Olin Wpi


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This describes one of several freshmen seminars offered experimentally at WPI.
The emphasis is on a project-based, multi-disciplinary approach to "large" problems.

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Olin Wpi

  1. 1. Great Problems Seminars: A First-Year Multi-disciplinary Foundation at WPI Brian Savilonis 1 , David Spanagel 2 1 Mechanical Engr., 2 Humanities and Arts Worcester Polytechnic Institute Worcester MA
  2. 2. Educational Outcomes for the GPS <ul><li>Engage first-year students with current events, societal problems, and human needs; </li></ul><ul><li>Require critical thinking, information literacy, and evidence-based writing; </li></ul><ul><li>Develop effective teamwork, time management, organization, and personal responsibility; </li></ul>Primary Learning Goals for the GPS.
  3. 3. Pilot Seminars 2007 and 2008 <ul><li>Power the World …(Savilonis and Spanagel) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>… focused on various forms of energy resources, the history of their technologies, and their impacts on society. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Feed the World </li></ul><ul><li>Heal the World (added in 2008) </li></ul><ul><li>Make the World (added in 2008) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Student Majors <ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Power the World Fr. Class </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Engr. 40% 36% </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Life sci. 3-4% 17% </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Other 23-29% 30% </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Und. 25-29% 17% </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>76-84% male (freshman class 74%) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Power the World (implementation) <ul><li>Two course sequence (7 week terms) </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Instructor lectures, Guest panels, film clips, student panels, research tools </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Integrated writing, problem sets, and discussion </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Focus on Multi-disciplinary connection of economics, history, sociology, politics, and technology to form policy and potential solutions. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>First term culminates with “project proposals” and oral presentation </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Power the World: Second Term <ul><li>Emphasize small group research and collaboration </li></ul><ul><li>Meetings with small groups/monitor project progress </li></ul><ul><li>Weekly 2-hour workshops: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>writing skills, literature reviews and citation practice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>library research and database skills </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>interpersonal dynamics </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Oral project presentations </li></ul><ul><li>Poster presentations: “judged” by the wider WPI community </li></ul><ul><li>Written final project report </li></ul>
  7. 7. Typical Project Topics <ul><ul><li>Public Perception of WindPower Projects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Geothermal Potential of the US </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Energy Cost Analysis of Solar Hot Water System for WPI Sports Center </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Air Pollution in China: Is the US Responsible? </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Experiences and Impressions <ul><li>Students engaged as learners; and as owners of their work </li></ul><ul><li>Students embrace socially relevant technical experience </li></ul><ul><li>Students perceived that this course was more demanding than other freshmen courses (something to work with, not on) </li></ul><ul><li>Team dynamics can be difficult but educational </li></ul>
  9. 9. Lessons Going Forward (PTW) <ul><li>Maintain small numbers for effective supervision and interaction. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify/focus on small number of critical technical skills </li></ul><ul><li>Require/respond to weekly written work </li></ul><ul><li>Keep multi (non)-disciplinary </li></ul>
  10. 10. Thanks! <ul><li>Eric Hahn, sponsorship </li></ul><ul><li>Brian Savilonis, Mechanical Engineering, [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>David Spanagel, Humanities and Arts, [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Art Heinricher, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, [email_address] </li></ul>