Worcester Polytechnic Institute: Wikis


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Worcester Polytechnic Institute
WPI logo.png
Motto "Lehr und Kunst" (German for "Theory and Practice")
Established 1865
Type Private
Endowment US $291.6 million[1]
President Dennis D. Berkey
Provost John A. Orr
Faculty 324
Undergraduates 3,009
Postgraduates 1,018
Location Worcester, Mass., USA
42°16′24.56″N 71°48′26.46″W / 42.2734889°N 71.80735°W / 42.2734889; -71.80735Coordinates: 42°16′24.56″N 71°48′26.46″W / 42.2734889°N 71.80735°W / 42.2734889; -71.80735
Campus Residential, 80 acres / 32 ha
Athletics Division III
20 varsity teams
Colors Cardinal Red ("Crimson", officially by the University) and Gray         
Nickname Engineers
Mascot Goat
Website www.wpi.edu

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is a private university located in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the United States.

Founded in 1865 in Worcester, WPI was one of the nation's first engineering and technology universities. WPI's 14 academic departments offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, management, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts, leading to bachelor's, master's and PhD degrees. WPI's faculty works with students in a number of cutting-edge research areas, leading to breakthroughs and innovations in such fields as biotechnology, fuel cells, and information security, materials processing, and nanotechnology. Students have the opportunity to make a difference to communities and organizations around the world through the university's innovative Global Perspective Program. There are 25 WPI project centers throughout North America and Central America, Africa, Australia, Asia, and Europe.



Worcester Polytechnic Institute was founded in 1865 as the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science by John Boynton and Ichabod Washburn, two prominent Worcester industrialists. Stephen Salisbury II, Emory Washburn, George Frisbee Hoar, Phillip Moen, Seth Sweetser, David Whitcomb, and Charles O. Thompson were also instrumental in the founding of the school. The collaboration between Boynton, who wanted to teach science, and Washburn, who wanted to teach vocational skills, led to the university's philosophy of "theory and practice." Funding and land grants for the university were given by Stephen Salisbury II, who was an influential merchant and later served as the first president of the Institute's board of directors.[2] Though Boynton died before the first class entered in 1868, and Washburn died shortly afterwards, their contributions to WPI in its infancy are memorialized by Boynton Hall and Washburn Shops, the first two buildings on the campus.[3][4]

Boynton Hall, WPI's main administrative building.

WPI was led in its early years by president and professor of chemistry Charles O. Thompson.[5] Early graduates of WPI went on to become mechanical and civil engineers, as well as artisans, bankers, and enter other prominent occupations. WPI continuously expanded its campus and programs throughout the early twentieth century, eventually including graduate studies and a program in electrical engineering. During World War II, WPI offered defense engineering courses and was selected as one of the colleges to direct the V-12 Navy College Training Program.[6]

During this time, WPI suffered from the lack of a unified library system, well-maintained buildings, and national recognition. This changed under the leadership of president Harry P. Storke from 1962 to 1969. Storke brought significant change to the school in what would be known as the WPI Plan. The Plan called for the creation of three projects and drastically redesigned the curriculum to address how a student learns. The Storke administration also launched a capital campaign that resulted in the creation of the George C. Gordon Library, added residence halls, an auditorium, and a modern chemistry building. Furthermore, women were first allowed to enter WPI in February 1968.[7] The WPI Plan is the guiding principle behind undergraduate education at the Institute today, and is arguably the most notable contribution WPI has made towards science and engineering education.

Today, WPI is primarily an undergraduate focused institution, though expansion of graduate and research programs is a long-term goal. The WPI Bioengineering Institute is currently a significant contributor to Worcester's growing biotechnology industry. Significant research in other fields such as metallurgy, untethered health care, fuel cells, the learning sciences, applied mathematics and fire protection currently help establish WPI as an important, specialized research university.

WPI is known for its champion curling team.


Earle Bridge.

WPI is an urban school with what some have called "a suburban feel." The main campus is not gated, but it is entirely WPI owned and no public roads cross this part of the school. WPI sits on Boynton Hill, which sets it apart from the surrounding neighborhood. Situated only one block away from "the Hill" (as it is often referred to) is a stretch of restaurants and stores on Highland Street. A Subway sandwich shop, Tech Pizza, Boomer's Pizza, Dragon Dynasty (Chinese cuisine) the Bean Counter (coffee shop), the Sole Proprietor (an upscale seafood restaurant), a consignment shop, Tortilla Sams (a Mexican restaurant), and the Boynton (a bar and grill) are all located there.

