A Capstone Project for Good: Teamwork, Communication, and Success


| September 1, 2020 | in

If you keep up with the happenings of Don’t Panic Labs, you’re likely aware of the Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program. It is an educational partnership between us and Doane University. Our goal is to help address the shortage of software development talent in Nebraska by turning a small cohort into quality, entry-level software developers. These participants are sponsored by local organizations that commit to hiring them upon completion of the Program.

Our first cohort began back in January with six participants.

During the first two stages, participants were in a mode where they would be taught about a topic, then perform activities to reinforce what they learned. For example, we would cover the topic of automated testing, and then the participants would practice writing some automated tests.

For the third stage (which is currently nearing its completion), the cohort is working together on their capstone project, where they are putting into practice what they learned during the first two stages. This year’s project involves building a mobile app for the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition which, when completed, will benefit teens and young adults in our state. Not only are they building real software, but they are also learning the importance (and power) of working together.

Working as a Team

I think the participants are flourishing on this project. They are using Ionic – along with a .NET Core backend – to build the app. Exposure to these technologies is giving the cohort development experiences on both the frontend and backend.

A big part of the capstone project is the fact that participants must work as a team to achieve something more significant than building a simple software application. They have to write real software and do so as part of a team. This experience is an essential part of the Program.

Team experience is essential. Software development is a team sport, so providing this experience is just as important as the technical experiences they receive.

The participants are challenged in several unique ways. They have to work as a coordinated group to achieve results. Our project managers from Don’t Panic Labs provide much of the coordination by facilitating the plan and a schedule, but the cohort still must work through the details of building software together.

Group work also forces participants to experience the importance of communication (and perhaps the frustration of what happens when communication breaks down). They have seen the value of daily standups, weekly iteration planning, and other check-ins that occur throughout the week – and their work shows it.

Exceeding Expectations

The participants are completing their tasks faster than expected, so quickly that we have had a tough time keeping up with them. It looks like they will be finishing their involvement on the project early. This extra time allows us to have the students reimplement parts of their work using the same tech stacks as their sponsor organizations, and it will help ensure the participants are equipped with the skills required by their sponsors.

The capstone project is an enjoyable and exciting phase of the Program, and it has been exciting to see what these students have been able to do.

Looking Ahead to 2021

With the capstone project nearing its completion, it also means our first cohort will be heading to their sponsor organization for the final stage of the Program. This is when they will apply all they have learned since January by serving in a kind of apprenticeship role on a development team.

But this is also a time where we are getting rolling with our next cohort. We are identifying sponsor organizations, mentors, and – most importantly – participants.

If you know someone who might be a good fit for the Pipeline Program, or if your organization would like to participate, head over to dontpaniclabs.com/devlab to learn more.

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