“The purpose of VenueTourist’s Capstone Project was to determine the best market niche for virtual tours and how to best sell to that niche. In order to determine the best market niche, we explored three separate industries: universities, corporations, and venue owners. The evaluation of ‘best market’ was based on ease of sale and willingness to pay. After conducting sales efforts – email outreach, meetings, and if we were successful, contract signature – in each niche, it was determined the university market was both easiest to sell to and had the highest willingness to pay. The second question, what is the best way to sell to universities, was evaluated by seeking advice from mentors in our industry and then testing said advice.

Advice from mentors for sales strategies included cold emailing, cold calls, campus ambassador programs, traveling to university dense areas, going to conferences, and more. Initial results showed campus ambassadors and traveling to university dense areas as the best sales methods in order to maximize potential revenue (probability of closing sale * price of potential sale). From these results, VenueTourist has concluded the best path for growth is to create a small team of skilled sales ambassadors and have them travel to university dense cities in order to sell our virtual tours.”

Check out their Capstone poster here!: Venue Tourist Capstone Poster

Team members:

Connor Tullis, BBA, 2020
Sven Wollschlaeger, BBA & CS, 2021

Being First: A Podcast for Bridging the First-Gen Gap

“The Being First podcast lifts the voice of first generation college students while shedding light on the issues that these students face through dialogue about social capital and how to acquire it, candid conversations about the first-gen experience, and challenging the first-gen landscape of the university. Through recording sessions with stakeholders and students in this community, we’ve found that the thread that runs through every first is resilience and grit necessary to level the post-secondary playing field.” 

Check out their Capstone poster here!: Being First Capstone Poster

Team Members:

Lance Bitner-Laird, Sociology, May 2019
Carlos Henderson, Sociology, May 2019

Alternate Reality Initiative (ARI)

“The Alternate Reality Initiative (ARI) is the first student organization at the University of Michigan centered around virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (XR) technology. After seeing a lack of hardware access and learning opportunities, we created ARI to provide opportunities for students to explore, learn, build, and connect with XR technology. Through weekly meetings, ARI is fostering a community of the next generation of XR innovators by hosting development workshops, discussing industry news, and connecting students to opportunities in the greater XR ecosystem.

Over this summer, our team worked with four key stakeholders: ARI members, XR student organizations, XR faculty, and XR companies. After interviewing past members, we learned that it was difficult to discover us, so we increased our marketing and recruiting efforts. From other universities’ student organizations, we learned best practices on supporting project teams and also gained a better understanding of our growth potential. From faculty, we learned that they’re excited about our student-led organization, and we are working with them to provide resources and research opportunities to more students. Finally, from XR companies, we’ve been able to hear their perspective on the XR industry, and we are working with them to invite them as speakers.

Our efforts this year led to an increase to over 500 members on our email list, and we’ve had an average attendance of 24 members per meeting. In addition, we are also launching a pilot program to support student XR project teams next semester. Finally, we will hosting the first ever XR Midwest Conference. We believe that there is enormous potential for more people to be involved in XR in the Midwest. This is why we want to highlight the XR industry professionals, XR faculty, and XR tech talent in the Midwest to create a greater industry presence.”


Check out their Capstone poster here!: ARICapstone Final Poster


Team members:

Michael Zhang, Business Administration, 2021
Matthew Kosova, Industrial and Operations Engineering, 2021

UM Intelligent Ground Vehicle Team – 2017

Founded in Fall 2016, the University of Michigan Intelligent Ground Vehicle (UMIGV) is an engineering design team building a fully autonomous vehicle for the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition in 2018 at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.

UMIGV has worked across three pillars to 1) create the first student-led autonomous ground vehicle to compete at Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition held at Oakland University, 2) pilot the first-ever introduction to robotics course, and 3) create a unified student-led robotics group at the University of Michigan.

We believe that hands-on education complements classroom learning; any student, regardless of their background, can learn through robotics; and our work has a meaningful social impact. The future is autonomous robotics, and we aim to incubate our members to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Ultimately, our vision is a premier robotics team at U-M that is a place where anyone regardless of their background can get involved in robotics and a catalyst for spinning off entrepreneurial and social ventures.

