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IEEE Region 2’s Susquehanna Section Successfully Launches the Capstone Award

By Robert Lesniewski

Undergraduate seniors in Pennsylvania engineering/computer science schools must, prior to their graduation, participate in technical projects that demonstrate the skills they have learned. These are known as Capstone projects, which can be organized with a single contributor or a team. These projects can also be multidisciplinary in nature.

In 2021, the Susquehanna Section in Region 2 implemented a highly successful project known as the Capstone Award. The purpose of this award was to increase the visibility of the Section to students and faculty of area schools, which offer BS degrees in EE, ET and computer science. It was also meant to encourage recruitment of IEEE students and the formation/operation of local IEEE student branches.

The award has two components. The first is a substantial cash award given to the winning team, including individual IEEE Susquehanna Certificates of Achievement. The second is an attractive plaque awarded to the winning school, which can be displayed in either the department or the campus trophy display.

To get the highest level of participation in the Section’s Capstone Award program, an ad hoc committee was established in late 2020, consisting of a faculty representative from all area schools, along with the Section’s Chair (Carlos Torres), Past Chair (Bob Lesniewski) and Student Activities Chair (Dr. Kala Meah). All six eligible schools participated on the ad hoc committee.

The goals of the committee were to establish the criteria of the award process and the judging guidelines. This was quickly accomplished. As a result, the Capstone Award program was implemented in 2021, with plans to make the award an annual event. The Award program was an overwhelming success. While only five of the six eligible schools participated in 2021, all six schools have committed to participation in 2022.

The Susquehanna Section Capstone Award program achieved the following goals:

  1. All eligible schools now have a Capstone competition to select the best-in-school project.
  2. The local school competitions have created excitement within the student body.
  3. Students are also highly motivated to have their project recognized as the area’s best.
  4. There is now a greater awareness of the IEEE Susquehanna Section among students and faculty.
  5. New IEEE student chapters are being established and existing ones are growing.
  6. The potential to attract future young professionals to the Section has significantly increased.

Penn State University – Harrisburg, Messiah University, Shippensburg University, Elizabethtown College and York College participated in the 2021 Capstone Award program. The best Capstone project entitled “Automated Hydroponic System” was awarded to the team from Elizabethtown College. The team members were Alejandro Chicas, Andrew Fisher, Donato Grimaldi, Alexander Koontz and Clark Williamson. Dr. Tomas Estrada was the team’s faculty advisor. The team received a $500 cash award, and each member received a IEEE Susquehanna Section Certificate of Achievement.

Tomas Estrada, Ph.D.
Etown Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering

A plaque of recognition was awarded to Elizabethtown College and was accepted by Dr. Tomas Estrada (pictured right).

Sections from Regions 1 to 6 may wish to establish their own Capstone like Award program.

To learn more about the Capstone Award program, please visit: This page contains the full details of the program’s criteria and judging guidelines. This web link will enable any U.S. Section to quickly setup its own specific Award program. The page is meant to help a Section initiate an ad hoc committee to establish program criteria and judging guidelines most appropriate to your eligible area schools.

This award concept is very scalable. An Area award can be established within a Region. The Region can recognize a best-of-Area award. Regional or area winners could compete for a national recognition arranged by IEEE-USA or some other IEEE entity.

Sections that wish to explore this Award program can contact Bob Lesniewski (


Robert Lesniewski successfully completed a 35-year career in the semiconductor, telecommunications, data communications industry segments and the public safety radio state government segment. Robert is a IEEE Senior member and has held all the elected officer positions for the Susquehanna Section. He is now the Past Chair and elected Chair for the Section’s Computer and Life Member branches. He also holds several appointed positions on the Section’s Excom. He has held several appointed positions on the Region 2 Excom and is now a member of the IEEE Conduct Review Committee and was a 2020 member of the IEEE Ethics & Member Conduct Committee.

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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