As a superstition, it is said that setting foot on the seal in the center of the quadrangle will prevent a student from graduating in four years. In the graduation ceremony, students walk around the seal to get to their seats but walk over the seal as they leave. Since the seal is relatively new, this rumor may have been deliberately circulated to potential freshmen to help reduce wear. A tradition until the 1970s was that freshman could only cross the main road bisecting the campus via Earle Bridge.

Once a laboratory for electromagnetic research, the "Skull tomb" was built entirely without ferrous metals. Several years after its construction, electrified trolley tracks were built in Worcester which led to the building's disuse. It served for a time as a site for Robert Goddard's rocket fuel research as the building is relatively isolated from other buildings on campus and Dr. Goddard's research had previously led to explosions on campus. Subsequent to the building earning its present nickname, "Skull" inherited the building. The building was reconditioned in 2004. The building contains three doors to gain entry and it contains three floors.

WPI boasts one of 35 civilian research nuclear reactors licensed to operate in the United States. It is the only nuclear reactor in North America to be in a wood-framed building. The Nuclear Engineering program at WPI has been discontinued, and the reactor is not presently in use in any research.

The 'Two Towers' shown in old WPI logos show the clock tower of Boynton Hall and the arm and hammer weathervane of the Washburn Shops. The original weathervane was stolen in October 1975 and never recovered. Boynton and Washburn were the university's first buildings, housing the classrooms and laboratories, respectively. The Two Towers symbolize Theory and Practice, which are the foundation of the university and still the approach used today.[8][9]


WPI offers a variety of majors in engineering, science, management, liberal arts, and social science at the undergraduate and graduate level. It is most well-known for its engineering disciplines and is one of the top-ranked schools to attend for engineering in North America and the world over. Unlike many peer universities, WPI currently does not combine related departments into colleges or schools.

WPI's schedule is also unusual compared to most universities. Instead of a normal semester, WPI uses 7-week terms, labeled A-D, with an optional E term in the summer. A term typically begins on the second to last Thursday in August, while D term is usually scheduled to end on the first Tuesday of May. Each term is claimed to be roughly equivalent to a third of a year at another university. Thus, students are able to complete a year's worth of Chemistry, Physics, and Math in only a semester and a half. This faster pace allows for more study (by a student's senior year, they have already completed a normal four-year course track, essentially giving them an "extra" year. The graduate student calendar follows a conventional two semester schedule.

WPI's student performance evaluation system uses grades A, B, or C. If a student were not to satisfactorily complete the course or they elect to drop the course, they would receive a No Record (NR). The NR designation is used since there is no differentiation between a dropped course or an unsuccessful attempt to complete it.


Project System

WPI's project-based curriculum makes it unique by requiring undergraduate students to complete a Sufficiency in the Liberal Arts (or a Technical Sufficiency for liberal arts majors), an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) to study the social effects of technology with students from other disciplines, and a Major Qualifying Project (MQP) within their own discipline. These projects are based on WPI's founding principle of theory alongside practice, though were introduced in the last 40 years. Usually, the Sufficiency, IQP, and MQP are completed in the sophomore, junior, and senior years, respectively. The MQP is similar to other schools' "senior thesis," while the IQP is a bit more unusual and sometimes difficult to explain on resumes.

Global Perspective Program

At WPI, the opportunity to complete significant project work off campus is an integral element of an academic program that emphasizes the practical application of knowledge to meaningful technical and societal problems. Through the Global Perspective Program, over 60% of WPI students complete at least one of their required projects at an off-campus Project Center. Typically, students work under faculty guidance in small teams at Project Centers to address problems posed by external agencies and organizations.

Through the Global Perspective Program, WPI sends more engineering students abroad than any US college or university. As of the 2009-2010 academic year, the program included established Project Centers for society-technology projects (IQPs) in Worcester; Boston; Nantucket; Washington, DC; Santa Fe, New Mexico; San Juan, Puerto Rico; San Jose, Costa Rica; Copenhagen, Denmark; London, England; Venice, Italy; Windhoek, Namibia; Cape Town, South Africa; Bangkok, Thailand; Hong Kong, PRC; and Melbourne, Australia. Project Centers for senior design or research projects (MQPs) included MIT Lincoln Laboratory; Wall Street, New York; Silicon Valley; Gallo Wineries, California; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Limerick, Ireland; Nancy, France; Budapest, Hungary; and Wuhan, PRC. Between 1974, when the first WPI Project Center was established in Washington, DC, and 2006, over 7000 students had completed over 2000 projects in locations around the globe.