In our first year, we have established a team, created a prototype vehicle, and hosted several demo events. We plan to continue the iterative development process to refine and optimize our vehicle’s autonomous behavior.

Our prototype vehicle operates at speeds up to 5mph, has a sensor suite comprised of 3D cameras and 2D lidar, and runs on a Linux-ROS computer system. In 2018, we hope to scale our project to build a compact, federally-compliant, autonomous car capable of transporting two passengers at speeds up to 45mph.

UMIGV is supported by Michigan Robotics in the College of Engineering, the Barger Leadership Institute Capstone program and other on-campus partners.

By: The UMIGV Team, including BLI Fellows Adarash Mishra and Gregory Meyer

Aequora – The Unlevel Sea Sharing Latin with Elementary Students

Aequora is one of the many Latin words for “sea,” here with the connotation that the sea is calm and level (it comes from the same word, aequus, that we get our English word “equal” from). For my BLI Capstone Project, I decided to start an Aequora program at an elementary school in Michigan — and my experience was anything but calm and level! It was a wild wave of excitement, setbacks, enthusiasm, drama, emotion, and lots and lots of Latin — but I learned and grew so much more than I would have from an easier voyage, and for that I am grateful.

For a little bit about myself, I am finishing up my Junior year at the University of Michigan, where I am majoring in Latin Language & Literature and seeking a Secondary Teaching Certification from the School of Education — basically, I am a nerd about all things Latin, and I want to be a high school teacher when I grow up.


In the dark winter months of 2016 I was told to check out The Paideia Institute’s website for a summer program that a friend thought would interest me. I saw something else on that site though — an outreach program called Aequora that sought to bring afterschool programs that taught Latin to elementary school students in somewhat disadvantaged school districts. The name was chosen because the first Aequora operated out of an afterschool program called Still Waters in a Storm (get it!? Because Aequora means “still waters”), which is still running to this day. They were looking for volunteers, specifically for more people to start sites across the country.

Around the same time a professor introduced me to the Barger Leadership Institute and their Capstone project, and I decided to put two and two together. For my capstone project I decided to bring Aequora to Michigan. I started a club through Eastern Michigan University’s Bright Futures program where I taught a group of second through sixth grade Ypsilanti students Latin. And thus, the storm began which agitated the sea.

O Socii

The first phase of implementation involved communicating with stakeholders — the Aequora Michigan team was lucky enough to be supported by three incredibly helpful programs: The Barger Leadership Institute, who pushed us to work hard and get our dream off the ground, The Paideia Institute, who every step of the way provided help, tips, and resources for a successful Latin program, and Eastern Michigan University’s Bright Futures, an afterschool program set up in schools around Metro Detroit, who provided a wonderful and quirky home for us to grow as well as even more tips, support, and resources. We also rounded up a dedicated team of volunteers from the Classics Department at the University of Michigan, and I could not have done this program without their enthusiasm week after week.


Once we had all our stakeholders in place and organized our resources, including our textbook and lesson plans, it was time to begin the lessons! This is where we took off, and where Aequora’s definition felt the most ironic; we had a bit of a rocky start to our program. Second to sixth grade is a big gap, especially since we had a textbook geared for fourth graders, and we often struggled to come up with activities that could appeal to all of our students. We also did not have the same group of students every week, since it was an afterschool program and parents picked their kids up at different times, which meant that we had no idea how much Latin was going to stick with them. Finally, we were all new and inexperienced afterschool class leaders, and discipline issues arose and were sometimes difficult to control. After one particularly harrowing game of Latin Simon Says, we knew that we were going to have to approach our classroom differently. It was our turning point.

If BLI taught me anything, it’s that I have to be proactive. So we adjusted our sails. We started dividing the kids up into groups based on age (and sometimes gender) — this assisted with the issues in range of activity, since we could do different exercises with different age groups, as well as with the discipline problems, since it was much easier to reason with groups of three or four rather than the whole group of ten to twenty. The attendance problem was something out of our control, but we still decided to work with it rather than write it off — and for the rest of the semester we focused less on grammar and vocabulary (no more games about imperatives) and more on the culture that surrounds the Latin language. We played a game where we walked around the room and identified significant landmarks from Rome (the Colosseum, the Forum); we read stories about the founding of Rome; we did a puppet show based on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Once I realized that that was what was going to get the kids excited, I ran with it.

