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Preparing the Engineer of the Future, Part I: Projects across the Curriculum

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This presents a project-based approach to engineering and science education -- preparing students for the 21st century by focusing on problem-solving and critical thinking -- by describing the WPI Plan.

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Preparing the Engineer of the Future, Part I: Projects across the Curriculum

  1. 1. Rick Vaz Dean, Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Worcester Polytechnic Institute [email_address] Preparing the Engineer of the Future, Part 1: Project Work Across the Curriculum
  2. 2. Life and Work in the 21 st Century <ul><li>Rapid change </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Scientific and technological </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Societal, political, economic </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Evolving demands </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Flexibility, adaptability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Working across boundaries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding connections </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Rethinking educational goals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technological competence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Broad skills and perspectives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Creative problem solving </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Effective leadership </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Institutional Profile of WPI <ul><li>Private, founded in 1865 </li></ul><ul><li>3000 undergraduates, 1100 graduate students, 230 FTE faculty </li></ul><ul><li>Most students major in engineering, science, or management </li></ul><ul><li>$12M research + 25 PhDs annually </li></ul><ul><li>Project-based curriculum since 1970 </li></ul><ul><li>WPI sends more engineering & science students abroad than any other US college or university </li></ul>
  4. 4. The WPI Plan (1970) <ul><li>A Faculty-Led Revolution </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No required courses! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Three degree-required projects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on outcomes and abilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>7-week terms, non-punitive grading </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Vision: “Technological humanists” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Developing a broad perspective </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Integrating theory and practice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Addressing societal needs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Considering the impacts of technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding and working with others </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. WPI Plan Degree Requirements, 1970 <ul><li>2 nd year: Humanities and Arts Sufficiency </li></ul><ul><ul><li>3 credit hour capstone in chosen area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Research paper, musical composition, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>3 rd year: Interactive Qualifying Project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>9 credit hours, interdisciplinary </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Examine social implications of technology </li></ul></ul><ul><li>4 th year: Major Qualifying Project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>9 credit hours, in major field </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Senior design or research problem </li></ul></ul><ul><li>4 th year: Competency Exam </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Solve a problem in 72 hours </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Defend to board of faculty </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. The Interactive Qualifying Project <ul><li>Not a course – small teams work independently under faculty direction </li></ul><ul><li>Interdisciplinary teams of students; faculty from all areas </li></ul><ul><li>Projects proposed by agencies and organizations (65% off campus) </li></ul><ul><li>Connecting science and technology with societal issues and human needs </li></ul><ul><li>“… to enable WPI graduates to understand, as citizens and professionals, how their careers will affect society.” </li></ul>
  7. 7. Educational Objectives of the IQP <ul><li>Research skills </li></ul><ul><li>Problem solving </li></ul><ul><li>Contextual understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Critical thinking </li></ul><ul><li>Written & verbal communication </li></ul><ul><li>Professional and personal growth </li></ul><ul><li>Making connections: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>society and technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>classroom and real world </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>work, cultures and communities </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Examples of IQPs <ul><li>Erosion and flood control in informal settlements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Namibia Housing Action Group </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Alerting systems and egress for the deaf </li></ul><ul><ul><li>VicDeaf, Melbourne, Australia </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sustainable small-scale aquaculture </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Institute of Fisheries, San Jose, Costa Rica </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Identifying Priorities for Conservation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Greater Worcester Land Trust </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pedestrian Safety at Crosswalks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>City of Cambridge </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Wind Farm Site Assessment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ocean Ranch, Nantucket Sound </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. The Major Qualifying Project <ul><li>Not a course – small teams work independently under faculty direction in the major field </li></ul><ul><li>Capstone design or research (20% off-campus) </li></ul><ul><li>About half externally sponsored; most others related to faculty research </li></ul><ul><li>Application of disciplinary skills and knowledge to professional-level challenges </li></ul>
  10. 10. Educational Objectives of the MQP <ul><li>Application of knowledge in major </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstration of depth and advanced skills </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Capstone design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Basic or applied research </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Written & verbal communication </li></ul><ul><li>Effective teamwork </li></ul><ul><li>Preparedness for work or graduate study </li></ul>
  11. 11. Examples of MQPs <ul><li>Intelligent Tutoring Systems </li></ul><ul><ul><li>MTA Szataki </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mapping Underwater Turbulence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>City of Venice </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Water Supply Modeling for Wachusett Reservoir </li></ul><ul><ul><li>MA Dept of Conservation & Recreation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cam Blade Load Design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gillette </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Human Artery Plaque Progression </li></ul><ul><ul><li>National Science Foundation </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Preparing Students for Projects with more Projects <ul><li>First Year Experience </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Great Problems : food, energy, health </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social and global awareness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Research, writing, teamwork </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Formative Design Courses </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Emphasis on process and context </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prototype development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Application, integration, synthesis </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Project Work in Courses </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Social science </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Math and physical science </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engineering </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Management </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Projects Across the Curriculum at WPI, 2008 <ul><li>1 st year: First Year Project Experience </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Great Problems Seminar – 6 credit hours </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Currently scaling up to all 800 freshmen </li></ul></ul><ul><li>2 nd year: Humanities and Arts Capstone </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Seminar or practicum in chosen area </li></ul></ul><ul><li>2 nd – 4 th years: Course Project Work </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g., formative engineering design </li></ul></ul><ul><li>3 rd year: Interactive Qualifying Project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>9 credit hours, interdisciplinary </li></ul></ul><ul><li>4 th year: Major Qualifying Project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>9 credit hours, in major field </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Questions for Discussion <ul><li>How far can we take project-based learning – are there practical limits? </li></ul><ul><li>How does project-based learning resonate (or collide) with faculty and institutional cultures? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the implications for faculty hiring, development, and rewards? </li></ul>
  15. 15. For More Information http://www.wpi.edu [email_address]

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