Capstone Innovation Experiences 2021-22

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.

Digital Content Library

This series of videos produced in partnership with STARTLAND is housed on Startland’s YouTube Channel. The series takes students through the design process so they can make it real!

Guide to Video Content

What does it mean to “make it REAL”? As you begin your project! Start here : )
Design Thinking 101 To get a big picture view of design thinking
Finding a Problem Worth Solving

Find a Problem Worth Solving Companion

If you’re trying to figure out which problem to solve. Watch the companion video for tips from local entrepreneurs!
Determining Frame and Focus To figure out the parts of a problem to solve for users.
Building Empathy for Users To further understand the people whose lives you want to affect with your solution
Organizing Your Data To help you decipher your findings once you have completed interviews, observation or surveys
How to Create a Project Management Plan To help you and your team get organized and ready to tackle your project
How to Define the Problem To break down the problem you’re trying to solve for others
Ideate To come up with solutions for your problem
Prototype To help you figure out what you should prototype first when you’re ready to build a first version of your idea
Test To help you plan how to test with users once you’ve built your prototype
Iterate To make adjustments to your idea based on feedback from your main users

Mentor Connections

Pitch It as You Build It

The STARTLAND team offers “Pitch it as you build it” coaching sessions to provide feedback to teams about your projects. Sign ups will be required. Teachers will receive a registration link two weeks ahead of each session date. These include:

    • October 19
    • December 9
    • December 10
    • January 24
    • March 8
    • March 9


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

Teacher-Coordinated Virtual or In-Person Mentoring

KC STEM Alliance will provide a list of contacts for teacher-coordinated virtual or in-person mentoring from professionals in the engineering and biomedical fields.

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. Districts with access to this tool are encouraged to use for mentor connections.

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

Video Overview

PLTW KC–Engineering & Product Design Competition

The Engineering and Product Design Competition is for engineering OR biomed students who use the engineering design process to design a product or solve a problem. Your projects will be judged by professionals against an engineering design rubric. Competition participants submit projects online using Student Corner, a platform introduced in 2021. Practicing industry professionals then evaluate how the projects illustrate students’ design-thinking and problem-solving capabilities. Scholarship Awards will go to the top three teams ($2,500 for first place; $1,500 for second place; $1,000 for third place.)

Engineering & Product Design Competition Timeline

January 2022: Competition registration opens

April 5: Deadline to submit portfolios in Student Corner

April 9-17: Online judging by STEM professionals

April 26: Top 10 recognized during PLTW Senior Showcase at Union Station

May 3: All scholarship winners to be announced during a virtual awards ceremony.

PLTW KC–Biomedical Research Design Competition

Biomedical students and teams working on experiments will be eligible to enter the Biomedical Research Competition. Projects will be judged by medical professionals and scientists against a biomedical research rubric. Competition participants submit projects online using Student Corner, a platform introduced in 2021. Scholarship Awards will go to the top three teams ($2,500 for first place; $1,500 for second place; $1,000 for third place.)

Biomedical Research Competition Timeline

January 2022: Competition registration opens

April 5: Deadline to submit portfolios in Student Corner

April 9-17: Online judging by STEM professionals

April 26: Top 10 recognized during PLTW Senior Showcase at Union Station

May 3: All scholarship winners to be announced during a virtual awards ceremony.

Innovator Awards

KC STEM Alliance, Startland and Commerce Bank team up to put together the Innovator Awards, which recognize innovativeness and marketability. All students who submit an engineering, product development or experimental research project are eligible to enter.

To submit your project for judging, you will complete a Google form that includes a one-minute pitch for why someone should invest in your idea. Investor judges will evaluate the best project ideas and choose 10 winning teams.  Winners will be announced at the Senior Showcase and Commerce Bank will recognize winners with gift cards.

Innovator Award Timeline

April 12: Enter online using this Google Form

Mid-April: Entrepreneurs and business development community “investor judges” evaluate projects

April 26: 10 Innovator Awards to be named during PLTW Senior Showcase at Union Station

May 3: All Innovator Awards to be recognized during virtual awards ceremony

Make It REAL Scholarship

The Make It REAL scholarship 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.

Judges want to hear what you’ve learned through your PLTW capstone and Make It REAL experience and how it has influenced your education or career plans. Even if everything falls apart with your project, it’s an opportunity to learn something about yourself, how you’ve grown and your reflections on the skills you’ve learned along the way. 

To apply, prepare an essay or video submission answering two questions:

    1. What have learned through your PLTW Capstone Experience and Make It REAL?
    2. How has this experience influenced your education and/or career plans?

Use this link to apply. Five $500 scholarships will be awarded.

Make It REAL Scholarship Timeline

January-April: Keep notes about your experiences.

April 12: Enter online using Google Form

May 3: Winners to be announced and recognized during virtual awards ceremony

Design Challenges

Sustainability Challenge: In this third annual challenge from Climate Action KC, students are invited to imagine a more sustainable Kansas City region through the lens of the KC Metro Climate Action Plan, which establishes goals, strategies and priorities across nine sectors and calls for a 2050 net zero greenhouse gas reduction.

Any student entering one of the competitions on Student Corner can also enter the Sustainability Challenge. These projects should align and support one of the goals of the KC Metro Climate Action Plan. The winning team will receive a $1,000 scholarship.