The Global Perspective Program was cited by the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 2000, when it named WPI one of 16 Greater Expectations Leadership Institutions to serve as models for the future of undergraduate education in the United States.

Alden Memorial is the main building for the performing arts at WPI, consisting of a performance hall, music rooms, and a computer music lab.[10]

Humanities Project

The Humanities Project, also known as a Sufficiency, is designed to assess well-roundedness in areas outside of technological knowledge. The project consists of five thematically-related courses in the humanities and arts (such as Western literature, musical composition, etc.), and culminates with a course-long independent project. This can be a variety of different things; recent Sufficiency projects include research into contemporary music history, a student giving a flute recital, original screenplays, and critiques of philosophy. Students interested in foreign languages often skip the project and take an additional course, though there are opportunities to do a project. Students who are majoring in a humanities and arts related field do a similar Sufficiency project in a science or engineering discipline.

The Humanities Project, or Sufficiency, was replaced by a new Humanities requirement starting with the class of 2011; current students have the option of either fulfilling the Sufficiency or the new requirement. More information regarding the change could be found here.

For more information regarding the Sufficiency, including a list of award-winning projects, visit this page.

The Fountain at WPI was designed as part of a student's IQP. An anemometer adjusts the height of the water based on the wind velocity.

Interactive Qualifying Project

The Interactive Qualifying Project, or IQP, is described as a "project which relates technology and science to society or human needs."[11] This project is very broad in scope, encompassing a wide variety of topics and actions. Generally, IQPs are designed to solve a societal problem using technology. This can range from improving high school science education to redesigning an irrigation system in Thailand. This project is often done off-campus through WPI's Global Perspective Program. From an educational perspective, the IQP serves to emphasize team-based work and introduces a real-world responsibility absent from courses. Many IQPs have made a significant impact on the community in which it is done.

Major Qualifying Project

The Major Qualifying Project, or MQP, assesses knowledge in a student's field of study. As mentioned above, this project is similar to a senior thesis, with students doing independent research or design. MQPs are often funded by either WPI or external corporations. Topics of MQPs done in the recent past include the design of the MIR 2 space station life support system module, a study of the effects of stress and nicotine on ADHD, the design of a research rocket, a mathematical viscoelastic cell motility model, experimental research of liquid crystals using atomic force microscopy, and the design of polymers for medicine delivery. [12]

Rankings and reputation

In 2010, WPI's undergraduate program ranked #68 out of all doctoral universities according to US News and World Report. [13]

WPI has also been named the 22nd "Most Connected Campus" by The Princeton Review for 2006.

A recent ranking compiled by Forbes.com recognizing the “Top Colleges for Getting Rich” rated Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) ninth in the nation.

WPI has been elected by the Association of American Colleges and Universities as one of 16 national Leadership Institutions that will define the future of liberal education.

In the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), WPI was ranked No. 1 out of 33 doctoral-intensive universities for "student-faculty interactions," a measure of the quality and quantity of time faculty spend with undergraduate students.

WPI's innovative undergraduate program also enjoys a strong reputation among education officials; the New England Association of Schools and Colleges favorably commented on the Institute's dedication and unique approach to science and engineering education.[14] Furthermore, WPI's emphasis on international education through the Global Perspective Program has received much acclaim, including awards such as the 2003 TIAA-CREF Theodore Hesburgh Certificate and inclusion in NAFSA: Association of International Educators's list of fifteen universities to be used as models for internationalization.[15]

BusinessWeek has ranked Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) #1 in the nation for its part-time Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, and #1 in the nation for student satisfaction in the program.

Also, in 2010, WPI undergraduate major IMGD ranked 7th out of hundreds universities in Top Undergraduate Game Design Programs according to Princeton Review. [16]

Student life

WPI's student body stages a number of regular weekly events that students can enjoy. Some of them are listed below.

