For a printer-friendly version of this syllabus, click here: HCDE 593 Syllabus.


Capstone design experience. Integration of knowledge and skills acquired during program into one project.


The MS Capstone is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their comprehensive skills as researchers, designers, and engineers. The goal of the course is for students to synthesize and apply the knowledge and techniques they have acquired throughout the HCDE MS program in creating solutions to human-centered problems in our society.

In the capstone experience, students are expected to engage in defining a problem to be solved before developing a solution. Unlike other project-based courses, the capstone will not introduce new material in readings, lectures, or exercises. Students will form teams that are tasked with investigating and defining a problem and will craft a solution to that problem.

Problem domains may be suggested by external sponsors, the instructor, or the student teams. The project itself can be research-oriented, have a design focus, center on evaluation and testing, or be tailored to the team’s interests. It should, however, touch on at least two of the sub-disciplines of human-centered design: user research, ideation, prototyping, implementation, and evaluation.

Teams may consist of two to four students, and the project scope must be appropriate to the team size. In assembling teams, students should be sure they have the right mix of skills in their group to accomplish the tasks of the project.

The capstone course will employ the studio model of instruction, with a large part of class meeting times devoted to group work and frequent critique sessions by peers, instructors, clients, sponsors, or domain experts.

This model requires good communication about the process as well as the results of a project, since that is the main focus of the learning in the capstone experience. As such, student teams will be expected to document their projects in a weekly, online process journal.

Key deliverables for the course, regardless of the project definition, include planning documents, final project deliverable and presentation, and a poster and public exhibit of the work (at the annual HCDE Open House event). Because of the wide variety of project types, each team will also define and complete three intermediate milestones and be responsible for meeting them. Examples of milestones might include initial sketches, a usability test plan, a paper prototype, a functional prototype, user research results, etc.


Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to take initiative and contribute to teams to address real-world problems
  • Apply technical and design competencies to solve problems
  • Generate ideas for new systems or refinements to existing systems from a perspective that prioritizes the needs, desires, and behaviors of people and communities
  • Formulate comprehensive research and testing plans for effective evaluation of systems
  • Evaluate the feasibility and appeal of potential ideas with users, including the development and evaluation of scenarios and prototypes with an appropriate level of fidelity
  • Communicate user needs and design proposals in written, spoken, and multimedia forms to other stakeholders and integrate feedback from those stakeholders in refined designs
  • Understand the relationships between the systems they design and the activities of individuals, organizations, and communities


None. Relevant readings and research materials will be developed by each team based on the project domain and focus.


Grades will be determined according to the following distribution:

Participation 10%
Journal 10%
Weekly blog posts
Project 50%
Milestone 1 (10%)
Milestone 2 (10%)
Milestone 3 (10%)
Final Deliverable (20%)
Communication 30%
Poster / Exhibit (15%)
Final Presentation (15%)
TOTAL 100%

Grades for each assignment above are determined according to that assignment’s rubric, then a total percentage score is calculated by applying the weighted values above. The minimum passing score is 60.

The UW standard for grading in graduate courses is used to convert the percentage score to the 4.0 scale. In that scale, 1.7 is the minimum passing grade. Using a linear interpolation means: GradePoint = 1.7 + (Percentage – 60) * .0605. Note that even though a grade of 1.7 is considered passing, a minimum grade of 2.7 is required for the course to be counted toward a graduate degree.


This is a summary of the course schedule, subject to change. Details of assignments and activities will be posted on the Schedule page of this site.

Week Date Activity Due
1 April 3 Overview & Intros
Team/Project Selection
Personal Inventory Survey
2 April 10 Planning Journal 1 (Project Declaration/Plan/Schedule)
3 April 17 Planning Journal 2
4 April 24 Execution Journal 3
Milestone 1
5 May 1 Midterm Critique
Journal 4
6 May 8 Execution Journal 5
Milestone 2
7 May 15 Execution Journal 6
8 May 22 Execution Journal 7
Milestone 3
9 May 29 Execution Journal 8
10 June 3 Public Exhibit Exhibit
10 June 5 Final Presentation Journal 9
F June 12 Journal 10 (Final Reflection)
Final Deliverable