WORCESTER — Undergraduate project teams from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) were recently honored as finalists of the President’s Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) Awards. Daniel Dietrich, of Topsfield, class of 2022, majoring in Mechanical Engineering was a member of one team that completed a project titled “The Role of Wetlands in the Rumahanga Catchment.” Hundreds of Interactive Qualifying Projects are completed each year by WPI students as part of their graduation requirements. A fraction of those are then submitted to be considered for a President’s IQP Award.
On Friday, January 28, five student teams gave their final presentations in front of a panel of judges to determine the winners of the 2021 awards. Presented annually, the President’s IQP Awards are given to student teams whose IQP work is determined to be outstanding in its focus on science, technology, and society.
The IQP is one of the most distinctive elements of the WPI Plan and WPI’s signature project-based curriculum, giving every WPI student the experience of working in interdisciplinary teams to solve a problem or need that lies at the intersection of science and society. Unlike an academic course, this nine-credit-hour requirement involves students working in teams, with students not in their major, to tackle an issue that relates science, engineering, and technology to society. Sustainability serves as a common theme for IQPs, many of which address problems related to energy, environment, sustainable development, education, cultural preservation, and technology policy.
The Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) is one of the biggest accomplishments for a WPI student and a signature element of the project-based learning curriculum. But in the 2020-21 academic year, IQPs looked a little different. Students not only had to overcome academic challenges-finding a way to work in teams across disciplines, tackling real-world problems globally and locally-but, because of pandemic restrictions, they also had to find a way to work with partners and sponsors around the world, without being able to physically travel to far-flung locales.
The 2020-21 IQPs were reimagined and largely hybrid-a mix of in-person and virtual activities that saw students and advisors adjusting their travel plans and project work. The students either went remote, taking to Zoom, WhatsApp, text message, and email to work with collaborators around the world, or they stayed local in the Worcester area, helping to make an impact on the lives of community members in their own backyard.