PI made its first forays into global
technological education more than 25 years ago with university exchange programs in London and
Zurich. Its first overseas center for student project work opened 11 years ago in London. Since
then, programs have been established in cities around the globe. The list of WPI's global project
sites will expand over the next 18 months with the addition of Boston, Copenhagen, Melbourne, and
As the University's Global Perspective Program
matures, some project sites are reaching significant anniversaries. Last year, the London Project
Center celebrated its first 10 years. A gala event is being organized for the summer of 1999 to
note the 10th anniversary of the Venice Project Center. In July, WPI observed five years of
project work in Costa Rica with a party in San Jose. Guests included students completing projects
in Costa Rica, alumni, representatives of sponsoring corporations, museums and agencies, and
prospective WPI students and their parents. Provost John F. Carney III gave the welcome address.
Susan Vernon-Gerstenfeld, who directs the Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., project
centers, discussed the history of the center and the range and focus of student projects there.
Since the center was established in 1993, 69
undergraduates have completed 24 Interactive Qualifying Projects there. Topics include
reforestation, energy and water conservation, computerization, and tourism. "WPI students are
doing valuable work within the cultural context of the country," says Vernon-Gerstenfeld. "Many
of the students who complete IQPs in Costa Rica have completed their Humanities Sufficiencies in
Spanish and write and present their work in that language. It's the perfect marriage of these two
The following projects were completed in Costa Rica
Market Analysis for a Museum
The National Museum of Costa Rico is planning to move its offices to a new building to provide
space for a new café, new exhibits and additional services. Eric Detmer, Jaime Gibson, Jennifer
Marinello and Michael Zocchi looked at how the museum might make the most of that space and
surveyed visitors to determine the demographic mix and the types of administrators needed to
A Warehousing Analysis
Atlas Industrial S.A. manufactures and distributes appliances throughout Costa Rica. After
Electrolux purchased 20 percent of the company's stock, product volume increased and markets
expanded, resulting in an overcrowded finished-product warehouse. Kate Burgess, Julie Kernis and
Anthony Roccisano helped Atlas conduct a cost analysis that showed that expanding the current
facility would be more effective than renting new space.
Reinventing the Garden
Lesley Chamberlain, Eric Las, Tim Miranda and Chris Tullman worked with the Lankester Botanical
Gardens in San Jose. They analyzed and recommended software to track botanical information and
create a map for the garden; developed a fund-raising program; redesigned the garden's Web page;
restructured the inventory control process; and developed detailed greenhouse maps.
Matthew Cole, Rodolfo King and Vrinda Nargund constructed a Web site for scientists interested in
using the extensive rain forest system as a laboratory. Their mission was to advertise the Central
Volcanic Cordillera Conservation Area (ACCVC) as a location for scientific studies. The students'
plan included entrance brochures, signs, training programs for tour guides, and recommendations
for foods to be sold at the site.
ICETEL, the telecommunications division of the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity, is an
autonomous government agency that holds a monopoly in the nation's electricity and
telecommunications industries. To help it assess consumer needs, Malinda Danforth, Park Hays
and Jocelyn Songer created a three-part system dynamics model to predict demand in Guanacaste and
developed a detailed methodology ICE could use to expand the model to other regions. The entire
assessment was done in Spanish.
A Focus on Waste Management
In return for some concessions, Baxter I.V. Systems Corp. donates its reusable and recyclable
waste materials to the local municipality of Cartago. The company wanted to track its waste and
reduce volume by 5 percent by the end of this year. Dina Carreiro, Michael Lavoie and Victoria
Regan developed a database for Baxter to track and better manage cardboard and plastic packing
Vernon-Gerstenfeld and her husband, WPI management
Professor Arthur Gerstenfeld, served as project advisors. "Costa Rica, a thriving, modern
industrialized nation, offers opportunities for WPI students to become immersed in a Central
American culture where democracy, economic development and concern for the environment are a
permanent part of the landscape," she says.
Last Updated: 11/18/98 18:31:12 EST