  • Coffeehouse - SocComm's Coffeehouse committee brings local, regional, and national folk artists to Riley Commons every Tuesday night. While listening students can also enjoy hot drinks, snacks, table-top crayon drawing, board games and of course the weekly contest.
  • Friday Night Gaming - An event sponsored by WPI's Science Fiction Society (SFS). The SFS has a stock of various board games in a library at the basement of Riley Hall. Every Friday (even during term breaks and summer vacation), these games are brought to the Octowedge (the lounge on the first floor of the Campus Center) so that students can play. It usually starts at 5-6 p.m. and can last to 2 or 3 a.m.
  • Sunday Movies - Hosted by SocComm's Films committee. Every Sunday, a new film is shown on the WPI campus. The technical side of these movies is handled by LnL. WPI is one of the few universities capable of showing 70 mm movies.[17]
  • Tuesday Socials - Due to WPI's class scheduling, many students do not have many if any classes on Wednesday. This has made Tuesday a popular week night for social activity. Socials used to be held frequently at fraternity houses where student and friends would gather to relieve the stresses of the tough curriculum. These socials are being weeded out by an administration that believes these events are detrimental to the learning environment. These events are being replaced with a different type of Tuesday night social with the only similarity being the name. Now every week, the Social Dance Clubtakes over the Campus Center stage from 7:00pm to 12:00am. A variety of music is played for dancers to break out their crazy moves to Argentine tango, Salsa, Swing, and Discofox, among other dances. Socialization is promoted through the media of dance as well as conversation. Tea is a staple at Tuesday socials.
  • WPI Genius! - The entrepreneurship group at WPI endeavors to create a safe place for students to discuss valuable intellectual property (IP) and collaborate to improve the overall viability of technology concepts. WPI Genius! is a branch of the national organization "Genius!".
  • AIAA - a professional society for aerospace students.
Women's basketball: Home game (in white jerseys) against Wheaton

In addition to regularly scheduled campus activities, WPI is host to a number of annual events. These events usually only attract students, though some events, such as Gaming Weekend and Quadfest, are large enough to draw in off-campus visitors. Some are listed below in order of occurrence.

  • Gaming Weekend - A bi-annual three-day event hosted by the SFS that revolves around games of all sorts: board games, RPGs, video games, and even "Duck, Duck, Goose." It is the first major campus event of the year, usually taking place around Labor Day weekend. It is also held the first weekend of D term.
  • Homecoming - sponsored by the Office of Alumni Relations, this fall event brings numerous alumni back to campus to celebrate the past, present, and future of the University.
  • Greek Week - An annual week-long event that begins the week prior to homecoming. Each of the Greek houses compete in several events that include but are not limited to: Capture the flag, water balloon toss, talent show competition, and a float parade on the morning of homecoming.
  • Penny Wars - Created and operated by Alpha Chi Rho, Penny Wars is an annual fund raiser where clubs and Greek organizations on campus compete to raise money for charity. The goal is to collect the most pennies, however, any money other than pennies counts against your score. Most of the money raised is from competing clubs offsetting the competition with dollars or larger denominations, since it all goes to charity.
  • Costume! Dance! Party! - An annual event held by the WPI Game Development Club. The event falls near Halloween, and includes a costume contest, over 100 pounds of free candy, and many giveaways.
  • Latin Dance Party - An annual dance held during New Student Orientation. This is a Social Dance Club kickoff event for freshman complete with Cuban Salsa lessons for beginners and 'experienced' dancers alike. It is SDC's way of welcoming new students and introducing them to the dance community on campus.
  • Winter Carnival - Another event hosted by WPI's Social Committee (SocComm), this event is a week long grouping of smaller events, ending in a major event (such as a concert or a well known performer).
  • Service Auction - Alpha Phi Omega asks the students, faculty, and staff to donate services such as baking a pie, horseback riding, or building a sandcastle and then auctions them off to the student body and surrounding community. The person who donated the highest bid item then selects a charity where all of the raised funds are donated.
  • Diya - An annual celebration of the Indian festival Diwali, hosted by WPI's Indian Student Organization (ISO). Diya usually features performances of Indian songs, Bollywood dances, skits, and other events signifying Indian culture, with Indian food served at dinner.
  • Dragon Night - An annual celebration, generally meant to tie into Chinese New Year, hosted by WPI's Chinese Student Association (CSA). Dragon Night usually features Chinese food, lion dancing, and other elements of Chinese culture.
  • National Day of Silence - Every year, BiLaGa and other organizations lead an effort on campus for students to observe the National Day of Silence, an event created to raise awareness about those oppressed by various ideologies, such as bigotry and political correctness.
  • Quadfest - The largest event held on campus by the WPI Social Committee (SocComm). It takes place during the final week of the WPI school year. Events include musical acts, movies, and special booths created by WPI clubs and organizations. Information about past Quadfest events can be found in the QuadFest Archives.
  • WPI Talent and NSBE Fashion Show - Beginning in 2007, the National Society of Black Engineers chapter combined their 7th annual Fashion Show and 3rd annual Talent Show into a single event. The Talent Show part gives every WPI student an opportunity to showcase their talent to each other, and the Fashion show is meant to promote professionalism and how to dress for success, tying into the core purpose of the NSBE.
  • Wall of Sound - This event is hosted annually by the Lens and Lights Club. It consists of about 70,000 Watts worth of speakers blasting music over 120dB volumes. For the price of $1, students can get a song of their choice to be played. Proceeds benefit a local charity.
  • Comedy Festival - A biennial comedy festival hosted by WPI's Student Comedy Productions (SCP) at the end of the academic year, first produced in 2002. A several-day event showcasing the comedic talents of college students both inside and outside WPI, the festival has featured the school's three comedy troupes; improv, sketch, and standup comedy troupes from around New England, and even the mesmerizing talents of Tufts University's mime troupe HYPE!

