Capstone Innovation Experiences 2020-21

KC STEM Alliance offers experiences designed to inspire and motivate Project Lead The Way (PLTW) engineering and biomedical science senior capstone students toward excellence; recognize and reward a job well done; and help students with innovative projects connect with resources and mentors in the business community.

For the 2020-21 academic year, the experiences will be in a virtual setting.

Video Content Library

This series of videos produced in partnership with STARTLAND and other community partners can help students design their projects with real world viability in mind from the very start. Videos will include content for students with business and entrepreneurial projects as well as biomedical sciences and research projects.

Video Content



How to find a problem worth solving:



Design Thinking 101:


Product Management:


Frame and Focus:


Coming soon:
  • Empathize

Mentor Connections

Connecting with STEM professionals will look different in 2020-21. Here are some options.

Pitch It as You Build It

The STARTLAND team offers virtual coaching sessions to provide feedback to teams about your projects. These sessions take place the last Thursday of each month with the STARTLAND team and guest entrepreneurs serving as mentors.

Prepare with these tips and tricks from STARTLAND

Use this pitch flow to form your message.

This sneak peek at the judges’ rubric will help you do a self-check to see if you’ve built enough empathy around your targeted users and to see if your idea is novel, useful and viable according to the rubric’s suggestions.

More tips and tricks to consider:

  • As you are trying to figure out what problem to solve, consider what BIG problem in the world you are passionate about and narrow down a component of that problem that you believe you can solve.
  • Another way of ideating a problem to solve is by looking at the tedious, daily problems you or others face and consider how you might solve them.
  • If you have an idea or project you think you’d like to pursue, begin validating your idea by talking to people that experience that problem to deeply understand their pain points. This will help you see if the problem is worth pursuing.
  • Look for solutions that already exist and wonder, how can I make the current solutions better?
  • If you have chosen a problem to solve, focus on using this rubric to make your solution better.
  • Practice your pitch as often as you can with as many people as you can! This helps you understand if others’ understand the problem you are solving and the solution you are suggesting.

Getting Connected with Mentors

The Connector

The Connector, built on the Nepris platform and managed by PREP-KC, is a convenient platform for connecting industry professionals with your students via videoconferencing. Learn more about how you can use this tool to complement your PLTW courses during one of the following sessions:

  • 3:30 p.m. September 22
  • 3:30 p.m. October 5

Contact Teri Kriege for the Zoom link.

Additional Resources

Teacher Guide to Virtual Mentoring Sessions: Download this guide for ideas and resources compiled by KC STEM Alliance and STARTLAND.

Contact Teri Kriege for additional assistance with connecting to KC-area mentors.

Design Challenges & Competitions

STEM Innovator Awards

The STEM Innovator Awards recognize innovativeness and marketability of PLTW senior capstone projects. Details for the 2021 competition will be announced by early 2021.

Make It REAL Scholarship

Graduating seniors who have completed a capstone project may apply for one of three $500 Make It REAL scholarships. This is an opportunity for students to reflect on their capstone projects and Make It REAL experiences, sharing what they’ve learned along the way and how they perceive it will influence their future.

  • Application with additional details will open in May 2021, with the deadline in early June.
  • Eligibility: Graduating high school students who have completed a capstone project and reside in one of the 9-county Kansas City metro area (Jackson, Clay, Platte, Ray, Cass, MO; Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth, Miami, KS).

Design Challenges

Sustainability Challenge: In this second annual challenge from Climate Action KC, students are charged with imagining how we might improve food production, food management or transportation to reduce food waste.

Download the Sustainability Challenge details.

Clean Water Challenge: Burns & McDonnell joins KC STEM Alliance to challenge students to improve access to clean water for personal, agricultural or industrial use.

Download the Clean Water Challenge details.

COVID-19 Challenge: KC STEM Alliance and Black & Veatch invite students to reimagine Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that improves comfort and functionality during sports and activities.

Download the COVID-19 Challenge details.