So, I don’t know if I taught any of these kids Latin. A few of them might remember Salve as “hello.” One or two might remember shouting “I’m a puer!” when they learned the word for “boy.” But my hope is that all of them will remember the stories they learned and that they will remember the Classics fondly in their future!

Gratias tibi ago

It feels like I am giving an Oscar speech now, but I really do have a lot of people to thank. I am incredibly grateful to Evan David, Liz Butterworth, Julia Spears, Vaughn Williams, Patricia Chen, Tiffany Purnell, Nancy Christensen, Lynn Kleimann Malinoff, Sandy Krupa, Stephen Haff, Danny Misra, Neena Pio, Malia Piper, Ed Nolan, and all of the wonderful students whom I was privileged to work with this semester. You all truly are responsible for getting this program up off of the ground, and I cannot thank you enough. I would also like to thank everyone who has supported me and believed in me as I went on this voyage across the unlevel sea.



capstoneblog1It has been quite an honor to participate in the BLI’s inaugural Senior Capstone Project. Suffice to say, the Capstone has been equal parts more than we could imagine and also what you would expect. It’s been a long and at times arduous process, but also the most meaningful thing either of us has done. Throughout the project, our inspiration has remained consistent: we wanted to create something about video games, a longtime passion of ours, and the people who play them. Yet there is indeed a duality of our inspiration: while we wanted to make a game about video game communities, we were more so motivated to critique this culture in terms of its social issues, particularly gender. The project, which would eventually take the name JUXT, has been a highly creative endeavor, and it forced both of us to evaluate our skills and also our limitations.

The initial phase of our project was research. We studied online video gaming communities to better understand how gamers talk about gender. This was a step out of our comfort zone; we had no previous experience with analyzing raw data. Fortunately, we built a sustainable research plan and recruited a research partner to help along the way. After research, we began the game development phase. We started by building a team, as we alone did not possess the expertise needed to make a fully functioning game – even a small one. After a lengthy hiring process, we found a programmer and an audio producer to help realize our vision. We divided the roles of writer and artist between ourselves and designed the game together. Throughout the fall and winter semesters we worked to complete the game, and as of the end of this winter semester, we have a finished game.

The best advice we can give to our peers in the BLI and future members is to expect challenges. Any creative project has ups and downs: writer’s block, miscommunication, and juggling the Capstone with other priorities are a sample of pitfalls we had to maneuver. However, as in all projects, it is valuable to be wary of challenges rather than to fear them, and always be ready to find a solution. Working as creators rather than consumers was a difficult adjustment, for example. We were often tasked with re-evaluating our project’s scope, timeline, and organization.

We also found it crucial that projects like these understand that starting small does not capstoneblog2inhibit creative growth. Even for a confident team, starting small almost always yields positive results. In hindsight, we may have looked too much at the big picture while ignoring our considerable “small wins.” At each meeting, we would address many facets that need to be completed, while ignoring the value of what we had already accomplished. This could be due to our inexperience in game design, always wanting to improve upon what was laid out. We now have an appreciation for every step, no matter how minute, in any project setting.

Finally, we think our project has shown the value of working to learn, as our team was able to craft an experience, unlike anything we had ever done before. Much of the creative process was spent on first tries, and while that may be another kind of challenge, it offered a freedom from “absolute” statements (i.e., “This should be this way,” “Our game needs to have this,” etc.) In the conceptual stage, such statements heavily informed our thinking. It wasn’t until we got into our specialized zones that we could actually see how the pieces would come together. It forced us to communicate clearly, revisit our work, and critically examine each part to make sure we were reaching our goals. While our work may have changed a lot from initial concept to final product, our vision was never compromised by lack of experience. Not only are we proud to have worked on the BLI Senior Capstone, but it has invigorated our passion for meaningful creative projects and imparted invaluable perspective on what it takes to complete long-term projects.

Zachary and Jonah Beck