Thirty percent of the students participate in Greek Life. There are currently 12 fraternities and 3 sororities on campus. [2]

Other opportunities at WPI

Since 1982 WPI has offered a summer-program for high school science & engineering students named Frontiers. Also, beginning in 1997, WPI began offering a summer outreach program for girls entering the sixth grade, Camp REACH, to promote women in math & science. WPI participates in a collaborative effort with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the high schools of Massachusetts to support a school called the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI.Mass Academy is an 11th and 12th grade public high school for 100 academically accelerated youths. Juniors receive advanced high school classes at the academy building, with seniors taking the WPI freshman curriculum at the university. The program emphasizes math and science within a comprehensive, interactive program and is the only public school in Massachusetts whose students attend a university full time as seniors in high school.

A team of Worcester students led by Paul Ventimiglia of won the $500,000 first prize in the 2009 NASA Regolith Excavation Challenge in October 2009. Twenty collegiate teams qualified for the event held at the NASA Ames Research Park in Mountain View, California managed by the California Space Education and Workforce Institute. Teams design, build and operate robotics that dig up and deposit at least 150 kilograms of simulated lunar material and deposit it in a collection bin, an important in any lunar construction in the future.[18]

Notable alumni

WPI is also known for its famous drop-outs:

  • Dean Kamen, who left the school without finishing his degree, invented the first portable insulin pump and started the company that invented the Segway Human Transporter;
  • Atwater Kent, who dropped out twice in the 1890s, went on to found the Atwater Kent Manufacturing Company which was the world's leading producer of radios in the late 1920s (there is now a building on campus called the Atwater Kent Laboratories);
  • John W. Geils Jr., who founded The J. Geils Band, attended for a few semesters in 1965.
  • Daniel Robbins, founder and former chief architect of the Gentoo Linux project.[19]

For more information on notable alumni, please see: the WPI Library's Online Exhibition of Distinguished Alumni or The WPI International Corporate Leaders Roundtable.

Notable faculty

WPI has employed several professors whose achievements have made them notable across the nation and the world.


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. http://www.nacubo.org/Documents/research/2009_NCSE_Public_Tables_Endowment_Market_Values.pdf. Retrieved March 12, 2010. 
  2. ^ WPI's Founding Fathers: Stephen Salisbury II URL accessed on July 23, 2006
  3. ^ WPI's Founding Fathers: John Boynton URL accessed on July 23, 2006
  4. ^ WPI's Founding Fathers: Ichabod Washburn URL accessed on July 23, 2006
  5. ^ Two Towers: The Story of Worcester Tech 1865-1965 URL accessed on July 23, 2006
  6. ^ Two Towers: The Story of Worcester Tech 1865-1965 URL accessed on July 23, 2006
  7. ^ The Miracle at Worcester: The Story of the WPI Plan URL accessed on July 23, 2006
  8. ^ WPI George C. Gordon Library - The Two Towers Tradition
  9. ^ WPI Visual Policies & Style Manual : The Two Towers
  10. ^ Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)
  11. ^ WPI Projects Program URL accessed on July 28, 2006
  12. ^ WPI Project Presentation Day 2006, URL accessed on July 28, 2006.
  13. ^ US News and World Report, URL accessed on January 17, 2009.
  14. ^ NEASC Report on Worcester Polytechnic Institute URL accessed on July 23, 2006
  15. ^ Recognition for WPI URL accessed on July 23, 2006
  16. ^ [1], URL accessed on March 8, 2010.
  17. ^ WPI Lens and Lights: Projection URL accessed on July 4, 2007
  18. ^ "College Team Wins Half-Million Dollar NASA Lunar Robot Prize". NASA. 2009-10-18. http://www.nasa.gov/offices/ipp/innovation_incubator/centennial_challenges/cc_regolith_feature_first_prize.html. Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  19. ^ Gentoo Weekly Newsletter: December 22nd, 2003 URL accessed on October 12, 2007

External links


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