WPI Journal  
Volume CI, No. 4 - Spring 2000

True Tales from the Valley

While their fellow students back in Worcester were trudging to classes in the snow and bitter cold of another New England winter, several WPI undergraduates were enjoying the balmier climate of Northern California as C-Term got under way in January. But this was no fun-in-the-sun vacation--they were there to work. Specifically, they were there to plant WPI's flag in the high-tech mecca known as Silicon Valley and inaugurate the Silicon Valley Project Center (The Wire, December 1999).

The new center, directed by David Finkel, professor of computer science, is dedicated to work on Major Qualifying Projects in computer science and electrical and computer engineering. Like so many of the technology firms that dot the landscape in the Bay Area, the Silicon Valley Project Center is starting small with the promise of bigger and better things to come. Nine students went west in this first wave to work on projects for companies like Microbar in Sunnyvale and Kana Communications in Palo Alto.

The Silicon Valley Project Center was born in a series of meetings between WPI President Edward Alton Parrish, Provost John F. Carney III, other WPI administrators, and a number of alumni who are Valley veterans and who understand the tremendous potential for students to gain insights into the technology of tomorrow and the amazing, fast-paced, entrepreneurial culture that generates it by completing projects in the heart of one of the nation's technology centers.

WPI graduates are well represented among the pioneers, visionaries and innovators of the valley. They have been involved in dozens of successful companies, from small start-ups to some of the biggest names in the computer and software industries. They continue to make advances and headlines, just as new graduates continue to be lured to the West Coast to be part of this forward-looking community and to stake a claim in a land where good ideas can be the seeds from which fortunes quickly grow.

A number of recent books have tried to capture the flavor of Silicon Valley and decipher its unique culture. One of the best-known chroniclers of life and work in the valley is Po Bronson, whose books include Bombardiers and The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest. Among the young people Bronson profiles in his latest book, The Nudist on the Late Shift, is Scott Krause '94, who traveled to Silicon Valley in 1997. Alumni Editor Joan Killough-Miller caught up with Krause recently to find out what it was like to have his story told in a best-selling book and to see how real life in the Valley compares to Bronson's portrayal. To get a different perceptive on Silicon Valley, the Journal invited Greg Walsh '76, who has been working in the area for more than two decades, to offer his perspectives on the region. From his work at the legendary Xerox PARC laboratory to his recent founding of a new Web-based business, he has had his finger on the pulse of the changing technology and culture of this unique region.

Living the Dream by Joan Killough-Miller
Navigating the Peaks and Craters by Greg Walsh

Last modified: Jun 12, 2000, 16:14 EDT
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