but they prepare you for a career that can impact the world.  

Good luck, everyone! Time to change the world.     

            Emilie G.
           University of Texas A+M, Geological Science/B.S
           Colorado School of Mines, Geology & Geological Engineering

           Iceland Alumna, Summer 2015

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