A couple of years ago, Expedia embarked on a project with Seattle University to bring students in their final year of Computer Science courses into our environment to conduct their Capstone project. In case you’re unfamiliar, a Capstone project is a hands-on, scholarly process where students put the theories they’ve learned to the test. It’s often the first time students apply their knowledge to a real-world business problem, and it makes up a big percentage of their final grade for the school year.

Over the last two years, we’ve worked with two different groups on their Capstone projects. Participating students have a chance to make selections of their preferred projects, and then they are matched with a group to solve a specific engineering problem. Last year, students were tasked with building a web app and matching consumer-facing mobile app. This year, it was a to build a solution for monitoring price changes in hotels nearby.

This year’s project, internally called “Hotels Now,” required students to identify ways to problem-solve an issue travelers sometimes face: how can I learn about price drops for a hotel I’m interested in? To go after this, students met weekly with their team and Expedia mentors. They managed team communication through Slack channels, tracked progress of development sprints via Trello boards, and built the project on GitHub. Similar to work that happens daily at Expedia, students were expected to meet build features that met product sprint deadlines, log their progress in community tools, and test and measure the impact of their work on the final project.

Throughout the program, students learn what working in a real environment is like. Former Seattle University project participant and recent Expedia hire, Bianca Flaidar, described, “I felt prepared going into the project, but I quickly learned that working by myself to complete homework is very different than working in a group setting to get a big project done. There are various deliverables you’re all expected to meet, dashboards to update with progress, and other people you have to rely on to accomplish tasks. If you can survive a Capstone project on a team that is all undergoing this drastic learning curve simultaneously, then it’s a bit easier to manage when you enter the workforce.”

From Expedia’s perspective, having Seattle University students participate in projects like this is invaluable. Sundeep Bhatia, one of the leads for this year’s group and Principal Software Development Engineer at Expedia, noted, “The students’ fresh perspectives were a great help. We often step back and think about some of the problems we want to solve, but we’re so close to the content that we can be inadvertently blind to the solution. Students’ passion and enthusiasm is contagious.”

Although Expedia doesn’t release the code the students develop publicly, the teams apply concepts built to future projects. For example, the feedback on the price-matching technology generated from the students’ work with “Hotels Now” is insightful when thinking about what else Expedia could offer to travelers.

We’re looking forward to continuing work with students interested in learning more about coding and Life at Expedia through this program with Seattle University and others.

What projects would you want to see students work on?